It seems like it was only yesterday that Dizzee Rascal walked home with the Mercury Prize for Boy In Da Corner, Coldplay had released A Rush of Blood to the Head; an album the highest echelons of music snobbery struggled to truly 'hate', and Radiohead were trying to rediscover the magic of OK Computer for the third time.
But alas, that was ten years ago. Dizzee gave up his gritty roots in favour of 'Dance Wiv Me', 'Holiday' and other such Bonkers party anthems, Coldplay have bankrupted themselves giving away glowing wristbands and Radiohead fans across the world have desperately been trying to splice OK Computer and In Rainbows together to form the mythical super album, 0110.
Back in 03, these three were all nominated for that Mercury Dizzee grabbed, along with Terri Walker, one of that year's unlikely outsiders, who'd released her debut solo album, Untitled to critical acclaim. The record was gorgeously smooth, and Walker had been touted as one of the most exciting artists of that year. Evidently though, Walker never penetrated the mainstream quite as convincingly as predicted and, despite collaborations with the likes of Mos Def, the album slipped by many of us which, in retrospect, is a shame.
This year, Walker returns with American R&B vocalist Nicole Wray as fifty per cent of the duo Lady. The pair has produced an album of modern soul that nods just enough to Motown to keep it classic.
Themes of heartache, betrayal and occasionally revenge frame the record, giving birth to some model soul music like 'Get Ready', 'If You Wanna Be My Man' and 'Hold On', the latter being an undeniable album highlight, but unfortunately it also spawns some much cheesier, clichéd misnomers.
In fact, Lady takes an unfortunate turn on 'Good Lovin''. Not even the excellent production can make up for the transparently bad lyrics: "forgot about my past lover / 'cus my man sticks it to me right" and "Give it to me and I will stay / you make it feel good I hang around all day." It's difficult to determine whether 'Good Lovin'' is uncomfortable or just plain funny, but either way it becomes an unfortunate needle in the side of an otherwise fine album.
Whilst Lady can be a bit hit and miss lyrically, the production is generally tidy and pretty much what you'd expect from a soul record, with clean guitar leads, vocals harmonies and just the right amount of brass. Sadly though, a few production quirks litter the album, like the peculiar, overly saturated reverb that plagues the vocals on 'Please Don't Do It Again'.
Lady has some great moments, but unfortunately it struggles to inspire and lacks the magic of Walker's 2003 debut.