As many an artist has discovered, a distinctive hit single can be as much a liability as an asset. It may propel you into the spotlight, but it can also mean everything else you do is either constantly measured against it or that audiences only want more of the same. Such was the case with Tikaram, whose Twist In My Sobriety, while not her biggest hit (that was Good Tradition), saw her tagged as 'quirky', especially given her deep, mysteriously dark and husky voice.
It was her second and final hit single and while her first two albums both reached #3, her third, Everybody's Angel, peaked at #19 and disappeared after four weeks. In 1992 she released Eleven Kinds Of Loneliness, a superb collection of songs that included the inspired, clumping Elephant. It failed to chart and both her two subsequent albums, Lovers In The City and The Cappucino Songs, each spent only one week at the lower end of the Top 60. Her 2005 album Sentimental, released via a French label failed to even do that.
After a lengthy absence, she resurfaced in 2012 with Can't Go Back, a cocktail of piano boogie 50s rock n roll, country soul, sultry funk, torch song musicals and 30s dance halls. Inevitably, it went virtually unnoticed here, but was sufficiently successful in Europe to spawn this follow-up, one that signals another round of musical changes, much inspired by a biography of jazz singer Anita O'Day.
Driven by bowed bass and woodwinds, it opens with the joyous, upbeat single 'Glass Love Train', a wheels-rolling rhythm driving the pop sensibility before the jazz-soul notes, veined with a dash of country, are struck on 'Cool Waters', backed by her piano, Oliver Darling's bluesy guitar and featuring clarinet solo. The title, by the way, is a reference to minimalist composer Philip Glass. Things get more noticeably jazzy with the dancey percussive rhythms of ;The Way You Move; with its syncopated drums (courtesy of the late Bobby Irwin), sax and samba-like groove, and particularly so on the swings and brass swathed title track which moves from a Holiday-like torch intro to Matt Ratford's upright bass Latin sway embellished by bursts of Martin Winning's neon-in-puddles sax.
As you might expect from its title, again anchored by bass, 'Gris Gris Tales' is a slinky, hypnotic bluesy prowler with snake charmer woodwind redolent of smoky cellar dives on the noir side of town, a mood sustained by throbbing double bass on 'The Dream Of Her' with its Brubeckian piano figures.
The lovely 'Don't Turn Your Back On Me' is probably the closest to her earlier work, a softly brushed folksy sway with an intimate vocal, infectious chorus and cooing 60s backing vocals and surely the one likely to gain the most airplay. By contrast 'Food On My Table' is a more angular and sparse slow lurching gospel blues number out of New Orleans with off-kilter drums and piano coloured by lonely sax while 'Night Is A Bird' dives right into old school finger-clicking big band jazzy swing, heavily inspired by Thelonious Monk, though there's also perhaps a hint of Charlie Parker in there too.
She ends in simple jazz piano mode with more ornithological imagery on 'My Enemy', bowed bass colouring the moody balladry of lyrics inspired by a friend who was a victim of child abuse and easily one of the finest thing's she recorded. It would be nice to think this might go some way to reviving her profile beyond cult status at home, though I suspect that, again, it will be Europe that proves the more discerning. Either way, she declares she has a quiet fire in her. Long may it blaze.
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