herald

Tuesday 17 October 2017

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We're not in Boot Camp now, Toto.

Being the loser on X Factor is always a good career move. In the case of Rebecca Ferguson from Liverpool, it's probably been the best thing that's happened to her.

Rebecca has pluck. She refused to accept rejection when her audition for P Diddy's Starmaker in the States was unsuccessful.

But since then she's launched a career that's spawned three albums and has become the face of Walkers crisps Sunbites. Admittedly, she's just shut down Rebecca's Beauty Boudoir in Childwall but, really, who's laughing now Mister Diddy?

I mean, who needs a manicure emporium on Priory Road when you can be touring the world?

Two years ago, Rebecca's second album Freedom followed her debut Heaven into the British top ten. Unfortunately it didn't sell as well in America as the first one. Rebecca worried that she was writing about her babies.

She had no such fears for a third album when she was asked to revisit Billie Holiday's Lady Sings the Blues. Hadn't she done a school project on the doomed jazz legend, who died in 1959, under police guard, handcuffed to a hospital bed at the age of 44? So she was up for it.

Rebecca also watched the film Lady Sings the Blues, which starred Diana Ross as the tragic vocal stylist. "She had turbulent relationships and I could relate to that," she explains.

Wisely, Rebecca doesn't attempt to copy Holiday. These songs are classics. Many of them were recorded by artists such as Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra and Nina Simone.

The good news is that the orchestra at the Capitol studios in Los Angeles is marvellous. Many of the dudes played with Sinatra. They know their chops.

And producer Troy Miller's arrangements are effortlessly smooth.

While Ferguson gamely gives this her best shot, her voice seems a bit lightweight. Get Happy is more Hi-de-Hi than Harlem. Stormy Weather works well, perhaps affording Ferguson a chance to reflect events in her personal life.

trap

The title track comes with smoky muted trumpet riffs but Ferguson falls into the Ronan Keating trap of over-egging the sibilance and effecting a cheap cabaret singer growl in places.

This crime against taste is most horribly evident on Lover Man (Oh, Where Can You Be?), the song that will be forever associated with Holiday's extreme passions.

Ferguson approaches it with the right amount of heartache but blows it badly with her exaggerated pronunciation. So, on Lover Man, she sings, "I'm feelin schow schad. Schome days…"

There's too much of this throughout the album. Someone should have shouted stop. Or even "schtop!" It's a deal-breaker and spoils what could have been a pretty good effort. HHIII

Lady Sings the Blues (Sony)

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