Those unfamiliar with pop music would be forgiven for confusing All Saints with another hotly tipped music property, the Spice Girls. The four members of All Saints could have stood for Spice Girls body doubles in a lineup: two brunettes, one blonde, and one of West Indian descent. While the Spice Girls were always pure pop and barely musically functional, the members of All Saints, however, were songwriters and music aficionados with a softer, more intelligent image less tied to their looks than their music.
The group came together in 1993 when Melanie Blatt and Shaznay Lewis began recording and writing at a studio on All Saints Road, in London's Ladbroke Grove. The duo hooked up with R&B vocalist Simone Rainford and released a single for ZTT Records in 1995, then parted ways with Rainford and were dumped by the label. Undeterred, Blatt and Lewis recruited native Canadian Nicole Appleton and, later, her big sister Natalie, to make All Saints a quartet.
With the help of friend Karl Gordon (formerly part of the British rap ensemble Outlaw Posse), All Saints recorded a demo of the song "I Know Where It's At." New manager John Benson signed the girls to London Records and connected them with top-flight producers Nellee Hooper (Massive Attack, Bj+¦rk) and Cameron McVey (Neneh Cherry). Fully recorded, "I Know Where It's At" hit number four on the British charts and crossed over throughout Europe and Asia.
By 1997, All Saints had reached the top spot with their second single, "Never Ever." The quartet released their self-titled debut album in November 1997, and began to grow in America as well, hitting the Top 40 with "I Know Where It's At." By 1998, All Saints was certified platinum in the U.S. and five-times platinum in the U.K., but rumors of split between the group started to brew. Melanie Blatt was expecting her first child with Jamiroquai's Stuart Zender and gossip claimed she was leaving All Saints. Nicole Appleton was also rumored to have walked out of the band after the group failed to show up for the Smash Hits Poll Winners' celebration that year.
In early 2000, their William Orbit-produced single "Pure Shores" was included on the soundtrack to the Leonardo DiCaprio film, [RoviLink="VW"]The Beach. Countless festival shows across the U.K. also redefined All Saints' staying power despite their shaky unit. The long-awaited sophomore effort, Saints & Sinners, was finally issued in October 2000, boosting second single "Black Coffee" into the charts, but still, trouble loomed ahead. By the start of 2001, tours of Japan and Australia were canceled. Jealousy was the culprit, for Lewis and Blatt were ill-disposed of the Appleton sisters' celebrity status, especially Natalie's relationship with the Prodigy's Liam Howlett and Nicole's with Oasis mad man Liam Gallagher. In February 2001, the split was finalized. Blatt released her first single, "Twentyfourseven," in the summer and Shaznay Lewis was writing with All Saints producer K Gee. The Appletons were cutting material as well as making plans for a tell-all book. All Hits, a greatest-hits collection of singles and a limited-edition DVD, was issued in fall 2001, marking the bitter end for the All Saints. ~ John Bush
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