Title - 'Julia Fordham: Deluxe Edition'
Artist - Julia Fordham
For those not in the know here in the States, Julia Fordham is a British singer-songwriter whose professional career started in the early 1980s. For under the name "Jules Fordham" she was a backing singer for Mari Wilson and Kim Wilde, before signing a recording contract of her own later that decade.
In 1988, Julia released her first album on Circa Records. Simply titled Julia Fordham, it reached No. 20 in the UK and eventually earned a platinum disc. It contained the Top 40 single 'Happy Ever After' (which peaked at No. 27 in August 1988). The album also charted in the US, reaching No. 118 on the Billboard 200 chart.
Luckily for all us fans of the lovely, uber talented Julia Fordham, Cherry Red Records (UK) continue their expanded/deluxe edition push of her albums - Porcelain and Swept having come out previously as 2CD editions - by now releasing her debut as a wondrous, highly enthralling Deluxe Edition 2CD of its own.
And so, and for the first time ever, Julia’s self-titled debut album has been digitally remastered and expanded with the 25 track release now including the original 11-song album alongside 14 bonus tracks. Including some that mark their appearance on CD for the first time the bonus material on this collection features all of the single versions, b-sides, remixes, and alternate versions that were released during the promotion of the original album. Also included is a bonus disc of live recordings that appeared on the EP which was included as part of the limited edition release of Julia Fordham.
The first track is the stand out second single 'Happy Ever After,' complete with South African backing vocals from Afrodiziak, Caron Wheeler and Naomi Osbourne that gloriously aid its ebb and flow, it has always been a delightful favorite of mine. The upbeat first ever single released back in the day is 'The Comfort Of Strangers' and is yet another vocal display of defining quality from Julia. That is backed by the world-weary wistfulness of 'Few Too Many' and then the dulcet piano-led, heartfelt and passionate 'Invisible War.' A very strong track it showcases Julia's confidence in her voice and how it can be laid bare for maximum effect.
Next up is the fun musical, exotic jaunt of 'My Lover's Keeper' which is backed by both the smokey jazz club appeal of 'Cocooned.' A quietly sad and intensely personal track is is backed by another of the four singles originally released, the beautiful 'Where Does The Time Go.' A stunning song, if there ever was, it always sounded like it was a duet with Michael Bolton, but it actually turns out it was a duet with John O’Kane.
Next up is the third single released from this incredible album, the funky slap bass of 'Woman of the 80's' which, boy, every time I hear this track all I can hear is Duran Duran with 'Meet El Presidente'! For me, Julia's extraordinary vocal range is evident throughout this entire album, always has been in whatever she has set her musical tones to, in truth, but her voice is at its most distinctive and sonorous on the bass notes. Hence, up next is the trumpet-fused 'The Other Woman' before the original album is brought to a close with both 'Behind Closed Doors' and the vibrant, Gospelesque 'Unconditional Love.'
Those aforementioned single versions and non-album b-sides are up next as first we get 'I Wish.' A track that just slides smoothly off the CD it is backed by the previously-unreleased (on CD) 'Waiting For A Miracle' a track unto itself when it comes to spotlighting everything that is great about Julia. I mean, quite why it was never released is sheer madness to me, sorry! Next up is dusky, husky 'My Mistake,' and that is followed by 'The Comfort Of Strangers (Single Version)' and then 'Woman Of The 80's (Radio Version).' Then, rounding out the first disc we have a couple of remixes and alternate versions, which begins with 'Where Does The Time Go? (Radio Edit)' and then ends with 'The Comfort Of Strangers (Extended Version).'
The second disc is a collection of seven live tracks from Julia's shows at both The Luxor, Cologne, Germany on 8th September 1988 and one track from The Pavillion Theatre, Glasgow in November 1988. We begin at The Luxor in Cologne with 'The Other Woman,' which is followed by both 'Cocooned' and a very acoustic guitar-playful 'My Mistake.' From the off it is quite clear that Julia is at home on stage, as her voice is measured, her vocal tones perfect, the songs just perfect throughout.
Up next is 'Few Too Many' before Julia converses with the very excited audience, and actually reveals some things too: "It's actually in Glasgow where it all started for me," she admits, "because two of my best chums ... one of which just happens to be sitting in the Radio Clyde recordy thing ... both got me to do a demo tape that ended up getting me a record deal, which led to me being standing here now ... and you guys being here makes it all the more brilliant, so thank you," Julia says to rapturous applause. Next up is a welcomed 'Invisible War' and a lovely 'Behind Closed Doors,' but sadly this all-too-short live recording EP CD comes to a close with the singular live cut 'My Little Secret' from the aforementioned Pavillion Theatre, Glasgow.
