Beverley Knight presents her own versions of 13 classic UK soul tracks, including songs by Soul II Soul, Jamiroquai, Omar, Young Disciples, Roachford, George Michael, Junior and more.
The covers album is a noble tradition: a chance for an artist to pay tribute to their roots, to avoid writing any new material, and to present their listeners with songs that everyone knows they like already, because they've heard them. From Bowie to George Michael, John Legend to Paul Weller, a covers set is a chance to tell people where you're coming from and, often, to pause for breath while you work out where you're going to next.
Beverly Knight is a brilliant soul singer, who grew up at a time when black British music wasn't as united as it is in these days of grime riding high in the pop charts. High quality dance and soulful pop acts struggled to have more than one hit single, and very few - Rod Temperton's Heatwave and Jazzie B's Soul II Soul are notable exceptions - were able to maintain albums success and international fame.
Both those acts are referred to here on Soul UK. 'Soul' in this insistence is a fairly broad church, referring to the (generally brilliant) soul pop made in Britain over the last 30 years. As a testament to the often-overlooked music made in the days when RnB still meant Big Joe Turner, not Beyoncé, Soul UK is remarkably effective. The songs covered here are wide-ranging, from the Prince-like rock pop of Roachford's Cuddly Toy to Heatwave's gorgeous ballad Always and Forever. Knight's memory and taste are impeccable - it's nothing but a joy to hear Junior Giscombe's Mama Used to Say or Princess' Say I'm Your Number One again.
If there is a criticism of this album - which is certainly a record you'd be enormously hard-pressed to dislike - it's that Knight doesn't always find it easy to impose her personality on these well-known tracks. On the great Apparently Nothin' - and despite an excellent rap break - she doesn't add anything particular to the Young Disciples original. But when the arrangements and the vocals are given a touch of freshness, as in the Motown'ed-up cover of Cuddly Toy, Knight's version breathes and her versatility is given room to roam. More of that (and a cover of Linx's awesome Intuition) would have been nice here, but this is a good record.
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