Wednesday is my day for choosing a new Album of the week. This new habit was prompted by the example of the current Master of Jesus College Cambridge, Sonita Alleyne, as noted in this piece from last month.
Sometimes, with a new habit, or any change in behaviour, you can over-plan how you want it to work out. When things don’t go to plan, the new behaviour is dropped. I haven’t over-planned this one, beyond this objective: to play an album that I am unfamiliar with for a full week, and then choose a new one. If I were choosing familiar albums, it would be the same set of Tom Waits, Bob Dylan, Bowie, Led Zeppelin and Beatles albums that I have been listening to, in some cases, for well over 40 years.
Over the last seven days I have been playing “Rockferry” by Duffy, an album I owned but had hardly played. It was the best-selling album in the UK in 2008, when CD sales were still strong, so there are probably millions of people who have (or had at one point) a copy of the CD in their home. I couldn’t track down my own copy but I had “ripped” it to MP4 at the time (a habit I wrote about in this piece for my second Album of the Week). I have been playing it mainly on my phone, which has become the norm for my first four Albums of the week. Even if I had the original disk there’s no guarantee it would play on the portable CD player that usually sits in the kitchen.
“Rockferry” is my idea of how an album should be: 10 tracks, 37 minutes’ playing time. That equates to five tracks on each side of a vinyl album, like the old days. The sound too is a throwback to classic 60s soul and pop. It feels like a properly worked-out album, not just the two big hit singles (“Mercy” and “Warwick Avenue”) padded out with 8 tracks of varying quality. It has brought a smile to my face all week long. Just remembering the opening lines to “Syrup and honey”, delivered with that bit of Welsh in her voice, are enough to bring the smile back while I type these words: “Don’t you be wasting all your money on syrup and honey / ‘cause I’m sweet enough”.
The album provides me with constant reminders that I’m a sucker for echoey and slightly twangy 60s guitar sounds (not the full Shadows twang, but getting there), the kind of thing that the Pretenders used to such good effect on songs like “Kid” and “I go to sleep”. It was the guitar sound on “Warwick Avenue” that prompted me to buy the CD all those years ago, and back then it was the only track I played much. Not this time round. I have played all 10 songs straight through more than a dozen times and have become particularly fond of “Serious” and the final track “Distant Dreamer”, a perfectly judged closing song.
Duffy has been in the news lately with reports of a dreadful past ordeal: “Singer Duffy ‘drugged, raped and held captive’”, as reported by the BBC, with the following quote:
“The truth is, and please trust me I am OK and safe now … The recovery took time. There’s no light way to say it. But I can tell you in the last decade, the thousands and thousands of days I committed to wanting to feel the sunshine in my heart again, the sun does now shine.”
In “Distant Dreamer” (click here) she sang the following words about dealing with tough times:
And when life gets tough
And I feel I’ve had enough
I hold on to a distant star
I’m thinking about all the things
I’d like to do in my life
I’m a dreamer, a distant dreamer
Dreaming far away from today
I wish her well, and am grateful that her first album is now part of my life.