Red Grape (label)
08 February 2019 (released)
24 January 2019
Ordinarily I hate albums of covers. They are almost invariably poor representations of songs that either are classic or hateful in their original form and very rarely add to the ‘magic’ of the original. This album stands all that on its head.
Hafdis Huld is an Icelandic singer/songwriter and her previous albums have all had a sense of the strangeness of Iceland about them – along with some magical music and THAT voice – breathy, high and incredibly moving.
Here, she takes a number of absolute classics and adds her voice to them and in most cases she creates new paradigms for them.
Hafdis Huld explains her choices: “Some are songs I grew up with, some are written by my favourite songwriters, others have been important to me at different times in my life. Stories are what interest me and each one of these has a great story to tell. Sometimes a big production can get in the way of what the writer is saying, so I’ve stripped the songs back to their essence. When you’re not distracted by musical fireworks, a surprisingly different message can emerge from the lyrics.”
Who the hell would ever take on Barry White’s ‘The First, The Last My Everything’ and make it sound like a song of unrequited love. None of the lush strings and a halting vocal that changes the tone completely.
Or ‘I Want To Break Free’. Just a piano, a viola and a voice. None of Freddy Mercury’s bombast or power vocal but again that little girl voice giving the song a completely different focus and putting all the emphasis on the words. Who knew John Deacon could write such a pleading and subtle song?
My favourite is probably her chilling version of ‘What Is Love’ – not a song that I have enjoyed in the past but Huld imbues it with a darkness that was never in the original. But then you find Ewan McColl’s ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’: it doesn’t have the sheer sensuality of Roberta Flack’s song but Huld makes you think of the depth of love and a difficult sense of loss.
There really isn’t a weak point here. All the songs remain intact but become something new – as though you had never heard them before.
It really is something wonderful.