Liberty X - Being Somebody
I'd like to take back something I once said. In a review of The Pepsi Silver Clef Concert for DVD Times, I made the comment that, "Placed alongside the sleekly sophisticated sounds of an act such as Destiny's Child...the low-rent thrills of Liberty X seem rather threadbare, as though one were comparing the Bollinger of the former to the Asti Spumante of the latter."
I would now like to unreservedly apologise for that remark and not, as you might think, to say that Asti Spumante is far too refined a drink for Liberty X when, by rights, they should be compared to something more like Diamond White. Instead, having listened to Being Somebody a number of times, it's so much better than Dangerously In Love that Beyonce ought to be the one sipping cider in the park as Liberty X relax uptown. This is such a good album from an act I'd previously written off that, like one's first glimpse of a pornographic magazine, I'm now feeling guilty, confused but, being honest, a little excited and, well, immediately wanting more.
Not for a second did I actually expect to like this, really I didn't. Sure, I always thought there would be a way into it what with Being Nobody a mix of Ain't Nobody by Rufus and Chaka Khan and Being Boiled by The Human League, which is just a great song by a fantastic band, but what I didn't expect was that there'd be other songs just as good, if not better. Jumping past Intro (Being Somebody), which is less than a minute of a welcome to the band, Jumpin' is at least a match for Destiny's Child's Independent Women Part 1 and mixes Kelli Young's belting voice over a huge pop/modern R&B production. Skip past Being Nobody and, keeping only to the fast songs for now, Watcha Doin' Tonite tries a couple of snatches of rapping, which, if far from Public Enemy, isn't as ridiculous as it might sound. Later on the album, The Last Goodbye is very smooth garage as led by Kelli and Let Go is a big stomping dance number with the boys and girls taking alternate lines in the verses. The last one worth mentioning is I Just Wanna, which is another big pop/dance song with the added bonus of there being a guitar solo straight off a vintage Eddie van Halen tab sheet.
As for the ballads, well there's plenty of them but never so many that listening to Being Somebody feels like wading through treacle. Everybody Cries is a big ballad that does the whole broken-up-and-standing-in-the-rain thing but The Poet, despite having all the things that ought not to work, is a spooky little gem that has just the best harmonies and backing vocals around Kelli's lead. Later on the album, Forever is a really good acoustic ballad, Impossible is close to the sort of mix of gospel and slow song that Whitney Houston used to find so easy and, as the last credited track, Maybe is a really sweet little song with a beautiful piano straight out of Electribe 101's fantastic album. There is one bonus track that follows Maybe but it's slight compared to what was heard before it.
What Liberty X did right was to move away from the fit-for-yer-Granny sound that's forced on the rest of 19 Management's acts in favour of a credible R&B mixed with smooth pop. Where Hear'Say looked as though even the kids at a nursery school would find them a bit bland, excepting possibly Danny from whom they would run with fear in their eyes, Liberty X at least look the part and have the songs to match. Kelli is a proper R&B diva and has a big, big voice such that she ought not to feel out of place if ever asked to perform at VH1's annual Divas show. Jessica and Michelle, if not quite up to Kelli's standards do the whole sexy sidekick thing with some style and if the boys, Tony and Kev, don't always show just why they're necessary, at least they don't come over as tools, which is often the fate of the blokes in such bands (see Hear'Say or every single member of Westlife).
I'm now firmly of the opinion that this a much better album than I would ever have thought possible and, subsequently, Liberty X are a cracking pop/R&B group that ought to be able to compete with the best of what the US has to offer. They might not last forever but this is a significant step up from their debut and should they continue in this form, Liberty X, against all expectations, could well make it as big as they deserve to, despite the me of a few days ago scarcely believing it.