Tanita Tikaram sounded much older than
only nineteen when she released her 1988 debut album Ancient Heart.
This was not simply due to her hushed, husky vocal delivery, but it was also
due to the shockingly mature introspection of the songwriting.
Ancient Heart was released to massive acclaim (I'd personally rank it as
one of the ten best albums of the 1980s) and made Tikaram a star in her
native England. The album mined the hits "Twist In My Sobriety" (which
is still considered a standard worldwide), "Cathedral Song" (Matchbox 20
blatantly stole the intro to their hit "If You're Gone" from this tune),
"Good Tradition" and "World Outside Your Window."
Tikaram never became as big in the States
as she did in Europe, but she was a staple of college rock at the time, with
"Twist" and "Cathedral" getting significant airplay. Tikaram never had
another album that was quite as stunning as that debut, however she released
four more very good albums in the next seven years and each one had some
brilliant moments and even a few minor hits like "We Almost Got It
Together," "Little Sister Leaving Town" and "Only The Ones We Love."
While she has periodically released
indie albums in the UK since that spurt, Can't Go Back is Tikaram's
first album to get a US release since her final major-label recording. Lovers
in the City in 1995 did actually house a minor comeback single with the
worldbeat flavored "I Might Be Crying," which got a good amount of AAA
airplay as well as placement in a high-profile ad campaign.
If you haven't heard any of the UK
releases she has done since then (and I have), the first exciting thing
about Can't Go Back is that Tikaram's vocals have lost none of the
supple sultriness after all these years. Plus as a songwriter she has
so many more years of experience to draw from that the idea of new music
from this special talent is a reason for excitement.
And while Tikaram still has not eclipsed
her opening shot, it's nice to see how much she still has to say.
Can't Go Back is as close as you can get to going home musically, and it
is as comfortable and welcome as an old favorite pair of pants.
Tikaram has aged, we have aged, but some
things stay the same.
Tikaram is still as smart, insightful and
surprisingly hooky songwriter and her unique delivery still can raise
Tikaram's ironic viewpoint is still
refreshing: the casually catchy song "Rock and Roll" is amusing in the fact
that it is so far from rock and roll, and yet it is still kinda great.
"All Things To You" is, on the other hand, surprisingly rocky for the
singer, a tough retro boogie beat that sounds much more roadhouse than she
normally allows herself to get.
Then she washes off the years with the
softly passionate first single, "Dust on My Shoes," which feels like an
outtake from Ancient Heart. "Can't Go Back," on the other hand
has a retro 60s piano ballad vibe. By the time that the first disk
ends with the samba-tinged devotional "If the World Should Want For Love"
you realize that there is not a single bum track on the CD.
Can't Go Back then, ironically to
its title, indeed goes back and adds a bonus disk in which Tikaram performs
acoustic versions of eight earlier songs. Bravely, she doesn't go the
"Best of... Acoustic" route, only doing two of her known singles. The
rest are album tracks - three of which are from the 2009 album
Sentimental, so they are getting their first US exposure on this bonus
Strangely, the best known song is the one
that comes off worst here. Odd instrumentation doesn't ruin "Twist in
My Sobriety" - the song is too brilliant to be ruined by much of anything -
but listening to the too-stripped-down new version just makes you want to
pull out the original. However, a softer flamenco vibe makes "Only the
Ones You Love" an interesting variation of an already pretty terrific song.
A gorgeous piano version of "My Love" and a hushed folkie take on "Valentine
Heart" is still heartbreaking. In all, none of these acoustic takes
are better than the original, but most are worthy alternatives.
Whether you are a long-starved Ancient
Heart fan or just a totally innocent music fan in search of smart and
tuneful pop, it is long past time that we look back to this criminally
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright © 2012 PopEntertainment.com.
All rights reserved.
Posted: September 21, 2012.