That’s My Jam is a weekly feature where one person from the Selective Hearing staff goes to wax poetic about music that is pivotal to their musical tastes. Whether that would be an album, a song, or anything in-between. We all had to start somewhere.
Release Date: December 12 1993
- Save Our Love (West End Mix)
- Oh Baby I…
- I’ll Be There
- Sweet Funky Thing
- Never Gonna Give You Up
- Just A Step From Heaven
- Let’s Stay Together
- This Love Is For Real
- So Good
- If You Need Me Tonight
- Don’t Say Goodbye
- Amazing Grace
Eternal is an English R&B group formed in 1992. Consisting of sisters Easther and Vernie Bennett, Kelle Bryan and Louise Nurding, they are the first girl group to have a million-selling album on the UK charts. That album is their debut, Always & Forever.
This album is notable for many reasons. First, it’s the only one with the original lineup, as Louise Nurding left to pursue a solo career before the release of their second album. Secondly, this is the only debut album by an act to contain 6 top 15 hits on the UK chart, and lastly, it’s the first one by a female group to be nominated for best album at the Brit Awards.
All those accolades make this sound pretty damn good, right? And that is a very correct assumption. If you’re looking for an example of why the 1990s were a golden age for R&B fans, this would be a shining example of the excellence coming out of that period.
The original formation of this group was called the British equivalent of En Vogue. I think that’s a bit of a stretch since En Vogue shared vocal duties equally. That does not mean that the members of this group were slouches in the vocal department. It’s just that the Bennett sisters carried a lot of the load. But you can also hear the other two members every once in a while.
So unlike their American counterparts, there was a bit of imbalance in line distribution. But that’s nothing new in multi-member groups, right?
This album has a lot of great material, starting with their debut single, Stay. If you like British Swing Beat/American New Jack Swing type songs, this definitely will scratch your itch for it.
This is their only single to chart on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #19. Every other subsequent single after did not have the same success in the U.S. But in the U.K., they consistently hit the charts with the aforementioned Stay and then Crazy, Save Our Love, Oh Baby I…, Just A Step From Heaven, and lastly, So Good.
While all those tracks are great, there are a few choice album cuts, such as Sweet Funky Thing. It samples M-Tume’s Juicy Fruit, a song more familiar to Hip-Hop fans for being used in the Notorious B.I.G.’s Juicy.
Never Gonna Give You Up is a funky track with a crazy deep bass line, plenty of harmonizing, and over-the-top church-like vocals. That might sound like too much, but it’s pulled off brilliantly.
Also contained on Always & Forever is two covers. One of Al Green’s Let’s Stay Together and the gospel staple Amazing Grace. The Al Green cover is admirable but is fairly weak compared to the rest of the songs on this album.
On the other hand, Amazing Grace has a fairly interesting vocal arrangement accompanied by tasteful, minimal instrumentation. It’s a shame their version is so short because the song picks up steam right where they cut it off.
In total Eternal released 3 more albums after this. While success in the U.K. continued through the various member changes, they never reached the same heights as they did with Always & Forever and eventually disbanded in 2000. Around 2006 there were rumours that the original lineup would reunite, but those have yet to yield any tangible results.
Eternal holds a special place in my musical upbringing, introducing me to the British take on R&B that would become a huge influence on my tastes during my college years.
20 years Always & Forever is like fine vintage wine and doesn’t sound dated. Although this is out of print, it is well worth seeking out.