It has been a long 16 years since Des’ree’s last album Dream Soldier. During this time, she has steered her creativity down other artistic avenues, such as ceramics, pottery and jewellery design and has qualified as a nutritionist and naturopath. She has had two high-profile copyright battles involving Beyoncé and Janet Jackson and a tribute account of sorts on Twitter has kept our interest piqued in her somewhat over the past few years. Now, she is poised to return to the music scene with her new album A Love Story.
The album opens with the rather funky sweeping soundscape A Call To Love with Des’ree’s low register husk recalling the sultry Toni Braxton. This is a rather low-key return sonically, but then Des’ree is not known for being brash. By contrast, the orchestral Don’t Be Afraid recalls the McAlmont & Butler stormer Yes and is a very powerful and cinematic anthem that could be the backdrop for when Vesper Lynd breaks James Bond’s heart in Casino Royale. As the song’s percussion lifts, her exquisite and ethereal voice becomes unbridled in this gorgeous inspiriting anthem.
Often remembered by the hoi polloi for her overt lyrics on Life, what has really been at the heart of Des’ree’s music is a desire to elevate and interrelate. Her songs like You Gotta Be, Life, Feel So High and What’s Your Sign? are uplifting for the mind and the soul, whereas the heartbreaking I’m Kissing You pulls on your emotions long after it has finished. Drunk On Your Kisses is a stripped-back, folky and slow-burning ballad showcasing the subtle beauty and emotional power of Des’ree’s voice, and a similar narrative is explored in the delicate and gossamer Honey, and the powerful and poignant What’ll I Do.
The slow-burning Nothing I Can Do is a bittersweet sequel to Feel So High with some beautiful counter-harmonies complemented by exquisite guitars and percussion. Holding On For Dear Life explores the tumult of a failed relationship and recounts the beautiful Happy Ever After by Julia Fordham, and Love Me is a jazzy, soothing number with lofty harmonicas.
The album closes with Fake It, a funky R&B riff that has a canny late ’90s vibe exploring having faith in yourself and your heart that recalls the sublime Change by Lisa Stansfield. Although there is nothing really new here, the album largely covering themes of love and love lost, the narrative is lifted by the beautiful power and precious nuance in Des’ree’s voice. We have experienced her pain and also her healing and that is the key to Des’ree’s appeal. She is here come what may, and A Love Story marks a solid and engaging return.