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David Gray

White Ladder Album Review

Photo of David Gray with his guitar during a live performance

Every now and then, for one of our Good Vibes reviews we like to throw a bit of a curveball. Big riffs and rockin’ out will always be close to our hearts but sometimes you have to take your foot off the pedal for a while you know? In fact, we’re firm believers that it can do you a lot of good to spend a little downtime in your comfort zone, resting and recharging while taking comfort in familiarity.

We even dedicated the theme of this month's Penta Sounds playlist to it. So when it came to picking an album to review, we thought it would make sense to go with one that is the home of the song that arguably best summarises all of this…


25 years ago, David Gray first released his breakthrough album ‘White Ladder‘. However, it wasn’t until it was re-released two years later that it really broke through, and did it break through. At the current time of writing it has gone 10x platinum, sold over 3 million copies and sits at number 11 in the list of best-selling albums in the UK since the year 2000. Not bad for an album he recorded in his flat in London…


David Gray grew up in Greater Manchester (actually not too far from Warrington) before moving to Wales as a child. After building a solid but not spectacular career releasing 3 albums of acoustic guitar-led folk and rock, ‘White Ladder’ saw him transition into Folktronica territory with the integration of warm electronics, refined beats, and smooth synths. It would be this package combined with Gray’s intimate yet relatable songwriting that would endure him to the masses. If you were around at the time, you’ll probably recognise several of the songs, even if you don’t “know” them.


Hits like ‘Sail Away’, ‘This Years Love’ and ‘Please Forgive Me’ all struck a chord with people (no pun intended). You only have to check the YouTube comments of these songs to see numerous tales of love, loss and everything in between that people associate with these tracks. But, as good as these three are, there’s one that is ever so slightly a cut above for us…


Babylon’ is the one that has made its way into Penta sounds this month, and as we mentioned above that is largely because it seems to perfectly encapsulate familiarity. It is like a comfort blanket in musical form. How does it achieve this? Well, the subject matter taps into something that almost everyone has experienced at some point in their life, and the instant earworm chorus definitely helps as well. You kind of get the feeling that this song can be whatever you need it to be, uplifting or reflective.


Going back to the album itself, “White Ladder” isn’t the coolest album ever, but it isn’t trying to be. It clearly means a lot to many people, and that’s for a reason; It’s pretty damn good. So for that reason, we advise you to ‘let go of your heart, let go of your head’ and spend 52 minutes wrapped up in this comforting, familiar hit of nostalgia.


Still credits: “ David Gray - White Ladder (live) ” uploaded to YouTube by David Gray Video Collection

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