David Gray, White Ladder: 20th Anniversary Edition - album review

It sold seven million copies and was completely inescapable on the radio - the James Blunt, Pharrell Williams or David Guetta of its time.

The 20th anniversary cover for David Gray's White Ladder
The 20th anniversary cover for David Gray's White Ladder

White Ladder was David Gray's greatest moment - although it's actually now 22 years old, having first been releases in 1998 before getting a re-issue in 2000. His (What's The Story) Morning Glory?, Sgt. Pepper's...yeah, you get the drift. It is the fourth of what is now 11 records. The first to hit the top of the charts, and was to be followed there by 2002's A New Day At Midnight and again by Life in Slow Motion three years later.

For many, it will evoke memories of a time in their life - like many of these anniversary special editions do. For this writer, it's car journeys with parents as Mum was a big fan. For others, it will be something completely different - such is the beauty of music.

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The expanded 20th anniversary edition includes a remastered edition of the iconic album plus White Ladder-era, previously unreleased rarities, B-sides and demos. Physical versions will be accompanied by an extensive booklet with writings by Gray about the whole White Ladder experience.

The album will need little introduction. Songs which people still associate with him today - the sing-along Babylon, beautifully heartbroken piano ballad This Year's Love and the softly spoken My Oh My still sound poignant with Gray's wide vocal sound oozing over the top.

Perhaps one takeaway we can have from this is that as a whole album, perhaps people forget it's one-dimensional pace throughout. There's little alteration in the pace from song to song, and can start to sound a little similar on the less-loved tracks.

David Gray performs at V Festival in Weston Park, on the Staffordshire/Shropshire border, in 2001

Of the demos, the delicate Over My Head could be the tear-filled ending to any gut-wrenching movie, while What On Earth sounds almost lackadaisical in its laid-back manner. It's not, it's just restrained in letting loose its power strand by strand as it builds to a more upbeat conclusion.

And of the rarities, Over My Head again makes an appearance. And while it's got a fuller sound with a booming percussion beat, it's still just as emotive. And Lights Of London is a crooning dedication to the city full of strangely uplifting backing vocals.

David Gray performs at Hard Rock in Las Vegas in 2001 as part of his White Ladder global tour hoto: Reuters

For those who love him this is a real treat. But at one hour and 40 minutes long, it's one to dip into when the mood takes you there rather than devour whole.

Rating: 7/10

David Gray brings his White Ladder 20th Anniversary Tour to Birmingham's Resorts World Arena on March 28

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