Dot Allison | "Afterglow" (1999 debut album)
I can still remember anxiously awaiting the release of Dot Allison's debut solo album, Afterglow, back in the late 90's. It had been several years since the Scottish alternative, electronic trio One Dove released their impressive first (and last) album, Morning Dove White (1993), and I'd fallen in love with everything about it - the chill, downbeat, lightly electronic atmosphere it created, the sequencing of the tracks, the juxtaposition of vocal, pop-oriented tracks (e.g., "Breakdown", "White Love", "Why Don't You Take Me") alongside more trip-pop oriented tracks like "Fallen", and "Transient Truth". Of course, one of the standouts on Morning Dove White was the soft, dreamy, ethereal vocals of Scottish singer-songwriter Dot Allison.
Years had passed until 1998 when fans were treated to a limited 7" vinyl single from Dot Allison, released by Heavenly Recordings for a brand new song, "I Wanna Feel the Chill". With samples from Jeff Buckley's "Dream Letter", sparse piano and guitar, and Dot's soft, subdued vocals, this song truly conveyed "chill" and fragility through to its somber and delicate piano ending. I wasn't sure what else might be in store based on this one song that, while it was impressive, seemed more "collector's item" than single material.
Three other proper single releases in advance of Afterglow followed shortly thereafter. The first, "Mo' Pop", was a perfect showcase for Dot's pure pop side, with catchy chorus ("I confess you've got a hold on me | But I never fall this easily") and even a "la la la" finale. "Message Personnel" was a bit more mysterious, with its repetitive, opposing and trance-like lyrics: "I'm inside, I'm outside | I'm with you, without you | Don't love me, don't leave me | Don't trust me, believe". The ready-for-radio "Close Your Eyes" was the final single release, and the one with the greatest hit potential - upbeat, dancy, and with a catchy chorus, Dot's vocals really shine here ("Close your eyes, let me take you to the sun | Burning slowly, held together in the sky").
Outside of the singles, there are a few other noteworthy gems on Afterglow. Two absolutely stunning songs are "Tomorrow Never Comes" and "Did I Imagine You?". The former features acoustic guitar, and Dot's lush, layered vocals on the harmonious chorus. "Did I Imagine You?" is a track that Dot co-wrote with the legendary American lyricist Hal David, who is mostly known for his collaborations with Burt Bacharach. I find this to be the "hidden gem", standout track on the album. Take a listen to both of these on the Spotify links below and hear for yourself. Other tracks like "Morning Sun" and "Colour Me" would have fit in perfectly alongside her previous work as part of One Dove.
Afterglow is one of those timepiece albums that occasionally finds itself playing in my headphones. It takes me back to a different time and place, when the songs were fresh and novel. I think the album has stood the test of time pretty well - it has clean, polished production and is still a great listen. Dot continues to make new music, with styles that have alternated over the years between pop, electronic, acoustic and even music for film soundtracks, but Afterglow is the one that continues to hold a special, magical place for me across Dot Allison's musical offerings.
One final note about Afterglow: Two versions of the album were released by Heavenly Recordings. The first, often referred to as the "Creamy" version, was released three months prior to the "Black" (official) version. Apart from the artwork differences, the "Creamy" version contains a completely different mix and production for the song "Close Your Eyes", that is laden with lush strings, is less dancy, and features a few additional lyrics arranged in an alternate sequence throughout the song. While this version is primarily available from second hand CD websites, I really think that this mix fits in with the vibe of the album much better than the final, mixed version on the commercial release.