M People

REVIEW: ‘Gold’ – M People

M People – “Gold”

M People were the British dance group formed in 1990 by producer Mike Pickering and his mate Paul Heard. Through contacts, they signed to underground dance label deconstruction, who had been responsible for Blackbox’s 1989 No.1 “Ride On Time”. Soon after they saw the soul group Hot House perform and were attracted by the vocals of their singer Heather Small. Originally intended to be an instrumental group, Pickering and Heard decided to work with Small and develop the project further. For the rest of the decade, they consistently produced and released a string of chart hits and multi-Platinum albums, which won them awards and a huge following both within the industry and with the music buying public of the 1990’s. Now twenty one years on from their original “Best Of” album, Demon Music Group release an expanded M People collection as part of their growing “Gold” series.

The run of M People success began with “How Can I Love You More?” in October 1991 and although the single only managed No.29 in the UK, it paved the way for their debut album “Northern Soul” the following month. Three further UK top 40 hits came from the album, “Colour My Life” (No.35), “Someday” (No.38) and “Excited” (No.29), while the album itself would peak at No.26, later receiving a Gold certification for UK sales of 100,000 copies. It wasn’t until the beginning of 1993 when a remix of “How Can I Love You More?” propelled M People to No.8, that the group and the album gained a wider audience.

Writing and recording for a follow up had already started at this stage, so “How Can I Love You More?” was quickly followed with a brand new single “One Night In Heaven” that May. The song did even better, reaching No.6 in the UK as well as charting across Europe and in Australia. In August came a follow up, “Moving On Up”, the song that would become the bands most identifiable number, and when it reached No.2 in the UK, their highest charting single. “Moving On Up” also made the top ten in Australia and New Zealand and again charted high all across Europe.

M People’s second studio album followed in October. Unlike its predecessor, “Elegant Slumming” quickly made its way to No.2 in the UK eventually being certified triple Platinum for sales of 900,000 copies, as well as attaining Gold status in Germany and Australia and a Platinum disc in New Zealand, when it reached No.1. Further chart hits followed with their cover of Dennis Edwards 1984 single “Don’t Look Any Further”, which made No.9 in the UK and “Renaissance” (UK No.5) in early 1994, when M People won the Brit Award for Best British Dance Act and The Mercury Music Prize! Their success also reached America, where “Moving On Up” made it to No.34 and an EP “Elegantly American” was also issued.

Known for their stealth in writing and recording, Mike, Paul and Heather returned later in 1994 with another new single, “Sight For Sore Eyes”, which gave them a sixth consecutive UK top ten hit that November and was followed just a few weeks later with their third album “Bizarre Fruit”, another triple Platinum certified release in the UK as well as in Australia. Three more chart hits would follow with “Open Your Heart” in February 1995 (UK No.9) and “Love Rendezvous” (UK No.32).

But for many people, the standout song on that album was “Search For The Hero”, which saw release that Summer and gave them an eighth UK top ten hit as well as charting high across Europe. The song was later used in a Peugeot car commercial which saw it re-enter the UK chart. M people covered Small Faces 1967 hit “Itchycoo Park” at the end of 1995 for an expanded version for “Bizarre Fruit” titled “Bizarre Fruit II”. The single reached No.11 in the UK and saw combined sales of “Bizarre Fruit” exceed 1.5 million copies.

M People took a break before delivering their fourth studio album, “Fresco”, in 1997. The singles “Just For You” and “Angel Street” both made the UK top ten, while “Fantasy Island” gave them their eighteenth UK top 40 single. “Fresco” was a double Platinum seller in the UK and again proved a big success ‘down under’. Their 1998 “Best Of” became their third triple Platinum certified album in the UK as featured two top twenty hits, “Testify” (No.12) and “Dreaming” (No.13).

The group decided on an ‘extended break’ after its release, only reforming in 2005 to perform a number of live dates. Small embarked on a solo career that saw her release two studio albums and the smash hit single “Proud”, which later became the official song of the 2012 Olympic Games held in London, the same year the trio got back together again to perform a number of Summer gigs across London. Since then, Heather Small has continued to tour and support other artists and keep the sound of M People alive, while this new, expanded edition of the 1998 “Best Of” album comes in a 3CD package with album tracks (including the superb “Natural Thing” from “Elegant Slumming”) and a third disc of remixes.

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