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recommended listening

Getting started with Eddi’s œuvre

warning : the following two paragraphs contain only my own opinions!

The question “which album shall I get first?” became an awful lot easier to answer in 1998, as the top recommendation now has to go to the most recent release Angels and electricity. An outstanding collection of truly wonderful performances and drop-dead gorgeous songs, this can be suggested without reservation as your starting point. Although Warners didn’t see fit to release it in the USA when it first came out (shame on them), they did license it to Compass Records after dropping Eddi from their roster.

Of the earlier three albums, the first, Mirmama, which is still avaiable (at mid-price) from RCA (BMG) and is also available from Compass Records in a re-issue. This is another ‘state-of-the-art’ acoustic pop album and was the previous top recommendation for a place to begin.

The first Warners outing Eddi Reader has a much more electric feel – I like it a lot, but it’s not entirely characteristic so don’t start with it unless you see a cheap copy. The subsequent Candyfloss and medicine is such a dark and single-minded whole that it may not let you in easily, but it repays careful listening with overpowering effect (get the US version of this title if at all possible as, to my mind, it has a much better track listing).

Other artists you may enjoy, if you like Eddi

...as suggested by myself and other Honeychildren

Obviously someone as talented as Eddi Reader doesn’t fit readily into current pop music categories, so it is difficult to draw parallels by genre. But it is easy to begin with her recent collaborators and in particular Boo Hewerdine, both solo and with his 1980s band The Bible. If you admire his songwriting on Eddi’s albums, try the electric Baptist hospital (1996), on which Eddi contributes a couple of backing vocals, or the more recent, stripped-down sound of Thanksgiving.

Eddi’s other recent collaborator, Teddy Borowiecki, was, as she said at live gigs, “on loan from k. d. lang” and, if you like what Eddi does with cover versions, you really ought to catch up with k.d.’s ‘addiction’ album Drag (1997). Teddy of course had a big hand in the arrangements and, through him, Boo’s haunting song Last cigarette made it into the packet (government health warning does not apply!).

The next move is probably to review other female singer-songwriters and I’m going to barge to the front of a queue of Honeychildren to recommend an album they’ve probably never heard of :– Debbie Cassell’s 1995 CD Angel in labour. The Eddi connection, such as it is, is that Roy Dodds drums and percs on some of the tracks, but this album doesn’t really need any connections to get a mention. Often quite domestic but paradoxically universal, it’s stuffed full of intelligent acoustic pop songs which I think you all deserve to get to know. The arrangements mostly tend to the acoustic side of rock with tinges of jazz, particularly on That’s what every woman wants and the blues Every day about this time... with Roy at his best and superb double bass from Chris Rodel. Debbie has an expressive, slightly breathy, voice well suited to the intimate nature of her well observed songs and I really can’t urge you too strongly to find this album.

Peter Chilvers’ main recommendation in the acoustic pop scene is Jane Siberry’s Bound by the Beauty album isn’t short on beautiful moments either; for that matter. Stina Nordenstam’s And she closed her eyes is very delicate, odd and imaginatively arranged.” (personally, I prefer Stina’s first album Memories of a color, but perhaps I’d better shut up for a while and let others have a go – ed.).

Peter also has his own band, ‘Alias Grace’: “If you’ll forgive the blatant self-promotion, you might like some my band’s stuff. I’m a multi-instrumentalist (piano/fretless bass/treated guitar/chapman stick) backing an Irish singer who is strongly influenced by Eddi and Joni Mitchell. If you’re interested, we’ve got quite a few RealAudio samples on our site. I’ve played some of our stuff to Boo (including a cover of Semi-Precious), which he said he liked, a recommendation I’m pretty proud of.”

Reverting to one of Peter’s ‘other’ suggestions, Robyn Jackson also recommends Jane Siberry’s Bound by the beauty, and I know Eddi was impressed by one of Jane’s gigs in London on 1997-03-09 (as was I), so that looks pretty comprehensive; but be warned, Jane is very inventive and each album is totally different from her others and probably has a totally different effect on each listener anyway, so I will add “try before you buy”.

Andrew R speaks up for a home grown talent. Writing in 1998 he said: “I’ve always been a sucker for good lyrics coupled with a smooth female voice (hence Eddi). I’m a big fan of Kirsty MacColl, and her last album, Titanic Days is a stunner.” Kirsty, of course, is one of the ‘Eddi family’ both as co-writer of ‘Dear John’ with Mark E. Nevin and because her half-brothers Neill and Calum have been closely involved at various stages of Eddi’s career. Subsequently Kirsty has come up with an new album Tropical brainstorm, which is well worth picking up for its fresh tranche of witty lyrics and its delightful Cuban/South American rhythms.

Andrew Bradley has two recommendations of female singer-songwriters: “ McKee’s Life Is Sweet (Geffen) – her third solo album in an inconsistent career. Intense and disturbing, touching and sensual, and as usual hugely intelligent.” and “ ecto mailing-list, Happy Rhodes. Support comes from Honeychild Irene Grau who writes “I would say that most who like Eddi would probably like Happy Rhodes, a singer/songwriter from Albany, NY. I would probably recommend her album RhodeSongs as a good overview of her music (sort of like a greatest hits/anthology).” There is one thing that stops me adding my whole-hearted support to this suggestion here which is that Happy works mostly on her own or with guitarist Kevin Bartlett and a taste for synthesized backings is essential. Personally I like synthesized sounds when used as sensitively as by Happy, but the texture of the music is very different to that of Eddi’s. Happy is worth hearing, however, for her amazing voice, with a range of umpteen octaves and for the extraordinary power of the ideas and expression in her music.

Two other singer-songwriters recommended by Honeychildren also carry one of my small caveats because I think they both sing under the note. I know it’s a style of singing with a long pedigree in popular music, but one of the things I love about Eddi is that she never, ever sounds out of tune – and I’m particularly sensitive to tuning. I mention this because, after all, I’m putting this stuff together and I want to be as helpful as possible :-). But don’t let me put you off investigating Beth Orton or Ron Sexsmith. Steve Garratt says “Beth Orton’s Trailer park [is] pretty damn good and could appeal to the community.” and Brian Green adds to his Jane Siberry suggestion “I recommend Ron Sexsmith’s debut CD and his 2nd CD Other songs. I usually have the repeat button on for all three of these CD’s.” Ron of course wrote a song especially for Eddi, which she included on her Angels and electricity album.

Phew! If you got this far – I hope there’s something there you like the look of...

happy hunting

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