Arista – 2001 – 47 minutes
Described as "a British girl who crosses cultural boundaries", Peppercorn is the latest sassy female solo artist to hit a scene that is already bursting at the seams. Displaying more spunk and originality than many of her competitors however, this London lass (born to Nigerian parents in the Moroccan desert) mixes soul, R'n'B, country and folk-rock sensibilities with some great pop melodies.
Opening with medieval-sounding electronic strings, debut single 'Hyperventilating' is catchy with textured vocals and a modern country core – like Shania Twain without the Stetson. Equally radio-friendly, second single 'Nice to You' attacks sleazy record company executives. Unfortunately, it's a little like Alanis Morrissette without the gritted teeth, as the 'Jagged Little Pill'-style verses turn into a girly plea of a chorus.
'Brutal' could sit happily on an 'Ally McBeal' soundtrack, but the tough lyrics and Cyndi Lauper twang near the end give it more edge than Vonda Shepard could ever muster. Several tracks should have stayed in the bedroom: even stylish production can't save the bland sentiments of 'Can I?' or 'Karma', and the cringingly naïve title track 'Free Love'.
Peppercorn's honey voice strains uncomfortably on the chorus of 'I Care' but the soulful 'Destiny', with its ghetto-style backing chant, reveals this gal's diva potential. 'Sweet One' has a funky beat that could give Samantha Mumba a run for her money, but loses its edge when the gospel singers take over.
'Barefoot and Dirty Jeans' is Peppercorn's answer to 'That Don't Impress Me Much', and rocky pep-talk to self, 'Bowing to Convention' opens with Lenny Kravitz style guitar riffs to end the album on a defiant high.
Full of determined energy, 'Free Love' has summer hit written all over it.
Tracklisting: Hyperventilating - To err is human (yeah right) - I care - Brutal - Nice to you – Destiny - Can I – Karma - Free love - Sweet one - Barefoot and dirty jeans (It's a vibe thing) - Bowing to convention