ALBUM REVIEW: The Song Diaries by Sophie Ellis-Bextor


OUT: 15/3/19

TRACKLIST: Groovejet; Take Me Home; Murder On The Dancefloor; Move This Mountain; Music Gets The Best Of Me; Mixed Up World; Catch You; Me And My Imagination; Today the Sun’s On Us; Heartbreak (Make Me A Dancer); Bittersweet; Not Giving Up On Love; Youngblood; Love Is A Camera; Wild Forever; A Pessimist Is Never Disappointed; Love Is You; Take Me Home; Murder On the Dancefloor

The use of orchestras in pop brings to mind for us some of music’s most thrilling moments from yesteryear: ABC’s Lexicon Of Love album, Left To My Own Devices by Pet Shop Boys or the first two LPs by My Life Story.

  • Read on for reasons including where you can see Sophie’s orchestra on tour in the UK this year

Sophie Ellis-Bextor was a contemporary of My Life Story in the 90s when she found fame as lead singer of Britpop band Theaudience before striking out on her own as a solo dance act memorably sporting a ‘Peckham’ T-shirt as Groovejet denied Posh Spice a number 1 single.

She returned to her roots when the pop hits dried up and her last 2 albums have been collaborations with Ed Harcourt that have been defiantly indie and low key in comparison. We saw her at KOKO in March 2017 and noted how well-chosen her covers were, on that night Moloko’s Sing It Back and Modjo’s Lady.

Fast forward 18 months and we’re watching her at the Royal Festival Hall with a full orchestra premiering this greatest hits with a twist ahead of a 14-date 2019 UK tour including a Palladium gig (see ticket link at end of review).

The set really came alive with the disco-infused covers of Young Hearts Run Free and Don’t Leave Me This Way which don’t feature here but what the collection does provide is a tuneful and expansive meditation on a 20-plus-year career stretching back as far as The audience cover A Pessimist Is Never Disappointed.

We observed at that gig how refreshingly down-to-earth Ellis-Bextor is, not least when describing the orchestral pop extravaganza as a ‘dream come true’, with the qualification that: ‘All I had to do was pay for it’.

On this evidence it’s well worth the investment and reinvigorates some of the rather neglected gems in her back catalogue, we’re thinking especially of the joyous Heartbreak Make Me A Dancer and anthemic Wild Forever.

The latter is an introduction to her more recent work and this collection could prove to join the dots between disparate work that is worthy of much wider appreciation.

While not quite hitting the heights of some of her orchestral pop predecessors, this never strays into West End musical territory and Ellis-Bextor emerges as an interesting artist never afraid to challenge and try new avenues to keep her audience on its toes.

  • Picture via Facebook courtesy Sophie Ellis-Bextor. Tickets
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