75 Essential Albums – Day #53 – Everything But The Girl

Here goes with day 53 of my countdown of 75 Albums that in my opinion should have a place in everyones music collection.  They are not in any particular order though the top 10 will be my personal take on the top 10 albums ever released.  You might be surprised at some of my picks and some of my omissions.  Feel free to chime in with your comments and let me know if you love (or hate my choices).

Everything But The Girl – Idlewild

1988’s Idlewild was the fourth album by British post Punk duo Everything But The Girl (EBTG).  There is no doubt in my mind that the strength of EBTG was in the songwriting and in Tracey Thorn’s often haunting vocal delivery.  Their soulful songs were radio friendly if a little glum at times.  For me the band were a blessed relief from the likes of Michael Jackson and Madonna who dominated both radio and charts at the time.  Thorns co-writer backing singer and later husband was multi-instrumentalist Ben Watt.  The duo released seven albums, the most important of which (in my view) were ‘Eden’ and ‘Idlewild’.

Idlewild was a pretty stripped back album, the emphasis being very much on the vocals, harmonies and keyboards.  The album opens with a lovely version of Rod Stewarts ‘I don’t want to talk about it’, this beautiful bitter-sweet ballad is delivered with aplomb with both Thorns vocals and Watt’s harmonies delivered absolutely beautifully.  The track went to #3 in the UK singles chart and ensured that ‘Idelwild’ would be another gold album.

“These Early Days” and  “I Always Was Your Girl”  were also released as singles but did not have quite the same sparkle as the big hit, they were however very solid album tracks.  The album is full of highlights,  “Oxford Street” and “Goodbye Sunday” are superb but for me the highlight of the album and perhaps the best track EBTG ever recorded is Watt’s extraordinary childhood ballad, “The Night I Heard Caruso Sing”.  The track opens with just a stark piano until Watts vocal comes in telling tales of family holidays in the Scottish Highlands.  He paints a beautiful background and then throws in a stark juxtaposition when he contrasts the beauty with the reality of nuclear bombs stored beneath the hills and nuclear submarines hiding deep in the lochs.  He speaks of the fear of bringing children into the world and somehow the beautiful delivery makes the message all the more stark and painful.

Apron Strings, the album closer is another highlight.  Thorn’s vocal is very moving as she sings of her longing for children, thankfully the story had a happy ending as she went on to have three children with Watt.  Always was your Girl is another highlight, a lovely ballad played against a backdrop of understated keyboards, a drum machine and an occasional sax but as always it is the lyrics and lyrical delivery that really hits the spot as thorn sings:

It is I know you’re down again and you see nothing but rain
You put your friends through hell and that’s why we get along so well
You see, I always was your girl
It always will be you and me against the world

If you are feeling flush the first four EBTG albums were reissued in remastered and expanded format, they are all worth a listen.

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