Astrid Williamson

Astrid

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No relation to the Scottish band Astrid, this is Brighton, England's great Astrid Williamson, ex-Goya Dress, with a new, retitled version of last year's second solo LP, Carnation. Of the two versions, this is the better, because she adds four typically great bonus acoustic demos to the original ten songs. Williamson's first LP since parting ways with former hip U.K. label Nude (which issued her first two: one with Goya Dress, 1996's Rooms, and her first solo LP as Astrid, 1998's extraordinary Boy for You) is a decidedly more stripped down affair, based mostly on her acoustic guitar or piano and singing. Mind you, she and co-producer/engineer Robert White (ex-Levitation) indulge in the more luscious, luxurious full backing (with light danceable beats that give her some swing) that compete with her frankly extraordinary voice so well -- in the Boy for You manner. Foremost of these is the standout "To Love You," which borrows the first nine words of the chorus lyric, if not the melody, of the Bee Gees' enduring 1967 number seven soul-pop smash "To Love Somebody." To behold her golden voice is to stand back in wonderment; it's no mystery why former Smiths star Johnny Marr asked her to sing on so many tracks on Electronic's last LP. Just behind it are the chill-quiet of "Calling" (with similar E-bow lead and lighter piano), and the piano-only beauty "Tumbling into Blue," while ex-House of Love/Levitation lead guitarist Terry Bickers does strong work on the closing "Call for Beauty." Without doing anything radical, Williamson falls back on the deep expression of her Shetland-born voice, a full, round, breathy throat, and with such range of feeling: it's hard to believe that such a talented, and again, drop-dead gorgeous woman (we're told that's usually a help!) isn't on a big label with big bucks promotion. You'll just have to track this down yourself.

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