Back in 1991, I interviewed
Alison Moyet as she was releasing her third solo album Hoodoo.
At the time, we discussed her biggest international hit, an old-fashioned
jazzy sounding cover of Billie Holiday's "That Ole Devil Called Love."
Although the song topped the charts in most countries outside of the
United States, Moyet acknowledged it was not a good move to record the
song. "'That Ole Devil Called Love' wasn't proper for me," she said,
"because in Europe and England it was my biggest selling single.
Unfortunately people completely boxed me after that. Everybody
thought I wanted to be a jazz singer. I've never worked that way.
That kind of unnerved me."
Well, what a
difference thirteen years makes, because Moyet's latest, Voice, is
essentially an entire album of the same kind of standards (plus two Elvis
Costello songs that only sound retro), complete with jazz instrumentation
and vintage sounding arrangements. From the evidence of the album,
maybe she should not have been fighting the perception that she'd make a
fine chanteuse all those years ago.
For Moyet has a fine, smokey alto that fits these
classic songs and classy arrangements (by producer Anne Dudley, formerly
of the Art of Noise) like a glove. Some of these songs may be a
little overly familiar, but Moyet's versions are inevitably worthy of
A subtle undercurrent of melancholia and longing
make the opener "The Windmills of Your Mind" (which had originally been
the theme song from the 60s film The Thomas Crown Affair) a
complete stunner. I have to admit, when I first saw that she was
covering the song I thought it was just too much a product of its time to
work, but she nails it. She sounds wonderfully bluesy on George
Gershwin's "The Man I Love." She also does a lovely job of two
torchy songs en francais, Bizet's "Je Crois Entendre Encore" and
Jacques Brel's "La Chanson des Vieux Amants."
She also does lovely covers of Elvis Costello's
country lament "Almost Blue" and his Burt Bacharach collaboration "God
Give Me Strength." Both songs are wonderful... in fact "God Give Me
Strength" is a near perfect song... and Moyet's interpretations are
I do agree with Moyet's original assertion that
these songs are light years from her pop-rock originals. "What Are You
Doing For the Rest Of Your Life" seems like an entirely different species
from her early singles like "Situation," as lead singer of Yaz. However,
now I'm a little sorry that it took so long for Moyet to bridge the gap
between her different styles. And even though I recognize that
Voice is an attempt of an aging singer to rebuild her base by
embracing the classics, she does do it with style. (9/04)