David Essex

The Whisper

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The renewal of David Essex's partnership with Imperial Wizard-era producer Mike Batt may not have been the most challenging collaboration he'd ever made, but at least it returned him to the heights he'd once been able to take for granted, and which recent adventures Be Bop the Future and Stage Struck had painfully avoided. "A Winter's Tale," their first single together, was a U.K. number two in early 1983, the Mutiny stage show soundtrack nuzzled the Top 40, and a second single, "Tahiti," broke the Top Ten. The inclusion of both hits on The Whisper -- plus a reunion with guitarist Chris Spedding, the electrifying presence behind so many of Essex's early-'70s classics -- surely must have guaranteed another smash. Actually, no. Bizarrely, The Whisper did better in Sweden, where Essex hadn't had a hit in eight years, than it did at home, while Spedding turned out almost as anonymous as anyone else on the record, Essex included. Batt may be a pop genius, may be a masterful producer, and may (as Essex himself insists) "deserve much more credit than he seems to get." So, however, does Essex, and though he was able to quash Batt's insistence that he sing "Winter's Tale" in finest Art Garfunkel breathy bright eyes style, too much of The Whisper simply fails to play to his strengths. Only "Down Again" -- the one song on which both Essex and Spedding stand up for their rights -- rises above the well-meaning lushness with which Batt batters the album, while the politely rapping monster mash "Moonlight Dancing" takes its inspiration from the best of the previous year's Stage Struck album, but simply hasn't got the edge it requires. The remainder of the album, meanwhile, merely hangs around the middle of the road, in the hope that someone -- Cliff Richard, probably, or maybe Elton John -- might stop and give it a lift. In their hands, The Whisper might have been heard. For Essex, however, it scarcely raises its voice.

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