Everyone has a “Music Bucket List”, a list of artists that they need to see at some stage in their life, and English singer/songwriter David Gray will feature on this list for many people, including my own.
Gray released his first album, A Century Ends, back in 1993, and since then he has gone on to develop a reputation as one of the most talented and compelling songwriters of the last thirty years with a back catalogue that is the envy of any songwriter.
David Gray would eventually reach widespread recognition when he released his breakthrough LP, White Ladder, in 2000. Despite being initially released in 1998 on Gray’s own independent label, IHT Records, it wasn’t until it was released in 2000 by the ATO Records, the label of Dave Matthews, that it gained any traction in the charts. The success of the album was greatly helped by the hype that was generated by the release of the single Babylon in 1999.
Since its release, White Ladder, has gone on to sell over seven million copies worldwide and is one of the most popular albums of all time. But what exactly made this ten-track record connect with fans in the way that it did?
Across White Ladder, Gray investigates human emotion and love with a sense of accomplishment and craft that can not be denied. Sophisticated and emotive instrumentation melds perfectly with interesting and heartfelt lyrics to provide a truly compelling experience for the listener.
The opening song on this LP sets the tone perfectly for what is to follow on the rest of the record, and remains for me, the best song of Gray’s career. Please Forgive Me is one of the most expertly crafted and heartbreakingly effective love songs ever written, with one of the most powerful lyric lines in music. I could write a thesis on this song and it still wouldn’t be enough to effectively articulate how good it is.
“Feels like lightning running through my veins every time I look at you…”
Please Forgive Me is followed up by the aforementioned Babylon and it marks a remarkably strong opening to the LP and acts as a clear statement of intent by the songwriter.
One of my favourite songs on the album is the heartbreaking This Year’s Love, a fantastic articulation of the feelings that surround meeting someone knew after being single for a long time. The song expertly works through the different sensations the come during this phase and the desire that they will continue into the future.
Another of the main stand out tracks from this LP is the penultimate track, Sail Away. Sail Away would go down as one of Gray’s best known songs, a gorgeous exploration of love and a longing to be free.
White Ladder is one of those stages when a musician finds their flow perfectly and creates a piece of art where everything seems right. It is the record that would make David Gray a household name in both Britain and Ireland and showcase the extraordinary talent that the man from Cheshire possesses.