KIKI DEE: I’m Kiki Dee – The Fontana Years 1963-1968 (RPM)

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Most casual music fans know Kiki Dee (born Pauline Matthews) as the duet partner who helped Elton John secure his first no. 1 hit; soul lovers will all know that Kiki was the first British artist to be signed to Motown – but long before teaming up with Sir Elt and just prior to throwing in her lot with Berry Gordy, Ms. Dee enjoyed a log spell with UK label, Fontana. There, label execs weren’t entirely sure how to cast her – cute mod popster, dramatic balladeer, show tune crooner or blue–eyed soul diva in the style of Dusty Springfield (Kiki, of course, had long been one of Dusty’s backing singers). On this new, wonderful, huge 32 tracker – which chronicles her Fontana years (1963-’68) – you can hear all of those Kiki Dee facets and be left wondering why none of these recordings charted. Equally, you can hear the soul potential that encouraged the ever astute Berry Gordy to sign the Bradford-born singer.

Of the poppier material, a version of the Goffin/King song ‘I Was Only Kidding’ is superb while on ‘Miracles’ her producers try valiantly to recreate Phil Spector’s Wall Of Sound. But it’s the soul-sourced material that takes the honours here. Kiki offers great covers of Aretha’s ‘Running Out Of Fools’, ‘I Dig You Baby’ (a song previously recorded by Lorraine Ellison, Jerry Butler and The Ambassadors) and Tammi Lynn’s ‘Why Don’t I Run Away From You’. Listen hard on that one and pick out both Madeline Bell and Dusty Springfield on backing vocals. And speaking of dear old Dusty, Kiki’s ‘When’ We Get There’ and ‘Don’t Destroy Me’ are as good as any of those big dramatic moments that made Dusty a star. This collection ends fittingly with ‘On A Magic Carpet Ride’ – the song which endeared Kiki to the Northern soul fraternity and paved the way for her move to Motown. Try to dig out her Motown stuff – you’ll find the lovely ‘Love’s Like A Warm Kind Of Sorrow’ and a great version of ‘Love Makes The World Go Round’ – but equally, don’t ignore this tremendous Fontana/RPM retrospective.

(BB) 4/5