It's hard to believe, considering the conflicting fortunes of their comebacks, but East 17 were once the major contenders to steal Take That's boy band crown. Although they didn't clock up as many number ones, they scored an impressive 18 Top 40 hits over a seven-year period, and on the basis of their second greatest-hits collection, time has actually been kinder to the boys from Walthamstow. Whereas the squeaky-clean Gary Barlow and co. relied mainly on karaoke covers and watered down soul-pop, the unpredictable East 17 were much more adventurous. Indeed their early sound owed just as much to the '90s rave scene as it did to manufactured pop, especially on the techno-encompassing storming choruses of "House of Love" and "It's Alright." Seen as infinitely "cooler" than their contemporaries, the mellow chillout of "Gold" and the quite raunchy trip-hop lite of "Deep" also revealed a much more mature side to Tony Mortimer's songwriting abilities. 1994's Steam album provided their biggest hit, the rather saccharine "Stay Another Day," which has been rendered almost unlistenable thanks to its overplay every Christmas, but it also produced their best single, the soulful "Around the World" which alerted audiences to the fact that Brian Harvey could really sing for perhaps the first time. Indeed, Harvey may now be more famous for his self-destructive streak but he was undoubtedly one of the most talented pop singers of the '90s. Mortimer seemed to recognize this for third album Up All Night and his soulful vocals were utilized more, albeit on its rather forgettable singles "Thunder," "Someone to Love," and "Do U Still." The Gabrielle duet "If You Ever," a faithful cover of a minor Shai hit, restored them to the upper reaches of the charts, but after Mortimer's departure following Harvey's ill-advised comments on ecstasy, the band seemed finished. But surprisingly, their first single as a trio "Each Time," was one of their best, a polished slice of blues-influenced R&B that repositioned them as a British Boyz II Men. But it was a slight red herring as its parent album Resurrection struggled to convince anyone of their new direction, as evident on their final single, the aimless and tuneless "Betcha Can't Wait." So they may have finished with a bit of a damp squib but overall, this collection cements their status as one of Britain's most intriguing and exciting boy bands.
AllMusic Review by Jon O'Brien