The Neasden Queen of Soul Returns Bigger, Better and Cooler.
If you are one of my regular, uber-cool, music snob readers, you’d better stop reading now; because all sense went out of my window when I received this magnificent disc a month ago.
Mari Wilson? Where do I start? She was the soundtrack to a wonderful era in my life in the 1980’s; so much so I genuinely wore out my copy of Showpeople and had to buy a replacement copy. Plus; her show with the inimitable Wilsations at Newcastle City Hall is still in my Top 10 gigs of all time; and I’ve seen a lot of gigs.
So; can I be impartial? Obviously not.
In the intervening years she has appeared in cabaret, Theatre Shows and occasional stints in the Jazz clubs of London Town; with recorded music being put firmly onto the back burner, until now.
In short the songs Mari has selected and recorded for this album are pretty much from the Saturday night singers we both grew up watching and falling in love with in the 1960’s (I was an early developer!) like Dusty Springfield, Sandie Shaw and the Divine Cilla; plus a couple of leftfield choices for fun.
The album opens in true theatrical style with an instrumental overture; Island of Dreams with Mari humming along; this sets the scene perfectly for There’s Always Something There To Remind Me, which follows; showcasing Mari’s magnificent smoky voice.
All bar one song; come from those halcyon days of our youth but thankfully without the massive orchestrations; which haven’t aged well.
Possibly because of financial restrictions; but I’d like to think it was a conscious decision to freshen up classics like The Look of Love, I Close My Eyes and Count to Ten and Grandpa Magpie’s favourite British Chanteuse Petula Clark’s Don’t Sleep in the Subway (Darling) with a more contemporary backing; now highlighting the superb lyrics and Mari’s affectionate delivery.
While most reviews will harp on about Mari singing Dusty songs; great as they are; but for me it’s the other choices that make POP DELUXE really special.
Anyone Who Had a Heart now becomes a slightly dark love song; and who knew 24 Hours From Tulsa could become a Torch Song? Mari brings out her hidden Diva as she creates the break-up song to end all break-up songs; conjuring up images of Marlene Dietrich and even Ella at times as her voice occasionally falters with the emotion of it all.
I have to hold my hands up now; there is a single duff track here. Well; in my opinion the Pet Shop Boys/Dusty Springfield collaboration In Private sticks out like a sore thumb; with the note for note Disco Beat that makes my teeth itch. There’s definitely a good song in there; but why not try a different approach in keeping with the rest of the album?
Hey ho; all is forgiven though with the inclusion of Jackie Trent’s White Horses! In the Press Release Mari says that this was her one indulgence; well…..thank you Miss Wilson. I only vaguely remember the programme; but the theme tune has been an ‘ear worm’ for nigh on 50 years; and I had to play it the moment Mrs. Magpie returned home that very first day; as it’s a favourite of hers too.
So; it’s a very welcome return from the Queen of the Beehive; Mari Wilson and hopefully this is only a stepping stone to a full UK Tour and perhaps an album (or two) of new songs…..here’s hoping.
Happy Days indeed in the Magpie household.
Released May 13th 2016