Always was my girl - and she's back with a Christmas cracker
REVOLVER:A FEW lifetimes ago – the time and place are unimportant – a lifelong, loyal love affair began when I first heard I Always Was Your Girl. There was something startling about the singer’s voice – it was warm and rich but with a melancholic undertow which perfectly dovetailed with what she was singing. But in those pre-Shazam days, you had to go into an olde recorde shoppe, describe the song and the sound and hope that someone knew who you were referring to.
The song was from Everything But The Girl’s now classic Idlewild album. I left the shop with not just the album but all four albums they had released previously. Since then, I’ve been hopelessly in thrall to Tracey Thorn’s music.Way back to her early work with Marine Girls, all 11 EBTG albums (along with compilations and bootlegs), and on up to her solo career.
Thorn has always been my vocalist. She can do anything: lounge, jazz, pop and sensitive Belle and Sebastian-type indie (there’s a band who owe a debt to EBTG). Listen to her skip through Each and Every One, sound tragically doomed on This Love (Not For Sale) and execute the only version of I Don’t Want To Talk About It you ever need to hear.
Previously under the radar and with somewhat of a cult appeal, it all changed for Thorn when Todd Terry remixed an EBTG song, Missing, and it became a global smash (even though the original is better). There have been a few choice Thorn collaborations over the years – she’s been writing and recording since 1980 – Massive Attack, Paul Weller and The Go-Betweens have all used her flawless pitch and delivery.
A solo artist now for the past few years, she still releases quality work which is routinely over-looked. A very low-key performer, Thorn is from the same spiritual stable as the likes of Eddi Reader – people who are in it for the music.It really should have been Thorn and not Sade who made the big international breakthrough and sold gazillions of albums, but Thorn isn’t the type to reduce herself to the syrupy MOR rubbish Sade built her career on.
Many thought her new collection Tinsel and Lights (which is picking up some of her best ever reviews) was a hoax when it came up on the schedules, as it’s a Christmas album and the last thing you expect from Thorn is a bunch of seasonal fillers. As it happens, you can dust off the term “classic” for this most beguiling of releases.
There are two new self-penned songs – the title track and the gently sublime Joy but it’s the covers that really elevate this. She works wonders with songs by Dolly Parton (!), Sufjan Stevens, The White Stripes, Randy Newman and Joni Mitchell. But go directly to her take on Low’s Taking Down The Tree, a duet with Scritti Politti’s Green Gartside. All in all, it’s the sort of collection that gives the Christmas album a good name.
And while Tracey Thorn has your attention, stick in a pre-order for her autobiography, Bedsit Disco Queen, which is due early in the New Year. Caitlin Moran – author of How To Be A Woman says of it : “Tracey Thorn is the Alan Bennett of pop memoirists. I loved this book so much I want to form a band. Preferably with Tracy Thorn.” As Thorn herself has it: “I’ve been in the charts, out of them, back in. I’ve seen myself described as an indie darling, a middle-of-the-road nobody and a disco diva. I haven’t always fitted in you see . . .”.
Get ready for your close-up Tracey, you’re back. As I always knew you would be.