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Julia Fordham: Julia Fordham [Limited Edition]

Album Notes

Critics were bothered by her cherry-picked appropriations of exotic musical elements (a casual nod to South Africa here, an incongruous incursion of Spanish guitar there) and the ultimately cold nature of what seemed on the surface to be lush and warm instrumental arrangements. More casual listeners probably had the hardest time getting past her voice, which was obviously pretty in a way and yet startlingly deep and dark-hued, and also her tendency to reach beyond her range, as on the unattractively screechy bridge of "Comfort of Strangers." But you get used to the voice within a few tracks and you start getting sucked into those jazzily complex and impeccably produced arrangements. If she fails to hit the high notes on "Few Too Many," it's easy to ignore that fact and pay attention to the music itself, which is lovely. Her chief limitation, though, is not her singing; it's her unsettling inability to sing a love song convincingly. "Invisible War" is supposed to be regretful, but it comes out sounding analytical; "My Lover's Keeper" is supposed to sound supplicating (or something), but it comes out sounding dispassionately puzzled. And as for "Woman of the '80s," please -- it's just a bit hard to take her seriously as an emotional casualty of feminism (nice chorus, though). Only on the nakedly sad and borderline metaphysical "Where Does the Time Go?" does she seem to let listeners into her actual feelings. Porcelain, her follow-up, was more engaging. ~ Rick Anderson



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