Beverley Knight is a talented singer from Wolverhampton who has had considerable success over the years and is probably at this point in time the UK’s most successful female soul artist. Recently freed from the shackles of her label and now an independent, she decided to record a retrospective of the most influential soul tracks of the last 30 years emanating from the UK. A worthy project, you might think. And indeed, she chooses some absolute crackers for ‘Soul UK‘ and, united with some of the artists she covered on the album, gave a rather good account on why she chose to rerecord these ‘golden oldies’ in The Guardian.
So far, so dandy.
Today I got the album from iTunes and was pleased to see a digital booklet and some live cuts added to the covers. The tunes -as mentioned above- are indeed great. There is just no way that you can ruin ‘Southern Freez’, ‘Cuddly Toy’, ‘Round and Around’, ‘Mama used to say’ or ‘Say are your Number One’.
She doesn’t ruin them. Not as such. Her arranger does indeed does a good job taking some of these elektrofunk classic and re-gig them for classic soul sextet (plus strings). But by doing this, he sucks their manic energy completely out of them. As I am unfortunately old enough to remember all of these tracks being released, I remember being excited by how new and cool they then sounded, especially the electrofunk tracks by Freeez, Junior and (Stock, Aitken Waterman’s) Princess (yes, really). Now that they got the elegant winebar treatment, they completely lost their sparkle. Add to that Ms Knight’s vocal acrobatics and uncalled for ad-libs, this album grates quickly.
I am nevertheless sure that it will do well. You will hear it blasting out the Chelsea Tractors, out of posh wine bars, and I am sure Ms Knight will be invited to loads of corporate gigs, where she will be able to play these songs to the marketing team of private banks and will be able to crown the top-grossing broker of the year at the next CIB annual general meeting.
For the rest of us, dig out the crackly vinyl and listen to the original (or download the original from iTunes).
Honestly. What was the point?