Much to the delight of many 80s aficionados and Kiki Dee fans alike, her Top 50 charting 1981 album 'Perfect Timing' has finally been given a new lease of life on CD. The release comes courtesy of Edsel Records, a label which is fast becoming a favourite of mine, thanks to their history of high quality re-issues on albums by acts like Toyah and, most recently, The Thompson Twins. I'd never heard this particular album before, but was of course aware that Kiki Dee has been around for a very long time (since the early 60s actually), firstly scoring hits on the Continent, and later paying the rent by providing back up for the likes of Dusty Springfield. You know she had that something special when you realise she was signed to Motown in the late 60s - quite a feat for a UK artist, even if the results of the union didn't produce any mainstream success. That of course came later, courtesy of the Rocket label and Elton John, with whom she duetted on the perennial 'Don't Go Breaking My Heart'. We'll get back to Elton shortly, but for now, down to business! I've always loved the pop stomper that is 'Star'. The song screams 'hit' to me, thanks to the top notch production by Pip Williams (Status Quo), and its stellar chorus. I hear it on the radio occasionally and always crank the volume up. A great album opener indeed! It's surprising that this was actually the only hit on the album, which is probably more to do with the marketing of Kiki Dee than the actual quality of the songs sitting beside it. Take for example her duet with Elton on 'Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever'. My Lord, is this a beautiful reading! It's nothing at all like the sugar coated Motown classic. This version opts instead to strip the song of all but the most fragile chords, leaving two people to declare their undying love for each other in a bittersweet exchange. I'm quite stunned that this single wasn't a huge hit. As it stands it didn't even make the Top 75. Another melancholy standout, 'Twenty Four Hours', invokes images of 1981 Abba, and would have quite comfortably sat on their 'The Visitors' album. I'm surprised that this cut was actually passed over as a single (ending up as a B-side instead). The vocal delivery is excellent and suitably spine tingling. Kiki can certainly tackle a ballad with complete ease. 'Wild Eyes' is another missed opportunity of a single. Maybe it was deemed a little too Status Quo at the time? The song has all the ingredients of a radio hit – commercial guitar riffs, driving beat, simple melody and easily remembered lyrics. This was the perfect follow up to 'Star', but that wasn't to be. It was actually the title track that had that honour, and personally I think that is where things probably went a bit pear shaped. 'Perfect Timing' is cleverly produced, but as interesting as the song is, it requires repeated listens to make an impression, and probably got lost in the shuffle at a time when there was so many other great records competing for chart action. The single after it, 'Midnight Flyer' is also a pleasant enough MOR foot tapper, but again, it's no 'Wild Eyes'. The remaining tracks of the original album follow pretty much the same template of 'Midnight Flyer', in that they are pleasant enough songs that round off the listening experience with a smile. The country inspired 'Love Is Just A Moment Away' is probably the highlight of them, closely followed by the ballad 'You Are My Hope In This World', which again demonstrates how strong a vocalist Kiki Dee was and is, although I was left feeling on this one that she could have really ripped it up and still not broken a sweat. That's a small criticism though in the grand scheme of excellent vocal performances here, particularly in light of the extras following on from the original album. The presence of two non album B-sides, 'Give It Up' and 'The Chase Is Finally On', benefit the collection immensely. Both I felt were actually better songs than some of the tracks on the album! Also for completists is an extended version of 'Perfect Timing' and a single remix of 'Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever', which surprisingly runs longer than the album version. This is possibly why the song failed to get radio exposure. What is for certain though is that all this adds up to excellent value for the listener. Congratulations to Edsel for coming up with such a high quality package of an overlooked album that now seriously warrants purchase. I can't wait to see what they come up with next!
Record Collector, July 08
“She’s got the music in her”
If 16-year-old Pauline Matthwes from Leeds hadn’t had exotically permed hair when she went into the studio for her first recording session in 1963 she might have never acquired her stage name, bestowed upon her by songwriter Mitch Murray who obviously couldn’t spell “kinky”. She spent five years belting out soul covers such as Why Don’t I Run Away From You with power, conviction and increasing style; she recorded for Motown, not a common achievement for a white British singer; she was respected by her fellow music biz professionals. But she didn’t have any hits. Luckily, one of Dee’s admirers was Elton John, who was quick to sign her up when he launched Rocket Records in the early 70s. At last the indefatigable Kiki scored richly deserved hits, and she moved to Ariola in 1980 as a bankable star. Indeed, Star is the title of the hit song kicks off this album. She sings like one too, treating highly-produced numbers such as the title track, roadhouse raunchers such as Midnight Flyer and a slowed-down Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever (duet with her pal Elt) with soul and panache. Four non-LPs bonus tracks add to the already strong appeal.