As debuts go, Gabrielle’s was pretty spectacular. She launched her career in the summer of 1993 with the self-penned single “Dreams,” an aspirational anthem welded to a danceable pop-soul groove. It landed at the No. 2 spot on the UK charts in the first week of its release, breaking the UK record for the highest-ever chart position achieved by a debut single. A week later, “Dreams” was ensconced at the summit of the charts, where it stayed for three weeks; it also broke into America’s Top 30. In its wake came a Top 10 UK album, Find Your Way; and to cap it all, Gabrielle won the Best British Newcomer gong at the 1994 BRIT Awards.
Her self-titled sophomore album in 1996 proved that the Hackney chanteuse born Louise Gabrielle Bobb was no flash in the pan. It also brought her a second BRIT award for Best British Female Vocalist. Given her previous successes, expectations were understandably high for Gabrielle’s third album Rise.
There was no reason to worry. Rise proved to be Gabrielle’s magnum opus and easily the most accomplished of her first three albums; a culmination of the elegant pop-soul aesthetic she had cultivated since her debut six years earlier. Working with past collaborators – like Richie Ferme, who produced “Dreams” – and new associates like Johnny Dollar, a British trip-hop producer whose credits included Neneh Cherry and Massive Attack, Gabrielle created eleven sharp-eyed observations of love and life.
Rise spawned four Top 10 UK singles: the mellow “Sunshine,” the upbeat “When A Woman,” the haunting mid-tempo “Out Of Reach,” and, most notable of all, the album’s memorable title song, a defiant tale of overcoming adversity which sampled Bob Dylan’s 1973 single “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door.” (The sample was authorized by Dylan – a rarity in itself – who purportedly liked Gabrielle’s song and received a co-writer credit). Rise’s rousing, gospel-infused title track ascended to No. 1 in the UK charts – where it spent three weeks – and helped push the parent album to pole position. (It eventually went quadruple platinum).
Although Gabrielle has made albums since Rise, her 1999 long-player has a special place in her catalogue. It was a career-defining recording that deepened the stylish singer’s mainstream appeal, added more signature songs to her repertoire, and succeeded in transforming her into a household name.