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Author Topic: New Radicals / Gregg Alexander  (Read 5406 times)
kwan_dk
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« on: December 06, 2013, 05:13:08 AM »

So,.... any fellow boardmembers who love the lone album by the New Radicals as much as I do?

'Maybe You've Been Brainwashed Too' is one of my all-time favourite albums. Admittedly, there's also a bit of nostalgia thing going on here. I was in my late teens when it came out in the late 90s and I really, REALLY dug that album. So listening to it now also takes me back and makes me think about growing up and having a more carefree life back then. For those who don't remember the band, they had a minor hit with 'You Get What You Give'. I loved the 'teens run wild in the mall' theme when I first saw the video on MTV; the lyrics are clever and the melody as well as Greggs vocal mannerisms are so catchy. What's not to like?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DL7-CKirWZE

Basically, the New Radicals, as a band, was the brain child of reclusive front man and lead singer Gregg Alexander. He pulled the plug on the band just as their second single, the equally awesome 'Someday We'll Know', was about to be issued. I could write a lot about this mysterious move and the shadowy figure that is Gregg Alexander but I won't do so here, since others have put his story into words far better than what I'll be able to. But it is a fascinating and perplexing story indeed. For those interested, check these out:

http://popsublime.blogspot.dk/2010/09/music-of-gregg-alexander.html

http://www.popmatters.com/column/174313-in-defense-of-new-radicals/

It is a shame to think about what could have been had Alexander continued his career, either with a second New Radicals album or issuing solo stuff. One thing I've always loved about the New Radicals album is his vocal style. He has this sneer and smart-ass brat-like quality about his voice which I really like. Heck, listen to this demo of Michelle Branch' 'The Game of Love', which Gregg co-wrote a few years after disbanding the New Radicals. I never liked the hit version much but with Alexander handling the lead this little ditty somehow sounds way better to my ears.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7bJrHl4TeN0

Also, check out this gem, which supposedly is an unrealsed New Radicals song that was completed during the sessions for the first album. Some of the lyrics are even printed in the booklet for that album. It's really great. And if you listen closely, check out the 'Na na naa naa nas' in the outro. Sounds familiar? Yep, Alexander used them and the general feel of the song for the Lovin' Each Day hit he wrote and produced for Ronan Keating in the early 00s.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ry_LLJHAJHM

I think quite a few former fans of the New Radicals have a heard time dealing with Gregg Alexander's later career as a songwriter/producer gun for hire, writing songs for fluff pop acts such as Ronan, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Boyzone, Enrique Iglesias (!), Michelle Branch etc. Especially given some of the otherwise cynical and anti-establishment lyrics on the debut album which would seem to totally contradict such a move. It doesn't really matter much to me or taints the sheer awesomeness of that iconic debut album. But loving his take on a catchy pop song I have certainly later on found myself listening to some artists I'd never otherwise listen to at all, and probably never will again.  Smiley Then again, a Gregg Alexander production is also so distinctly his in sound, feel and catchiness that you can sense it right away, often only a few seconds in. Often, it doesn't even matter that much who sings it,... even though it would probably improve a lot if he took the lead himself!

Here are four recent examples of his work for others. He hasn't really been active these last years, so fans of his sound have only had very few new songs to pick up on compared to all the hits he had a hand in writing and/or producing during the first half of the 00s. Disregard the artists below, (Boyzone, anyone?  Grin) and just listen. It's pop music with a capital P, unashamedly so. But if you just take it for what it is, I think it's really cool and well put together.

Boyzone - Love is Like a Hurricane
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I_o8m4ieGeQ

Lilygreen & Maguire - Ain't Love Crazy
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NvUEqKetwx8

Ronan Keating - Nineteen Again
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1k3_jONqhes

Lilygreen & Maguire - Given Up Giving Up
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VNW4UH9cSPg
 
« Last Edit: December 06, 2013, 05:17:37 AM by kwan_dk » Logged

guitarfool2002
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« Reply #1 on: December 06, 2013, 09:50:46 AM »

GREAT topic and post! Long overdue, much welcome. I'm surprised there is not more attention focused in this direction, perhaps it's because Gregg himself all but dropped out and shunned the pop-media-fame-bullshit scene after getting a taste of frontman success and attention...and deciding writing and producing in the studio out of the spotlight was closer to his heart as a musician.

