JULIA FORDHAM: The Language Of Love (Red River)

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Here’s a tough pub pop music quiz question: Who had a debut UK top 30 hit in 1988 with ‘Happy Ever After‘? I’m sure most people would struggle to name Julia Fordham. The Portsmouth-born singer went on to enjoy a few other middling hits – the best known maybe being ‘Love Moves’ – and then that seems to be that! But not quite! You see shortly after ‘Love Moves’ was featured in the 1992 Demi Moore movie, ‘The Butcher’s Wife’, Julia relocated to Los Angeles and resurrected her recording career, winning critical acclaim with a series of jazz-nuanced vocal long players.

Her latest album has just been released and, fittingly, as we commemorate the centenary of Ella Fitzgerald’s birth, Ms Fordham tries with ‘The Language Of Love’ to channel the Queen Of Jazz’s spirit. Julia says that Ella Fitzgerald has already covered every traditional jazz song to perfection so for her album she’s chosen a set of contemporary songs to cover in the way that Lady Ella covered the Great American Songbook.

So here you can enjoy songs from artists like Blondie, Janis Ian, Sting, Stevie Wonder and the Beatles (the chosen Fabs’ song, by the way, is “Eleanor Rigby’). Right now we count the highlights as new twists on 10CC’s ‘I’m Not In Love’ and Gilbert O’Sullivan’s ‘Alone Again Naturally’. Ms Fordham and her producer Grant Mitchell reinvent the emotionally familiar and though she may not achieve the kind of soulful nuances that Esther Phillips achieved on her version of ‘Alone Again’ she does allow the bitter sweetness of the message to surface.

Never a believer in hiding her light under a bushel, Julia also includes a trio of her own songs. They are a fresh reading of her debut hit ‘Happy Ever After’ and two new songs penned with producer Mitchell and both ‘Like You Used To Do’ and ‘The Morning After (The Night With You)’ fit perfectly with the album’s overall ambience. Indeed ‘The Morning After (The Night With You)’ is a wondrous piece of work. I love sad songs (I guess most of us do!) and this one just keeps on tugging at my heart strings and it lifts what was a perfectly OK covers album into something really special.

(BB) 4/5