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Whilst I found Lucy Woodward's debut album "While You Can" perfectly enjoyable and far more worthy of a place on our record store shelves than the likes of Lindsay Lohan and Hilary Duff, unfortunately I appeared to be in a minority. Helped by fame from other sources, their albums sold significantly more copies than Woodward's, despite not being nearly as good. Unfortunately, sales mean everything and so Woodward was dropped by her record company.
Fortunately, Woodward isn't the kind of person to let this get her down. She put together an album which, sadly for most people who will never find out how good it is, can only be found online or through Barnes & Noble bookstores. I didn't even realise Barnes & Noble would even consider taking on sole selling rights to an obscure musician's self published second album, but thank goodness they did, as it's quite simply wonderful.
The album opens with the lovely funky bassline to "Love is Gonna Getcha" that reminds me of something by Portishead. It's a song with a delightfully laid back groove to it, seemingly mixing pop with trip-hop along with a full orchestra. It's not the greatest album opener I've ever heard, but with Woodward's soulful vocal, the combination is quite relaxing and it's a beautiful listening experience.
There's a slight hip-hop groove to "Use What I Got", with the piano sounding like an old style hip-hop track and adding a really funky bassline over the top. This is a delightfully jaunty little tune that always makes me want to start dancing, regardless of the fact that I can't dance. This is even more of a problem when it comes on my iPod when I'm out walking or running, as it's still a difficult urge to fight, even then.
If ever a singer or songwriters needs a lesson in how to put together the perfect pop ballad, then "Slow Recovery" needs to be that lesson. It does everything right, even down to the placing of the song just after the sassiness of the opening two tracks so that the change of pace and style seems even more remarkable. This is a simply and beautifully crafted pop ballad, with wonderful orchestration behind a voice imbued with just the right amount of regret to fit the lyrics and a slightly husky edge that defies understanding of why any man would be dumb enough to leave her feeling the way she's singing about.
If the previous track was a lesson in crafting a pop ballad, "Submarine Love" is a lesson in making a metaphor last a whole song without letting it slip. From the opening line "My love is like a submarine / Twenty league underneath the sea", the metaphor continues without ever seeming to be strained. Combine this with a wonderful up tempo pop song, with Woodward's husky soulful vocal and it's a wonderful song.
Sadly, compared to what has come before, "You Found Me Out" seems a little weak. It's not a bad song on its own, but with a mid-tempo groove, even helped along as it is with a soulful bassline, it doesn't quite hit the heights of the previous tracks, either lyrically or musically, although it is a relaxing song to listen to and Woodward's voice is again delightfully husky and sensual.
Despite having a piano line that reminds me of Gorillaz "Clint Eastwood", "Hot & Bothered" is another gorgeous ballad. Every time I hear the song, it strikes me as being the perfect first dance at a wedding song, as it's romantic enough to be a love song, but the lyrics are steamy enough to traumatise elderly relatives. It's a song that deservedly gives the album its title and with the sexy rasp in Woodward's vocals, it certainly has the effect the title promises.
The opening to "What I Can Do" doesn't immediately promise a great deal, but it turns out to be reminiscent of a soul ballad, thanks to Woodward's soulful vocal, the backing vocals evoking Motown girl groups like the Supremes and a nicely laid back bassline.
There's a distinct jazz influence on "Geographical Cure" that I love. It's another wonderfully laid back tune that just makes me want to kick back and let it wash over me. There's the perfect combination of jazz and blues and Woodward's vocal has enough smoke in it to fit perfectly.
If I thought Woodward's vocals had enough steam in them to make "Hot & Bothered" live up to its title, "Sugar" takes it up a notch further. Using metaphors equally as well as "Submarine Love", this is a steamy and delightful pop ballad with an underlying jazzy note. This and "Geographical Cure" are the kind of song you could listen to on a beach with a cool drink and feel perfectly content with the world.
The pace picks up again for "Too Much to Live For", which is another toe-tapping number. It's a little like "Use What I Got", only even more so. There's a jazzy horn section with a lovely jaunty little beat and Woodward's beautiful and husky vocal. Indeed, my only disappointment with the song is that at just over 3 minutes 40 seconds, it's a song that ends far too quickly when you want it to go on forever.
The Motown feel from "What I Can Do" returns once more for "Don't Wanna Love Again", with a lovely soulful backing and the backing vocals that again harks back to the girl groups of the 1960s. Indeed, this is something you can almost hear Diana Ross and the Supremes making a decent stab at, although this is so good, you wonder if even they would manage it quite so well.
Sadly, the album ends on one of the few down notes, with "I Won't Care". It does contain some of the elements of a Gorillaz song, with a slight Eastern feel mixed with a trip-hop beat, but for some reason this song doesn't grab me in the way some of the others on the album have done.
Despite this slightly disappointing end, this is a truly wonderful album. It combines jazz and soul elements with some wonderful lyric writing and Woodward's voice has enough of an edge to fit the music perfectly. She also mixes up steamy ballads with jazz stylings and up-tempo pop-soul numbers in such a way that no matter how often you listen to the album, it's always fresh and enticing. There are so many elements here, which all fit together so well, that this would be one of my Desert Island albums without a doubt as it has something for any mood and any listener, with more variation over only 12 tracks and 50 minutes of music than some musicians manage throughout an entire career.
Sadly, Atlantic Records short-sightedness and focus on profit over talent means this album isn't readily available in the UK and I'd be stunned if you ever saw a copy in HMV. Fortunately, it can be found on Amazon for £9.95 or can be downloaded for £5.99. Copies may appear on eBay and I paid around £8.00 for my copy and haven't regretted a penny of it since. In these days of musicians being spotted on talent shows on ITV, real genuine talents can be overlooked and Lucy Woodward is one such talent. There are elements here that would appeal to any music lover and this is an album that deserves to be in any music lover's collection.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Love Is Gonna Getcha
2 Use What I Got
3 Slow Recovery
4 Submarine Love
5 You Found Me Out
6 Hot & Bothered
7 What I Can Do
8 Geographical Cure
10 Too Much to Live For
11 Don't Wanna Love Again
12 I Won't Care