That in itself appealed to me once I dug deeper into the story, similar to your own experience. It's like some circa-1980's reports of Prince, with all of this speculation and rumors going around about him as a recluse, or how "weird" happenings were going on since he was in the shadows and not celebrating the pop life Kardashian-style (couldn't think of a better phrase...). When in reality he was in the studio creating and crafting some of the finest music of that era, on his own terms, and it was that way until the pop culture monster along with record label politics swallowed him up.

Gregg, however, had a masterpiece of a hit single...I use that term *very* carefully. But "You Get What You Give" had all the hallmarks of a stone-cold classic. Those major 7th chords which formed the basis of the verses...who else on the charts wore that kind of early Chicago and jazzy-soft-lite pop influence on their sleeve in quite that way? And on pop radio to boot?

That record *stood out*, if you listen today it holds up...although some would argue the references to people like "Marilyn Manson" and Courtney Love will forever date the song, but as Lennon once said, a song can have the immediacy of a newspaper. Thus, when Gregg ends his song with a rant on those folks, it was current and in his mind (and in the minds of a lot of us who thought Manson was a fucking joke of an act...still is...) and he put it on record.

Brilliant song. Again, on those major 7ths: I have a fascination for and a love of them as well. My "favorite" chords...so was it any surprise that "Game Of Love" won awards, and became a hit? It's Gregg again using those major 7th chords to build a compelling song.

Of all the Santana revival tunes...I like Santana, but damn it got a bit tiring to hear him lay his Paul Reed Smith processed guitar solos over a bevy of "guest artist" songs, didn't it???...anyway, "Game Of Love" is my favorite. Michelle Branch of all singers nailed it, the musicianship is great, and even Carlos' guitar in the solo manages to shine. It's a f***-load better than that Matchbox 20 guy's tune, and any number of Carlos' guitar layered over someone else's song collaborations.

Again, no wonder Gregg wrote the thing...that style jumps out as it did on "You Get..."

There is something about the album...I've listened and listened to it, as it's the only "New Radicals" disc available...and as strong as "You Get What You Give" is musically, it's hard for the surrounding songs to reach that level of catchiness. It's a quality album for sure, made more vital by the backstory which was soon to follow, but some of the songs don't sound as developed or as stone-cold classic as the lead single. But how many albums, not to mention those created by one guy with his studio vision, live up on every track? That's just my own take.

I'd recommend it 110%.

Great info and links once again!

I'm wondering if there is anything else from Gregg's on-and-off work with Danielle Brisbois that would be worth seeking out, even in the form of demos or one-off recordings?

For those unfamiliar...Danielle Brisbois was an actress who played Archie Bunker's niece or something on the last seasons of "All In The Family", when the writers needed a smart-aleck kid written into the scripts to "boost" a flagging show.

It turned out after her pre-teen television fame, she was also a musician and became Gregg's collaborator on his projects, "New Radicals" and otherwise. It's too bad not much more is widely talked about with her or her music, I'd sure like to know more and hear more.

Great thread. Sorry for the rambling. Some songs like "You Get What You Give" and "Game Of Love" just strike a chord with me, and stand as examples of how good pop music on the radio can be in the right hands. And in the hands of people who don't fucking propose marriage with a reality TV show camera crew and fully-staged production extravaganza present to stage all of it. You know who that is.

And when someone walks away from that glitter party, shuns it, says it's a pile of crap...and then proceeds to not only get away clean but also write a massive-selling, Grammy winning single in the aftermath without having to tour and share cocktails with a bunch of fools with no talent but loads of money...it's pretty cool in my book.
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kwan_dk
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« Reply #2 on: December 07, 2013, 03:14:58 PM »

Eureka!  Grin I knew there'd be someone else here with a love for the Radicals. Great points Guitarfool, - couldn't have said them better myself. Those unorthodox chords that Gregg often throws into his songs definately gives them a special feel.

