Kiki Dee chats to David Randall about her 1970s albums. (6:24) The full version of this interview is featured in two parts on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio. Part 1 on Sunday 5 April 2015 at 16:00 and Part 2 on Sunday 26 April at 16:00.
Edsel [Release date 23.02.15]
For many, of a certain age and probably male, Kiki Dee will be remembered as the high cheek-boned singer who sang ‘I’ve Got The Music In Me’ and who wore dungarees when she duetted with Elton John in 1976 on the hit ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’.
It was Elton who guided her career after she flirted with Motown in the late-1960s and signed her to his Rocket label. The truth is that Kiki was probably in need of a little more career guidance, as these albums demonstrate that she was in fact difficult to pigeon-hole. They run the full gamut from glossy ballad to aspiring rocker and frequently with a soulful undertow.
Another (late) seventies signing to Rocket, Judie Tzuke, was also influenced by Joni Mitchell and Jackson Browne but her sometime rock chick image didn’t really suit her, so in that respect Kiki remained somewhat unsullied – if slightly less raunchy – during the period.
1973′s Loving & Free is interesting for the fact that Elton provided not only his backing band but a number of unused songs, and the album also includes her staple ‘Loving And Free’ and the hit ‘Amoureuse’. The following year’s I’ve Got The Music In Me further blended soul, pop and rock and was billed as “The Kiki Dee Band”. Kiki toured on the back of this and – looking out from the pages of ‘Melody Maker’ – almost became a rock chick. This 2-CD reissue features eight bonus tracks (B-sides of singles) and an outtake. ***1/2
It would be a few more years before the self-titled Kiki Dee (1977) yielded two hits ‘Chicago’ and ‘First Thing In The Morning’ (and featured session heavyweights The Brecker Brothers) whilst 1978′s Stay With Me saw Kiki up sticks to L.A. to work with Bill Schnee (who had worked with artists like Carly Simon) and with a nascent Toto as her backing band.
Kiki might have benefitted from having a more solid body of songs on these latter albums – she did write much of her own material but only ‘Walking’ really stands out. ***
If her seventies albums are somewhat patchy – she never quite settled on a specific style and some of the material was weak - Kiki Dee should be revered as the first British singer – and one of the few white singers – to be signed to Motown. She gets overshadowed by that other great sixties vocalist Dusty Springfield (for whom she performed backing vocals at one time) and who also gained respect in the UK for US soul music.
Kiki still makes music – now in an acoustic, pared-down format and still in fine voice – together with guitarist Carmelo Luggeri and readers should seek out a particularly good version of ‘Running Up That Hill’ on YouTube (it appeared on the 2008 album ‘The Walk Of Faith’).
As ever, Edsel do a good job on the packaging with an introduction to each album by Kiki herself and a liner note setting the context by Chris White, and the whole delivered in a smart slipcase.
Review by David Randall
David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.
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