Kiki Dee

Loving & Free

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Loving & Free has masterful production by Elton John and Clive Franks, and if anything, it is as lovingly produced as it is performed. One of four strong Kiki Dee originals is the title track, which opens up this soulful album, reflected so beautifully in the cover photo of young Dee on a bicycle with flowers in a field. It's reminiscent of Lesley Duncan's "Love Song," and lo and behold, Duncan shows up on backing vocals on the very next song, "If It Rains." Elton John plays keyboards on seven of the ten tracks, including the short gospel piece "If It Rains," written by Dee, and the Bernie Taupin/Elton John number "Lonnie and Josie." Both these tracks could be outtakes from Tumbleweed Connection, and with covers of Jackson Browne and Stealers Wheel's Joe Egan and Gerry Rafferty, you know the direction here is not going to be the all-out assault which landed in the Top 15 the very next year, "I Got the Music in Me." Dee, performing the band Free's "Travellin' in Style," adds blues/pop to the disc, the tune moving harder than most of the tracks on side one. Egan and Rafferty's "You Put Something Better Inside Me" plays with more heart than what Stealers Wheel did on their own, and fits this country-flavored pop record just perfectly. Another Elton John/Bernie Taupin composition opens side two, and "Supercool" gets the nod as the hardest-rocking track on this otherwise low-key and beautifully mellow disc. It isn't as raucous as "I Got the Music in Me," but it still feels a little out of place on this set; still, how can one resist any contribution from John and Taupin? "Rest My Head" is the singer showing she can write, and like many of the tracks on Loving & Free, performed with members of Elton John's band from this era behind her. "Amoureuse," written by Véronique Sanson and Gary Osborne, is unique in that it brings one of John's other songwriting partners into the mix. Jackson Browne's "Song for Adam" and the song which Elton John performed and put on the flip of one of his singles, "Sugar on the Floor," conclude this album and make the sequel to Tumbleweed Connection so valid. That was one of Elton John's most heartfelt and non-commercial discs, and he gets to reprise it here. Loving & Free is an underrated, under-valued, ambitious, and completely forgotten work which shows Kiki Dee to be an extremely valuable artist who deserved all the support she got from her friends in the industry. It is too bad the public didn't embrace such important music, which got the sincere blessing of Elton John.

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