In closing, the 20-page CD booklet contains brand new track annotations by Julia herself, written contributions from Hugh Padgham and Grant Mitchell who produced the original album, brand new liner notes, an illustrated discography, lyrics, photos, and complete credits.
Chatting recently with the lovely lady herself, Julia Fordham, for this brand new and exclusive new interview we covered not only her tour memories of that time, along with her personal favorite tracks from the album, but well, penguins too!
Being that Julia Fordham (now released as a Deluxe Edition) was your debut album in 1988, was it always intended to be a self-titled release? "The truth is, once we had agreed on that photo, we didn’t have enough room for a title and my name. The image seemed so strong we didn’t want to try and force something in for the sake of it."
Tell us more about the upside down cover art of you, arms up holding your head and how it came to be the chosen shot? "We had all the possible covers on the floor and were circling around them. There were quite a few selections. At one point, we happened to be looking at one choice on the other side and found ourselves looking at the photo the other way around, so it appeared as though I really was hanging upside down, there was a sort of excited…THIS COULD BE IT moment. It just looked so striking and arresting and more intriguing that way. So no, I was not really upside down, we just turned the photo around!"
Indeed, it seems this move of putting your arms up, your hands near or directly behind your head seems to be a repeating pattern on cover art for you! The debut, of course, then there's releases such as China Blue, the single 'I Thought It Was You', Concrete Love, a one-hander on Porcelain, all the way through to 2014's The Language of Love!! So, is there something we should know about you and all this arm raising when it comes to cover art photography?! "I clearly can’t think of anything else to do with my arms! I also like making shapes and angles. It is a move that I make when I am performing and a lot of the time photo’s are taken when I am singing along to the album to try capture some action."
The album produced four (4) singles, and as much as you do relate your thoughts on each track within the confines of the new inner sleeve artwork, if you can for us, please do reveal anything else that now comes to mind about the writing/recording of each of them below:
'THE COMFORT OF STRANGERS' - "This track was recorded three times. Bill Padley and Grant Mitchell had produced a very impressive demo. We were then put with a producer who tried to recreate that and it just didn’t work so we started again. Then I ended up going to America and recording it with Hugh Padgham. It was very exciting being in New York and walking the streets of Manhattan and working with all these International, famous musicians."
'HAPPY EVER AFTER' - "This really is the song that is my calling card, party piece and the one I am known for. It still carries me around the world to this day. It started off with a South African twist, with me wondering how I could be contemplating being Happy Ever After when apartheid was still in place. I recently recorded this song again for a jazz album for JVC and rewrote the middle section mentioning Syria, as there continues to be such suffering there."
'WOMAN OF THE 80S' - "It was meant to be light hearted and witty and fun. On reflection I think it was a mistake to release it as a single as the minute a light was shone upon it in that way, it give it too much attention. I really did not want anything gimmicky representing me or summing me up."
'WHERE DOES THE TIME GO?' - "My parents were worried when I dropped out of college to go off to London to try and get a record deal. They felt if I hadn’t signed anything by the time I was 21 I should knuckle down and get a “proper job.” I was still doing backing vocals at that time but actually wrote this song on my 21st birthday. So even though I still had not secured that elusive deal, it was definitely one of the songs that helped. As "Where Does The Time Go," "Happy Ever After" and "The Comfort of Strangers" were on the demo tape that would get me signed to Circa."
Prior to releasing the debut album you were actually a backing singer for acts such as both Kim Wilde and Mari Wilson, but at what time doing that did it strike you that you yourself should be recording albums? And then how soon was the debut written/recorded? "The time with Mari was very exciting. I joined her band The Wilsations right when she was in the Top Ten with Just What I Always Wanted. We went all over the UK and then Europe and then onto America in a touring bus. I was 19 and having the best time singing, dancing and traveling, but also working on my craft on the side. I was writing songs and trying to raise money to record demos."
"Kim was also having a lot of success. Both great gals were in the Pop world and were not writing their own songs at that time. I was trying to do something that was more in the singer songwriter genre like Joan Armatrading and Judie Tzuke. I felt no conflict though. I really was able to juggle the 2 and felt quite comfortable playing a supporting role to Mari and Kim. Eventually though, I had to fully concentrate my efforts on getting my songs down and heard by labels. I was a temporary secretary after my time with Mari and Kim as I needed to be based in London and not touring so I could do the rounds with my demo tape. Finally all the hard work paid off."
