Sometimes one song used to be enough. It used to be enough to make you want to buy in to the parent-album and it used to be enough to nearly carry that record; to keep you invested so you did the time until you came away with something kind to say about what were basically a bunch of middling tracks. To that folder, I add this – the debut by Sophie B. Hawkins. And of course the song was the opening track here, Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover. I loved it when I first heard it. I still rate it – big time. Also, I’ve always heard it as a Prince song – maybe because Martika’s version of Love…Thy Will Be Done was doing the rounds at a similar time. (I always wanted to put a matching set of ellipses there – Damn… I Wish I Was Your Lover).
So I bought the album. And…basically disappointment. First song great. Then not much else…
Oh, wait on. I did love her cover of Bob Dylan’s I Want You. She made it her own but also hinted at a Dylan delivery style, certainly it was different to her usual delivery of a lyric. Also, it’s a great fucking song – in almost any version. And in a fluke of good timing when I first heard this album, I Want You was pretty much my favourite Bob Dylan song, a Top Fiver for sure.
What I really love about her cover version here – apart from the instinct to pick this song – is the way she treats it like a dramatic reading. I always though the best way to cover a Dylan song was to basically recite the lyric. You are never going to get his phrasing, you are never going to play it the way he plays and you are basically never going to improve it (Jimi Hendrix is not here to disagree) so why not avoid any comparison and pay tribute to the lyric.
The rest of this album isn’t amazing. And on the first two listens I was a bit gutted. Then I read the credits and started picking out names. Omar Hakim on drums. He was everywhere. (Still is). Touring with Madonna, playing on Dire Straits’ biggest (and arguably worst) album. Many years on he is the destroyer for Daft Punk. And of course I first knew him from when Sting was trying desperately to be the leader of a ‘jazz’ band.
So I start listening to the album and thinking about Omar Hakim. Okay, I like it better now.
And Gary Lucas is in there. Guitarist that worked with Captain Beefheart. Later on he’d work with Jeff Buckley. Another guy that’s played with just about everyone – been on TV and movie soundtracks, made his own music and served the vision of others. Good. Ditto percussionist, Mino Cinelu (Miles Davis, Pat Metheny, Weather Report, and – of course – Sting in jazz mode, lol).
So, yeah, that’s my in. I keep listening. And look, there’s a song or two here and there, sure, but it’s all Landfill Female Singer/Songwriter – that tag is not me being patronising, that’s Record Company Speak. It didn’t have the fortune to arrive on the back of Alanis, as with Tracy Bonham and Paula Cole and so on. So it was out in no-man’s-land (pardon the pun). A sorta tuneful, less angsty Ani DiFranco. Not as cool as Edie Brickell but with similar boho vibes.
I like to give it a listen still. Sometimes. Not heaps. It’s a long ride between the two best songs on the album. They’re weighted nicely, anchoring the album as best they can.
She kept at it with a few albums and never dented the charts too much. But man, what a debut song. It is – in some ways – her whole career.