'You Get What You Give' is probably on my all-time top five of favourite songs so for me it is impossible for anything else on the debut album to rival it. But even without that iconic song I still think there are just so many great tracks to make for an incredible debut. I've always been especially fond of 'I Hope I Didn't Just Give Away the Ending', 'Jehovah Made this Whole Joint for You', 'Someday We'll Know' and of course 'Mother We Just Can't Get Enough'. That intro, "Make my nipples hard, let's go!" - brilliant!

As for Danielle Brisebois, Gregg did in fact co-write and produce an album for her in 94 (Arrive All over You) - on a few of the songs you can definately hear a poppier take on the sound the New Radicals would churn out a few years down the line. Here's an example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NYFdPfQSClk It's almost as if you're hearing a female Gregg here. They worked together on another album post the Radicals, (Potable Life) And in 2008, Gregg & Danielle and some friends got together for a song supporting Obama's first run for presidency. Danielle takes the lead but as always in a very Gregg-like fashion. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eNHLnwwRmtE (I think this song in both it's lyrics and production is rather clumsily conceived but the melody is catchy as hell,... as always when these guys are involved.)

Guitarfool, are you familiar with the 7 or 8 or so songwriting demos that are floating around of Gregg pushing his songs? Someone leaked them a couple of years ago and they're really great, often outshining the originals. I would guess that there are some for every hit of his but they have yet to be leaked. I don't think this one song, 'Like No One Before', was ever issued by anyone. It's a good one:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ky9kWS-Q460&list=PLPLMOCYuQ0GxocN0wwr9evxlrL874bnFD

What really fascinates me about the guy is how someone with as much talent can simply vanish like he's done these last few years, only writing or producing precious few songs. He was on a bit of a roll in the early 00s but then it was as if it all petered out. Whether that was because his style went out of fashion as far as the industry was concerned or because he just lost interest is anyone's guess. I would imagine that the royalties for You Get What You Give alone would secure him a comfortable living... Those songs I linked to in my original post are some of the latest stuff,... but still,... we're talking less than 10 new songs in about as many years recently. Strange indeed.

BUT,.... what's interesting is that the director of the hyped music/romance movie Once from a few years back, John Carney, has a new movie out next year. It's already been premiered at the Toronto Film Festival, stars Keira Knightley as an aspiring singer/songwriter in NY and, yep, you've guessed it; Gregg, Danielle and their regular songwriting collaborators Rick Nowels and Nick Lashley have written all songs for the movie and the soundtrack. It will be interesting to see what that's all about. You would think that Gregg has build up a cache of great songs during these last years which would hopefully be used in the movie. Gregg even get's to his feet taking a bow during the screening in Toronto. Check in at 10:55 or so. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=--aWfgtQJFU
So he IS out there, apparently alive and well, and not just this enigmatic figure of almost mythic proportions.  Smiley

« Last Edit: December 07, 2013, 03:22:17 PM by kwan_dk » Logged

Ron
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« Reply #3 on: December 22, 2013, 08:44:54 AM »

Who played Piano on "You get what you give" because it wears me out just listening to it.  ROCK AND ROLL BABY.  Awesome piano, I hope that guy got a bonus check that day.

It is strange whenever you see someobody with as much talent as the guy behind this band just disappear... but it happens all the time.  Joe South made a few legendary songs in the 60's then vanished for the rest of his life basically.  Johnny Rivers, etc

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kwan_dk
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« Reply #4 on: December 26, 2013, 02:06:25 PM »

Who played Piano on "You get what you give" because it wears me out just listening to it.  ROCK AND ROLL BABY.  Awesome piano, I hope that guy got a bonus check that day.

I don't have the booklet for the album handy right now but I'm sure that must be Gregg himself. He has re-used that distinctl, rhythmic piano pattern on countless songs since then - hardly surprising since it's really catchy and always gives the song in question quite a boost.

Here are a few examples:

Mel C - On the Horizon
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1MifMrBCBR8

Ronan Keating - Get Back to What's Real
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q9E50s9zxc8

And he also features it in his demo of the Game of Love.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q2V8MUAI7J4
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« Reply #5 on: July 19, 2014, 01:18:07 PM »

Bumping this thread for the sake of Guitarfool and other here that dig the Gregg Alexander sound.

