Mary HopkinMary Hopkin
Album: Painting By Numbers
Label: Self Released
Tracks: 10

It probably dates by Mary Hopkin and myself to state that Mary was one of the first singers that I had a real recognition of, introduced to her wonderful voice through my parents record collection back when she was recording on Apple. I'm pleased to say that I've managed to update that tradition by introducing her to one of my boys via Apple as his immediate reaction to hearing, "Painting By Numbers" was to ask for a copy for his ipod.

"Painting By Numbers" is the most stripped back album I've ever heard from Mary. With the exception of two guest appearances from Benny Gallagher and Brian Willoughby, who both get a guitar and songwriting credit apiece the album is pure Mary, just her, her songs and her guitar.

That stripped back approach really does highlight the pureness and beauty of her voice, one that defies the year to sound as fresh today as when I first heard it and one that does open her up to a new generation, who may not be as aware of her heritage.

The album opens with the title track and that immediately lets you know that you're about to hear something special, just how special it gets becomes clear when you get to "Gold And Silver", a track that has already gained favour on Youtube and one that made me go back to the following track, "Improvisation", not because it's a bad track, more that I was still basking in the joy of its predecessor and missed the beginning. It's well worth going back for as it creates a wonderful atmosphere of mystery with some brilliant voice work and is probably the most full bodied track on the album.

In short if you've never come across Mary Hopkin before, you could take "Painting By Numbers" as a really good introduction to an artist that sounds fresh enough for her to give the likes of Ellie Goulding a run for the money. If, on the other hand, you're a well established fan, then this is definitely an album that will more than enhance your collection.

Neil King

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