CD Review by JAMES LEWIS
In the 80’s Sheffield was rightly or wrongly known for two things; steel and The Human League. You know, that synth-band who wrote a song about a cocktail bar. Hopefully though, this CD will change all that.
The album concept was to feature songs solely connected to either Sheffield singers, groups or songwriters. On the surface of it, material of this kind would seem thin on the ground- think again. Tony Christie has rounded up the musical talent that is/was the heart of great Sheffield songs, ranging from The Human League (but of course) to The Arctic Monkeys and a few songs penned by the great man himself.
Opening track ‘The Only Ones Who Know’ is a contribution from Alex Turner, singer/songwriter with The Arctic Monkeys and possibly the UK’s first true, great musical talent of the 21st century. With a heartfelt string accompaniment it’s classic Christie but you also get a reminder of the man who originally penned it with lines like “The eyes are bright, he couldn’t wait to get away/I bet that Juliet was the icing on the cake” cropping up.
‘Perfect Moon’, originally written by Sara Jay and Mark Sheridan, almost has an Hawaiian feel to it and Christie contributes to that vibe when he croons about “Laying there in the sand…” and hearing the ocean waves.
‘Born To Cry’ is a slightly lesser known track by Pulp. Originally featuring on the original soundtrack to Notting Hill, it takes someone special to convincingly sing a Jarvis Cocker lyric, but like all the songs on this album, Tony Christie makes it his own.
The two songs written by Christie, ‘AlI Ever Care about’ and ‘Going Home Tomorrow’ (the latter originally intended by Christie to be a ballad turns up here as a rock-a-billy number) stand out a little from the crowd. It’s as if, comfortable as he may be singing other people’s songs, Christie falls into a groove when singing his own tunes.
The Human League ballad ‘Louise’, from their 1984 album ‘Hysteria’, is wonderfully arranged here with just a piano and trumpet alongside the delicate vocals.
In the sleeve notes Tony Christie claims to have discovered a major songwriting talent in Martin Bragger, who contributes the songs ‘Danger Is a Woman In Love’ and ‘Paradise Square’. I must confess I know very little about this seemingly unknown songwriter (if he has previously released anything of note, please let us know) but ‘Paradise Square’ is the emotional highlight of the album.
The Mark Sheridan/John Stuart collaboration ‘I’ll never let you down’ plods on harmlessly and the accordion on ‘How Can I Entertain’ gives a quirky edge to the proceedings
The album rounds off with Richard Hawley’s ‘Coles Corner’, and a fine moment it is too. Perhaps this was chosen as the song to epitomize life in Sheffield, Christie perhaps reminiscing “Cold city lights glowing/The traffic of life is flowing/Out of the rivers and on into the dark”.
The music and of course the voice, is unmistakably Tony Christie but it’s interesting to hear these songs in such a different way. The concept of involving Sheffield musicians is also a pointer to just how overlooked its music scene is.
A must for Christie fans and highly recommended for anyone who likes the music of the artists involved, Tony Christie ‘Made in Sheffield’ is available to purchase and download now.