Born in Glasgow on August 29, 1959, Eddi Reader first appeared on the music scene as backing singer for early 80s angular punk outfit The Gang Of Four, appearing with them on the Old Grey Whistle Test and their UK tour. This was followed by session work with such names as Eurythmics, The Waterboys and Alison Moyet before, in 1984, signing to EMI and releasing two singles as part of disco act Outbar Squeek. Around this time she met Mark E. Nevin, at that point guitarist with Jane Aire and the Belvederes, recording two songs with him as The Academy of Fine Popular Music.
Then, together with guitarrón player Simon Edwards and drummer Roy Dodds, they formed Fairground Attraction, making their debut in 1988 with the UK No.1 single, Perfect. Now, 28 years and 10 solo studio albums down the line, she’s releasing this 30-track, 2CD career retrospective.
It opens with a brace of songs from The First of A Million Kisses, Fairground Attraction’s debut, in the shape of Find My Love (the second single), that equally perky career-launching hit and Whispers. The band split up in 1990 after recording their second album, Ay Fond Kiss, and there’s nothing from that included here, the track listing moving on to the waltzing Patience of Angels written by Boo Hewerdine. This is actually from her second, eponymously titled, solo album, released via Blanco y Negro in 1994, her solo debut, Mirmama, having appeared on RCA two years earlier. The self-titled sophomore release, the first to feature songs written by Boo, remains her most successful (it reached #4) and earned her a Brit for Best British Female Solo Artist. It yields a second track, Dear John, before back shifting chronologically for the Spanish guitar intro of the moody What You Do With What You’ve Got off Mirmama, then bypasses 1996’s Candyfloss and Medicine for the dreamy Kiteflyers Hill and the piano-accompanied hushed voice ballad Wings On My Heels from 1998’s Angels & Electricity.
It’s fast forward then to 2007 and Peacetime, an album that featured stronger folk colours, from whence comes the Boo Hewardine-penned Muddy Water and Leezie Lindsay, an adaptation of a song by the Scottish poet Robert Burns. This was actually released in the wake of 2003’s Sings The Songs of Robert Burns, the orchestrated acoustic album that would lead to her receiving an MBE three years later and which is represented here by Wild Mountainside and the strings-washed evergreen My Love Is Like A Red Red Rose, Reader’s Scottish accent more prominent than usual. It was reissued in 2009 as a deluxe edition to celebrate Burns’ 250th anniversary, that version adding Leezie Lindsay off Peacetime (reissued again by Reveal Records in 2015 – Review here).
That same year came a new studio album, Love Is The Way from whence comes the Declan O’Rourke-penned title track and, featuring introductory ‘chatter’ by her young daughter Meg, the musically playful, snare percussion and accordion-led Roses, co-written by John Douglas. After a lengthy gap punctuated by her own label release of Live In Japan, came 2014’s Vagabond, her most recent studio album to date (FRUK review here), rounding off the first disc with the gypsy flavours of the shuffling rhythm Baby’s Boat and the slow waltzing, concertina-brushed title track.
Disc 2 opens by going back to the start with both her lovely stars-kissed cover of Steve Earle’s My Old Friend The Blues and a seven minute waltzing version of Fred Neil’s Dolphins from Mirmama. Angels is revisited in the itchily percussive shape of Boo Hewardine’s Hummingbird before backtracking to Candyfloss for the late night jazzy vibes of Semi Precious.
For those wondering what’s happened to 2001’s Simple Soul, it makes its first and only appearance with the brushed snare backed The Girl Who Fell In Love With The Moon before the arrival of another O’Rourke number, Galileo (one of her most dreamy and loveliest recordings) from Peacetime, then it’s back to Burns for the pairing of Willie Stewart with the giddy reel Molly Parkin. Sticking with Rabbie, there’s the six-minute arrangement of Ae Fond Kiss before John Douglas again takes up the songwriting baton for New York City taken, as is Dragonflies, from Love Is The Way.
Then it’s another trip back in time on the wings of Angels & Electricity for Boo’s Follow My Tears before bouncing back to the lazing jazzy present and Snowflakes In The Sun before bringing down the curtain in a similar musical mood with two covers, firstly a jazz guitar arrangement of Amy Winehouse’s Love Is A Losing Game and, finally, the strings soaked Mancini/Mercer classic Moon River, both lifted from the Back The Dogs EP released in late 2014 (FRUK review here).
While I’m sure fans will all have at least one album track they would have liked to have been included that isn’t, this is pretty much a definitive musical portrait of one of the finest voices this country (ok, Scotland) has produced, whether that be in folk, pop or any other genre.
Review by: Mike Davies
Eddi is on tour this month including the Sage Gateshead, for full details head here: www.eddireader.co.uk/gigs