The soundtrack for the John Carney movie Begin Again that I mentioned in one of my earlier posts was released some weeks ago. All songs on there are produced by Gregg and he co-wrote all but two songs. On the deluxe edition there are even four songs in total with him on vocals under the pseudonym Cessyl Orchestra! This is basically the first stuff released with lead vocals from him since 1998 and in all but name it sounds just like the New Radicals.

The other stuff on there is also brilliant if you are into the kind of high-gloss widescreen pop he has perfected since shutting down the Radicals. Definately worth checking out (here's looking at you, Guitarfool!  Cheesy)

My favourite song of the soundtrack right now is this wonderful ballad, 'Lost Stars', which has a similar feel to, say, 'Someday We'll Know' on the New Radicals lone album. Here is a version with Adam Levine:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vyT-oGDnMqE

.. and here's a more understated, folksy version sung by actress Keira Knightley:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sLTRSakuugs

A few more favorites:

Keira Knightley - Tell Me if You Wanna Go Home
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GyiQtznyCGU

Adam Levine - No One Else like You
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lrGsTL5num8

Adam Levine - A Higher Place
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DVeKMuDM51Y
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kwan_dk
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« Reply #6 on: October 17, 2014, 12:32:21 AM »

The man steps up for the first time in 15 years:

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/race/found-star-new-radicals-gregg-739434
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« Reply #7 on: October 17, 2014, 04:44:01 AM »

Terrific article and interview, thanks for posting that! And thanks for posting everything so far in this thread, Kwan_Dk, both the music and info have been terrific.

Gregg says some really insightful, spot-on things about music and the music business in general in that thread. There are a few holes in the story I'd still like to hear explained, like how did he sustain himself living in LA for that many years and traveling based on a record deal that never really amounted to anything...at least he'd be responsible for paying back some of that money he had gotten and was being financed with through that Iovine deal, but maybe when that happened he was tapped into the last gasp of record companies actually supporting and nurturing their artists rather than acting mostly as a bank handing out loans.  Smiley

A very good read, I was inspired by reading that, and he really does have my feelings on a lot of these issues. It's great that he still does things his own way, and has an Oscar nomination to show for it at the present time.

The whole business of signing good looks, of labels not looking for the next Prince or Dylan, that nailed it.

His disillusionment with the whole thing (that undefinable 'thing' around the business) led him to some great places. Great stuff.


And I'm sorry for not catching the post from July earlier, and not replying to it. Awesome links, good songs! Now I have to seek out the film too.
« Last Edit: October 17, 2014, 04:45:41 AM by guitarfool2002 » Logged

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« Reply #8 on: October 17, 2014, 06:20:39 AM »

And I'm sorry for not catching the post from July earlier, and not replying to it. Awesome links, good songs! Now I have to seek out the film too.

No worries. Glad you noticed the posts later on. You really should check out the movie. I saw it on it's last day of screening in Danish Cinemas a few weeks ago and was quite impressed. It definately exceeded my expectations, since I walked in thinking it was basically just a fluff romantic comedy-type of thing. It's way more substantial than that.

Personally, I find the interview quite interesting in a meta-sort of way. I think it's pretty clear that Gregg plays upon the image as a super-cool 'f.... the industry' type lone rider / maverick that he's often been portrayed as after shutting the Radicals down. And as much truth as there is in that assertion, I can't help but thinking some of his views and claims in this interview contradicts a lot of the 'gun for hire' songwriting / production work he's been involved in ever since the Radicals. I mean, aren't acts like Boyzone, Enrique Iglesias, S Club 7, Ronan Keating etc quite good examples of what he seemingly doesn't like about the development of the music industry - at least the way it comes across in this interview? As I've stated before, that contraditction doesn't bother me one bit at all. I just find it stragely amusing.  Cheesy Basically, I view Gregg's music the same way as I do Phil Spector's - it's his sound and feel that draws me in. Who ever sings on these songs, manufactured pop star or not, matters little,.... as long as they sing well enough to do the songs justice.  Smiley

.... which brings me to what I've just discovered must be Gregg's most recent effort. Writing a single for British group the Struts. Looking at this horrible video with all the Mick Jagger-wannabe posturing would seem to really be a case of signing a band based on their retro good looks more than the fact that they're a self-contained unit writing original songs. Rock for 1-Direction fans, anyone?  Grin But seriously, look beyond all that and just LISTEN to this song. It's about as great and catchy a power pop song as I've ever heard! Gregg, oh Gregg... You sure have the golden touch!

