(5 / 5)
Let’s talk about the voice. Not the TV talent show. No, the voice I want to talk about belongs to a British artist who some may only know via his “Cuddly Toy” hit back in the late 80s.
But one listen to his stunning pipes on Andrew Roachford’s brand new album, “Twice In A Lifetime”, and you’ll forget about that track and marvel at this 2020 vocal masterclass.
If old school r&b and sizzling soul-drenched vocals are your bag, there are 13 tracks here with your name on ‘em.
All newly penned material by Andrew and a bunch of seriously talented co-writers. 13 songs tailor-made for this man’s voice.
But he’s not just a singer. Not just a voice. He’s an artist. He’s a songwriter. He’s a musician. He’s at the top of his game here, three-plus-decades into his career.
Music was in his blood on exiting the womb 55 years ago. Raised in south-east London, Andrew comes from a musical family.
His father a drummer, his uncle a saxophonist. He was out on the road with his uncle from the age of 14, and by 15 was working in a studio with The Clash.
In his early 20s, he signed a seven-album deal with Columbia, and would go on to be the label’s most successful act for the next decade. A string of hit singles and international success – including in America.
His best known hits here were perhaps “Cuddly Toy” in 1988, which peaked at # four in the UK chart, “Family Man” and “Only To Be With You”.
He has had 10 solo albums and a greatest hits collection, and has penned songs for Chaka Khan, Michael Jackson, Joss Stone and others.
For the last nine years Andrew has sung with ex-Genesis man Mike Rutherford’s band Mike and the Mechanics. Signed by BMG for this album after their exec’ saw him with Rutherford’s outfit and was blown away by the man’s voice.
Awarded an MBE in 2019 for services to music, but the year before that honour was bestowed on him, Andrew Roachford was facing a battle to save his voice.
A complicated operation to remove nodules from his vocal cords in 2018 threatened his vocal ability. But when his voice returned, it was stronger and richer, and made him realise that his valuable instrument needed taking much better care of.
So, he set about writing and recording this new album, putting that voice through its paces with absolutely no-holds-barred.
Produced by Jimmy Hogarth, who has worked with Amy Winehouse, Duffy and Paolo Nutini among others, and it features members of Amy’s band and a killer duet with Wolverhampton’s soul queen Beverley Knight, who is also an MBE.
The first two tracks on the album were released as singles, “High On Love” and “Love Remedy”, and both playlisted on BBC Radio 2 in spring 2020 to preview the scheduled April album release.
That was postponed to September due to the pandemic. His UK tour dates re-scheduled to next year and start in May through to August 2021.
The 13-track set opens with “High On Love”, a rousing Motown-ish cut complete with horns and punchy, soulful vocals. Good song, and he’s in fine voice.
“Love Remedy” is a dose of sweet r&b, old school style, another cool song and even cooler vocal.
“Too Much To lose” is a real ‘wow’ moment vocally. Reminiscent of the Hi Records output from Memphis back in the day, especially Al Green’s sound.
Another soul-soaked vocal performance on “Give It Up And Let it Go”, before Andrew has company. VIP company. Ms. Beverley Knight is in the house for a duet on the gorgeous ballad “What We Had”.
They both connect emotionally with the lyrics and the chemistry is palpable. Andrew’s back of the throat rasp and pained soulful vocals reminded me of Marvin on this track – it is that good.
A lot of this collection could have been written by legends Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham, and is in the ball park of their classy r&b stuff. But while it is in the style of retro or vintage soul and r&b, just like the late Amy and perhaps James Morrison, Andrew makes it uber-relevant to the 21st Century.
Another standout for me is “Won’t Think Twice” – such a stunning vocal from deep down in his soul. Then, he’s got a bit of Otis about him on “So Long”, in the phrasing and the conviction.
An in-the-pocket drum track’s the foundation for “Are You Satisfied?”, before the lovely ballad “The Truth Hurts Too Much”, which is a good example of how Andrew never over cooks the vocal and always leaves space for the songs to breath.
These songs are as much the stars of this record as Andrew is. Probably the best fit of any material collated for a Roachford record in his whole career.
Mark Ronson territory vintage r&b chops on “Gonna Be The One”, with that fat Motown snare and chugging guitar, horns the icing on the cake. A hooky cut and a killer vocal – a shoo-in for Radio 2 spins, surely. A commercial track you might think you have heard before, but it’s a brand new song.
“Once In A Lifetime” precedes the penultimate offering, “Written In My Heart”, where Andrew sings: “I can feel this story’s ending. I can see you’ve had enough”.
Well, as far as I can predict, his story is about to go to chapter two and should really take off for him, if there is any justice. One of the best vocal performances I have heard in 2020. Quote me on that!
I’d like to say “welcome back”, but he’d be justified in saying “I haven’t been away!” Very glad about that….so are BMG!
By Simon Redley
(1 / 5) ‘Dull Zone’
(2 / 5) ‘OK Zone’
(3 / 5) ‘Decent Zone’
(4 / 5) ‘Super Zone’
(5 / 5) ‘Awesome Zone’