Singer/songwriter Tanita Tikaram's debut album. Tikaram, who was only 19 when this album was released, created a melancholy and wistful work, mature beyond her years, of startling originality and honesty. While this album may be considered folkish and artsy, it never stoops to the clichés that dominated those styles of music in the later Lilith Fair years. Her near perfect signature song "Twist in My Sobriety" is a stark, sinuous, desperate torch song that managed to garner a bit of radio and video airplay in its day and sounded like nothing else then or since.
Easily Tikaram's most polished album to date. As usual, several of the songs sound like rough drafts, but for the first time since the raw poetry of her debut, Ancient Heart, Tikaram has come up with enough knockout numbers to justify the record's release. "I Might Be Crying" features an inventive arrangement in which a full string and brass orchestra merely underscores a sweeping landscape of vocal harmonies. "Yodelling Song" is a fresh, manic jam with acoustic guitars, fiddles, bongos and yodellers. Tikaram's eccentric folk-pop has always been creatively produced, but for this record the husky-voiced songwriter has penned some melodies well worth the studio time.
The Best of Tanita Tikaram sums up the singer/songwriter's first five albums, with a little too much emphasis on material from Lovers in the City and Eleven Kinds of Loneliness, and not enough from Everybody's Angel and Sweet Keeper (only one song from each album made it onto this set). Still, this is a lovely collection from start to finish, and showcases Tanita Tikaram as a singer who deserves much more attention than she has received. The album contains all of her U.K. hit singles, including four from her stellar debut, Ancient Heart, among those the sublime "Twist in My Sobriety," easily one of the greatest songs to have come out of the 1980s (an additional dance remix of that song closes out the album). Other highlights include the astounding, heartbreaking "Only the Ones We Love" (quite possibly the best song on this collection), the Phil Spector-ish "You Make the Whole World Cry," and the haunting "I Might Be Crying." Another definite standout is this album's only new recording (and the only cover), which is her version of "And I Think of You" (originally titled "E Penso a Te").
The inspiration behind Closer to the People was to get Tanita Tikaram closer to her road band: to record the singer/songwriter with a touring combo with serious blues and soul roots. Several of these players have done time with Van Morrison, a comparison that comes in handy for Closer to the People, not because her songs sound like Van's – they don't – but the record trades in jazz and soul influences while also spinning these familiar tropes into the realm of the personal. Tikaram specializes in sculpted, open-ended compositions – even when the tempo quickens her songs seem to unfold gracefully – and that means the hushed arrangements, underpinned by acoustic bass and brushed drums, seem like reflections of the song's soul. Such tasteful surroundings mean Closer to the People works well as a mood album – the quiet, sophisticated veneer is sustained from beginning to end – but the album is rewarding with closer attention, attention that reveals the details in both the arrangements and writing.