British house/R&B vocalist Gabrielle began her career singing for free in London West End clubs whilst temping in offices during the day. Her big break came when she recorded a demo, called "Dreams," based around Tracy Chapman's "Fast Car," which subsequently fell into the hands of an A&R man at London's Go! Beat records. The track was re-recorded without the Chapman sample and ended up in the Guinness Book of Hit Singles as the highest U.K. chart entry for a debut female act, topping the charts for three weeks. With the hit came a head-turning image, complete with kiss curls and sequined eye patch as Gabrielle's right eye has a drooped lid. Ignoring cosmetic surgery, she turned what might have been seen an image setback into a virtue that set her apart from the pack.
Her debut album, Find Your Way, sold over a million copies worldwide, and paved the way for her sophomore, self-titled album, released in 1996 and produced by the Boilerhouse Boys. In three short years, those two albums and nine singles -- five of which were Top Ten -- established Gabrielle as the U.K.'s premiere soul vocalist, full of classic soul connotations (Marvin Gaye, Barry White, Bobby Womack) but also influenced by early-'80s British pop (Soul II Soul, Lisa Stansfield, Mantronix).
In 2000, Gabrielle followed up with her appropriately titled third album, Rise, which followed a difficult time for her personally and creatively. Widely publicized reports concerning her ex-partner's criminal conviction threatened to overshadow her musical accomplishments, not to mention her creative potential. The songs on Rise spoke of optimism, romanticism, devotion, and a keen survival instinct. The lead single, "Sunshine," was a spirited thank you to those friends you have on hand to boost your confidence when you're low. The album's title track samples Bob Dylan's classic "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" with his rare seal of approval. 2001's world-wide hit "Out of Reach" was the feature track from the Bridget Jones's Diary soundtrack. ~ Ed Nimmervoll