The Struts - Put Your Money on Me (issued as a single in July)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9GuUbziASwE
« Last Edit: October 22, 2014, 02:39:39 AM by kwan_dk » Logged

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« Reply #9 on: October 17, 2014, 06:57:18 AM »


.... which brings me to what I've just discovered must be Gregg's most recent effort. Writing a single for British group the Struts. Looking at this horrible video with all the Mick Jagger-wannabe posturing would seem to really be a case of signing a band based on their retro good looks more than the fact that they're a self-contained unit writing original songs. Rock for 1-Directions fans, anyone?  Grin But seriously, look beyond all that and just LISTEN to this song. It's about as great and catchy a power pop song as I've ever heard! Gregg, oh Gregg... You sure have a golden touch!

The Struts - Put Your Money on Me (issued as a single in July)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9GuUbziASwE

True confession: When that video started up, the visuals almost made me think "what the...?". I never heard of that group, but after you mentioned Jagger-wannabe posturing, and saw that another video of the band was a "Jumpin Jack Flash" cover, I thought the worst. The singer's retro-rocker cigarette and makeup act didn't help matters...

But then the first two chords started up. That minor7th chord to the major...two chords used millions of times, but it sounded like Gregg! You nailed it. It can be heard in the vibe and the texture of the song and the songwriting, you can spot him instantly when he's on his game.

I loved the verses, melody and chords are classic Gregg. Interesting pre-chorus, a bit of a Beatles chord cliche but I love the Beatles. Grin   The chorus was decent but I could have used one of those Gregg-style quirky chords in there to really make it jump, like his major 7ths or something.

That's an interesting call on that group, is there something of an attempt to "Disney up" 70's rock? Those dudes in the band are going for the 70's vibe all the way, Mick/Keith/Bolan/Ronson...etc.

Having Gregg's tune to work with was the saving grace, honestly I probably never would have known of them had it not been one of his tunes they're playing.


Great comments on the interview: I think Gregg is another in a long line of people who genuinely love creating music, and doing so in their own world in a sense and on their own terms, too. No wonder he mentioned Prince and Dylan, as big as they got to be through the media, Prince especially never lost that love of going into the studio for days on end and working on songs, or Dylan writing songs.
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« Reply #10 on: October 21, 2014, 01:55:24 PM »

I wonder if there will ever be a chance for a second New Radicals record, no touring or promotion, just another album...
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« Reply #11 on: October 22, 2014, 02:36:17 AM »

I wonder if there will ever be a chance for a second New Radicals record, no touring or promotion, just another album...

In this day and age, Gregg could definately go about releasing something by himself way easier than when the first New Radicals album came out. He should just record an album in his home studio and get it out on itunes, Spotify, Bandcamp etc and let it live it's own life. I'll bet he could get reasonable sales out of it based on the New Radicals name alone once word spread.

He wouldn't even have to write new songs. A cool scenario would be for him to dust off some of the songs he has written for others through the years, possibly re-record them in order to get a more guitar-based, organic New Radicals sound and of course put his own distinctive vocals down. If he did that I think the end result would be one of the greatest pop-rock albums of all time with all-killer songs.
« Last Edit: October 22, 2014, 02:37:28 AM by kwan_dk » Logged

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« Reply #12 on: November 06, 2014, 04:39:12 AM »

This should really interest you, guitarfool.  Grin

http://www.stereogum.com/1716910/watch-new-radicals-gregg-alexander-perform-live-for-the-first-time-in-over-15-years/video/
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« Reply #13 on: January 18, 2021, 12:40:29 PM »

