Forget the Spice Girls and All Saints, Eternal were the original 90’s UK girlband; they even had the combat pants first. Their debut album, Always and Forever, was released 25 years ago today and was the first album by an all female group to surpasss 1 million UK sales, becoming one of 1994’s biggest sellling albums and spawning 6 top 20 hit singles in the process. The group formed of sisters Esther and Vernie Bennett and besties Kelle Bryan and Louise Nurding, brought a more subtle brand of girl power to the charts in the early to mid-90s racking up 15 top 40 hits and three successful studio albums (plus a greatest hits). Let’s take ourselves back to the start and give their debut album Always and Forever a fresh spin.
We were first introduced to the four piece in October when Stay entered the UK singles chart at no.16 (it climbed to no.4). R&B tinged pop with that powerhouse vocal from Esther before the other girls join in on the harmonies.
Save Our Love
The album, Always and Forever, was released in November at entered the album chart at no.33 before beginning over a year long journey up and down the charts. The second single from the album was Save Our Love which was released in January 1994 and gave the group their second top 10 when it peaked at no.8. One of this track’s writers is none other than Eddie (Chacon) of Charles & Eddie fame who hit the top spot with Would I Lie To You in 1992.
Just A Step From Heaven
Following Stay and Save Our Love, the girls released the more ballsy Just A Step From Heaven as the third single from the album in April 1994. The single version was a remix which gave the track even more punch and it reached no.8 on the UK singles chart.
This was the only track entirely written by the girls and reached no.14 in the UK. The video was shot in New York’s Time’s Square and sees the girls looking resplendent in white suits. It’s a laid back summery track, laced with sunshine as the girls serenade that special man.
Oh Baby I…
The first proper ballad released from the album was Oh Baby I… and sees the girls on fine voice. Esther again taking the lead vocal with the girls providing beautiful harmonies in the chorus. It reached no.4 in November of 1994 giving the girls their fifth top 20 single.
The sixth and final single from the album was remixed by West End for release, giving it more prominent horns. This is the only track on the album where all the girls each sing a part of the lead vocal. It was written by BeBe Winans who would later duet with Eternal (as a trio) on their only UK no.1 single, I Wanna Be The Only One.
As well as the six hit singles the album also featured a funky cover of Al Green’s Let’s Stay Together and an acapella outro of gospel classic Amazing Grace. There are plenty of other single contenders including the upbeat Never Gonna Give You Up (not a Rick Astley cover) and the slinky If You Need Me Tonight which includes a rap from Kelle.
The album was certified 4 x platinum and remains one of the biggest selling albums by all female group in the UK of all time. It’s chart peak was no.2 for three weeks in January 1995 but it was held off by Beautiful South’s greatest hits for all three of those weeks.
Listening back to Always and Forever 25 years on from release and it’s held up really well. Production wise it’s very much got that 90s pop R&B feel with strong US influences but Esther’s power vocals and the harmonies of the other girls, plus the fact it’s packed with hit singles, make for a very solid debut album that has stood the test of time.
Read some of our other classic album reviews: