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The Sensational Michelle Gayle
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Album Title:- Sensational
Released by BMG Records 1997

Reviewed by Thierry for this site.

From the moment the smooth acoustic guitar led groove of 'Fly Away' pours from the speakers, you are aware that Michelle has consciously allowed her sound to develop since her eponymous debut. Her voice sounds fragile and confessional as she half whispers that she 'never really cared about a broken heart' in a track that sets a sweet reflective mood for the album.
A strumming guitar and windchimes bring on the chartbusting 'Do You Know' and its sister track 'Sensational'. The two infectious acoustic funk tracks were written in one day and you can hear the similarity, though this gives a feeling of being able to follow the songwriting thread of Michelle's mind as she felt the inspiration that particularly constructive day! These three opening tracks form a kind of acoustic trilogy, demonstrating the new guitar based sound Michelle had indicated would be prevalent on this outing.
The mellow disco of 'Working Overtime' follows, laced with pleasing moog synths and Simmons synth drums to give a pleasing retro feel. Backing vocals inspired by Roger Troutman's vocoder dabblings add the spice to the dish as Michelle yearns for someone to treat her right. The unmistakeable downtempo production of Toni Braxton producer Vassal Benford envelopes 'Don't Keep Me Waiting', allowing Michelle to show she can seduce with the best of them, her pouty, pleading calls to an absent lover teasing the affections of every man.
George Michael collaborator Johnny Douglas is back behind the desk for the downtempo groove of 'No Place Like Home', one of the few tracks that rely heavily on the standard 'loop and a drumbeat' sound so universally adopted by r'n'b artists. Michelle asserts that she's 'just been around the world but there's no place like like home' and it's ironic that she lays this lyric over possibly the least British sounding track on the album! However fluid wah wah guitar oils the groove in a pleasing way.
'It's a High' is another trip to discoland, with a more upbeat sassy rhythm from J. Douglas which would make a great club hit with its cheeky nods to 'Thriller' period Michael Jackson. This is the one that will have the crowds roaring when Michelle gyrates her beautiful swiss chocolate body to its throbbing pulse.
It's the right time to bring the pace down again, and who better than Vassal Benford with a simple descending chord sequence over which Michelle sends her man packing after he's been 'with every girl in town' instead of loving her when she needed him (surely a choice no sane man would make!)
'Take it Slow' is a midtempo groove ideal for open topped cars in the summer months. Michelle plays the temptress to perfection, her coaxing, reassuring vocals contrasting strikingly (and effectively) with her sassy taunting on the guitar funk of 'Fakin' It'. When you hear her brushing down her ex-lover for lacking 'hard core love attack', you know that this is one lady you don't want to mess with. The irresistable attitude of the track reminds you that whatever Michelle's fakin' it's not the funk!
This if followed by a reprise of 'Fly Away', essentially where Michelle relents and gives herself to her man one more time. The relaxing flow of the music is provocatively laced with the sound of their lovemaking and if ever a track warranted an eighteen certificate it is this one. Steamy stuff!
The album closes with the superior remix of 'Happy Just to be With You'. Only Michelle would have the guts to paste her lyrics to the backing track of 'Good Times' by the almighty Chic, and if anything the result is even more infectious then the 1979 original!
A very different album from her debut then, but more importantly a successful one. Where 'Michelle Gayle' won everyone over with its hooks and no nonsense pop charm, 'Sensational' reveals a musical maturity and even more pleasingly, a woman unafraid to express real sensuality and vulnerability at a time when much black soul music is simply going through the motions.

Footnote:- At the time of this album's release, Michelle was already planning her third! If the results are anything like as successful as on 'Sensational' I can hardly wait. (T.N. 1997)

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