Bumping this topic with the last post from 2014,.... because - belive it or not - Gregg Alexander reforms the New Radicals for one single day in order to play wednesday when Biden is sworn in. Who would have seen THAT coming?  Cheesy

Will be interesting to see and hear the shape he and the band is in. No matter what, it'll be great to have them back, however briefly!
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« Reply #14 on: January 18, 2021, 01:18:35 PM »

I just heard this announced a few hours ago on WXPN too, and was just as shocked. Definitely did NOT see this or any kind of "reunion" of the New Radicals coming! I'll also be interested to see and hear this after all the years. The story told on WXPN was how Gregg's song (and biggest hit with the group)  "You Get What You Give" became special to the Biden family when Beau Biden was battling brain cancer and they used the song for inspiration.
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« Reply #15 on: January 19, 2021, 03:10:49 AM »

Really looking forward to this. His voice has aged a little bit - as heard on this recording from 2015 - but singing live could be a whole other mater. We'll see. I'll cheer for them and no matter what it's really nice to have them pop up again.

New Radicals - Lost Stars (Gregg Alexander sung version recorded in the wake of the song's grammy nomination. Adam Levine sings it on the Begin Again soundtrack)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aHJx_EI7bXs
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« Reply #16 on: February 22, 2021, 10:58:13 AM »

Hi everyone,
Iím new here but as a massive fan of Gregg Alexander and his work I really wanted to contribute my thoughts. Seems Iím in good company with other people sharing my love for his songwriting.

I thought the Biden inauguration performance was astonishingly good, by far the best live performance Iíve ever seen from the New Radicals. I always thought they seemed a bit rough on the 98/99 vintage uploads on YouTube but there were times in this performance where I thought Greggís vocals were almost studio quality!

Here is a post that I put on another forum sharing my thoughts about Gregg. Would be good to hear your thoughts!

Cheers
Andy

óóóóó
Thanks
Hey all,
Iím new to the site but have been lurking for years. Sometimes being a music fan is a lonely business, especially if not all of your tastes are populist!

Thought I might get a thread going on his best stuff that isnít from the New Radicalsí Maybe Youíve Been Brainwashed Too? Hopefully this first thread of mine doesnít fall flat in its face.

Ok so we know how great Brainwashed.. is (fav tracks if youíre interested are Get What You Give and Gotta Stay High) but here are may favs from other albums:

Donít wanna talk about love - Danielle Brisebois
Save Me From Myself - Gregg Alexander
Love Wonít Work If We Donít Try - Roman Keating
Murder On The Dancefloor - Sophie Ellis Bextor
Game Of Love - Santana (alone here in preferring the Michelle Branch version I think)
Break Me Shake Me - Enrique Iglesias
On The Horizon - Mel C
Middla My Heart - Danielle Brisebois
Inner Smile - Texas
I Got My Heart On You - Ronan Keating
Into The Trance - Cessyl Orchestra
Give You What You Want - Ronan Keating
Lost Stars - Adam Levine
Higher Place - Adam Levine
No One Else Like You - Adam Levine
Heal Me - Ronan Keating
Life Is A Rollercoaster - Ronan Keating
lovin Each Day - Ronan Keating
Love Is A Hurricane - Boyzone
Women Of The World - CeeLo Green
Mixed Up World - Sophie Ellis Bextor
Beautiful You - Carly Hennessy
Iím Gonna Blow Your Mind - Carly Hennessy
I wonít change you - Sophie Ellis Bextor

phew, took a while to type that. Theyíre not in preference order but whilst Greggís catalog is bigger than many people realise I just cannot get my head around someone with such incredible talent not releasing more. I also canít work out quite what it is about Greggís music that is so special to me. I know heís fond of seventh chords and as a musician myself I share that love but thereís something more about it - something. About the way he writes and structures his songs, choices of chords etc... perhaps if I ever demystified it then the songs would lose their magic.

Anyway, if anyone is interested Iíd love to hear your thoughts on Gregg and his music, particularly if you have any lesser known favourites
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