Volume 10   Number 7  July 1997


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   July 1997

   July 1997

   Album Reviews


The licensing deal Kinetic made to bring DJ Paul Oakenfold's Perfecto Records to the United States finally sees its first major chance to bear fruit with the release of If I Could Fly by Grace - a group consisting of producer/remixers Paul Oakenfold, Steve Osborne, and angel-voiced singer Dominique Atkins. The group's journey into the spotlight however, wasn't as smooth as Atkins' pipes.

Formerly known as State of Grace when they debuted on the U.K. dance scene in 1993, the group abbreviated its moniker upon learning of another State of Grace - the Nottingham based trio best known in the States for the dance hit, "Hello". And when Oakenfold's distribution deal for Perfecto went sour with BMG, Oakie dropped all his artists from the label, yet held onto the notion of recording an album with Grace. After original singer Patti Lowe - who sang on Grace's debut single, "Not Over Yet" - bailed from the Perfecto fold, Oakie took on Atkins. Good thing, because Atkins provides Grace with an elegant persona and deep musical backbone.

Born the daughter of a jazz musician, Atkins says she always has strived to be involved in music. "I was 13", she says, "I knew from that point on that I wanted to be a singer. That was my calling. But I thought, at that tender age, that I would sing in bars for the rest of my life. And I thought then that when I got big, I'd do a tour on the QE2. It's as far as my aspirations went then."

Granted, she never imagined herself at the helm of a high-profile dance music project during those years when she collaborated with top jazz musicians such as Courtney Pine. But it was her background vocals on fellow Perfecto artist Jon Pleased Wimmin's "Passion" that caught Oakie's ear.

"He asked me if I wanted to sing", Atkins recalls of Oakenfold, "But he wasn't just looking for a singer. Paul's very much into developing artists. He's wanted someone who could come in and give him something to get excited about. I ended up being that person."

The first thing the two did was a re-recording of the first Grace single. Although Atkins wasn't too keen on revoicing what she deemed already a perfect vocal, Oakie managed to talk her into it anyway. Says Atkins, "The way [Patti] did it, when I went into the studio to re-record the vocals, I just did what she did."

Sure enough, when "Not Over Yet" was re-released in the spring of 1995, the song went to No. 6 in the U.K. pop charts. Suddenly, the dance thing is starting to look a lot better to Atkins than the QE2 ever could have.

The following year saw Grace releasing a slew of singles. "I Want To Live", "Skin On Skin (Orange)", "Down To Earth", and "If I Could Fly" all dropped in the span on nine months, and before they knew it Grace had an album. Atkins says even that came about haphazardly. "We didn't set out to make this an album project," she says, "Steve, Paul, and I just got on so well in the studio that we eventually had enough songs to put out an album."

When the album finally hit U.K. stores this past fall, there was so much public anticipation that it ended up debuting in the Top 10. Now with the record available Stateside via Kinetic, the label is hoping for similar results. Of course, that entails promoting a song, "Not Over Yet", that's more than two years old.

"It's a bit weird," Atkins says of the experience, "I wasn't looking forward to it, but I've only been here in the States for two days, and there's such a huge buzz on it, that energy has sort of brought it back to life for me." With american DJs recently discovering "Not Over Yet," the single certainly seems to be living up to its name.

-Dave Dresden


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