Before David Gray became a household name, at least among those concerned with singer/songwriters, after the release of his 1998 record White Ladder (which came out in the U.S. in 2000), he was making his way though the United Kingdom and Ireland singing and playing his guitar and impressing audiences with songs off his first three albums, A Century Ends, Flesh, and Sell, Sell, Sell. Shine: The Best of the Early Years, goes back to those records, taking five songs from each (and, with the exception of the initial triad, alternating between them chronologically). Gray's first single, "Birds Without Wings," is included here, as are other favorites like "Late Night Radio," "Debauchery," and "The Light." The transition from man-with-guitar to man-with-band can be felt between the tracks (and between the albums), which helps then pave the way for the further development that arrives with White Ladder and "Babylon" and "Please Forgive Me," but Gray's strong, British, slightly quavery voice is a constant throughout, and always carries the piece. This is decent-to-good singer/songwriter rock that probably won't blow away anyone unfamiliar with Gray, but for fans of his (in particular fans of his who have limited experience with his early work), Shine should be satisfying enough.
AllMusic Review by Marisa Brown