Bizarre Fruit 2005 Inlay

Inlay: Information by Paul Lester, Deputy Editor, Uncut:

Despite the amazing success M People enjoyed on the back of second album 'Elegant Slumming', there was no sense of anti-climax when it came to the release of follow-up 'Bizarre Fruit' in November 1994. It peaked at Number 3, stayed on the charts for a massive 115 weeks and bequeathed an incredible five hit singles. Basically, on the British music scene in the mid-'90s, there was Britpop, there was trip hop (Massive Attack, Tricky, Portishead) ...and there was M People.

The later front cover of 'Bizarre Fruit' features singer Heather Small with attendant gravity-defying upturned black pineapple hair-do upfront in the frame while her bandmates - inspired amateur Mike Pickering, the more formally trained musician Paul Heard and percussionist Andrew Lovell alias Shovell - are further back, admiring a series of surreal paintings of pears (the bizarre fruit of the LP title and featured here-on the original sleeve) in some modern art gallery. There was no lyric sheet this time, although you didn't really need one, first because of Heather's crystal-clear intonation and second because daytime radio hammered the songs so relentlessly from day one that you soon knew every word of every track by heart.

Those singles were all big hits, and they comprise virtually the whole of the first half of the album. 'Sight For Sore Eyes' (which reached Number 6 in November 1994), with its startling salsa break, opens proceedings in powerful style, and features a Heather Small co-writing credit, the first on any M People album. 'Search For The Hero' (Number 9 in June 1995) instantly became an awards ceremony, and sports event, perennial. 'Open Your Heart (also Number 9, in February 1995) is a typically M People-ish infectious burst of hands-in-the-air happy handbag house, complete with duelling saxophones. 'Love Rendezvous' (Number 32 in October 1995) was the first M People single not to reach the Top 30 since their cover of Marshall Jefferson's 'Someday' in April 1992, although the gospel-blues deconstruction of psychedelic mod classic 'Itchycoo Park' (Number 11   in November 1995) soon made ammends.

Of the remaining non-single tracks, 'Precious Pearl' has an almost 'new jack swing' style rhythm that recalls the early-'90s swingbeat style of Teddy Riley et al. 'Sugar Town' is gospel-infused house, with brass elements and a driving beat. 'Walk Away' is a ballad with a rousing coda. 'Drive Time' features blazing horns and, lyrically, employs a car metaphor to talk about love'n'sex while 'Padlock' goes for a key image to discuss a similar theme. And Finally, "...And Finally", another Heather Small co-write, includes references to Marvin Gaye and Van Morrison and remains a haunting paean to love overcoming the most cataclysmic scenario of all...'Bizarre Fruit' is a fine testament to the studio nous of Britsoul's Fab Four, effortlessly merging Motown, Stax, funk, gospel, disco, techno, salsa and '60s influences and, in the process, creating something uniquely British and new. The album also saw M People consolidate their reputation as a superb live band, augmented as they were on the road by a large contingent of instrumentalists and backing singers. As third albums by Manchester bands go, it merits contention alongside Simply Red's 'A New Flame', New Order's 'Lowlife', Happy Mondays' 'Pills 'n' Thrills And Bellyaches', 10cc's 'The Original Soundtrack' and Magazine's 'The Correct Use Of Soap'. And yet they still had one more Top 3, hits-strewn long-player in them. But that's another story.