For this Deluxe Edition of Julia Fordham, and as mentioned above, you have extensively put your thoughts down about each track from the original album. What was it like writing those thoughts on those tracks all these years later and did you listen to the album again to refresh your memory, perhaps? "I had not heard the whole album through in years and years, so played it on the way to the interview for the deluxe edition re-release to refresh my memory. It was really strong I thought. I was really taken back by some of the tracks and impressed by the momentum, it really did rip roar along at a cracking pace. I thought "My Lovers Keeper" was terrific and I had no memory of it being so fast and passionate. I sounded so young and enthusiastic and was so open and free in my delivery. I was clearly much more guarded by “Porcelain" and seemed to make a conscious step towards establishing myself more as a singer songwriter and less and less of a left field pop star!"
As for the music that is now contained on this 2CD set, along with the original album there's all the b-sides, remixes, alternative versions, and even seven live tracks! Had you heard all the music that is on this incredible 2CD before or were there some previously-thought-lost gems for you yourself to lovingly discover also, perhaps? "I have not heard anything other than the actual album and so have not been able to rediscover the gems of which you speak. Thank you though."
Indeed, talking about those live tracks, the first six are from The Pavilion Theatre, Glasgow in November 1988, the seventh live cut from The Luxor in Cologne, Germany two months beforehand. So, what do you remember most about both these live shows?:
The Pavillion Theatre, Glasgow (Nov 1988) - "Any gig in Glasgow is always great! That one was particularly rowdy as I recall! I really was on a roll at that point and had a great live band, a lot of them Scottish, from the John Martyn band. Also, I had recorded the demos in Glasgow at the house of the super talented Bill Padley so it was like a home coming of sorts. Bill and I met at Radio Victory in Portsmouth, I was on the promotions team and also singing the local jingles and adverts for the station and Bill was the morning presenter."
"We were both aspiring young talents. Bill was a great writer and producer and all round blindingly brilliant. He moved up to Glasgow to do the Breakfast show on Radio Clyde and invited me up to his house to record some of my new songs. He was excited about this amazing pianist he had met called Grant Mitchell. The songs we demoed in Bills house with Grant were the ones that got me signed to Circa and into the studio for the recording of this album."
The Luxor, Cologne, Germany (Sep 8th, 1988) - "Is this a good time to mention that I have no memory what so ever of going to Cologne or any recollection of a gig in Germany! I do remember singing in Paris once if that counts! Quite the life time musical highlight singing "Happy Ever After" with Lady Smith Black Mombazo."
Well, I ask as you brought out a live 10-track CD in 1989 recorded in Japan and I was half-expecting it to be that when I opened the packaging! Do you also own a copy of that live Japan gig also, perhaps? "My personal collection is sadly lacking and I don’t know what I have and what is where. I am constantly stunned by fans showing up at gigs with all sorts of CDs and albums and vinyl for me to sign from different countries that I have no knowledge of. I am not even sure what that Japanese live album is that you are asking about."
Being that we're not called Exclusive Magazine for nothing, what can you exclusively reveal to us today about the making of this debut album? "We must have been really tired and over worked or completely absorbed in the recording of the album as we all slept through the famous storm that charged through London in 1987 or was 8? Churning up trees that had been deeply rooted into the earth for hundreds of years. We were all staying at a house together and could not believe it in the morning when we were looking at a ghost town as we drove to Lilyard studios in Fulham! Apparently the rest of Britain was fully aware of the impending disaster while were blissfully cocooned in our first album world. We also at a lot of chocolate hobnobs during those sessions! Those days are long gone."
Indeed, 28 years on from its original debut it still, for my money, stands the test of musical time, but how have you changed as a singer/person? "I think I have probably changed a lot as a person and as a singer. When we recorded this album I was still singing my head off and up for anything, I had not really defined my style. I think this is why folks fall in love with the first album of an artist as you capture them when they are still filled with great creative impulse and are still defining their sound. The first record was really quite an eclectic mix of styles. “Porcelain,” my 2nd album, I clearly had my edit button on as a writer and a singer."
"I think having a child changes you as a person. I was lucky to have many years as a me, myself and I artiste. I didn’t have my lovely baby girl til I was hurtling towards 43. Then it was all about her and meeting her needs before my own. Being on top of your singing game takes an awful lot of time and attention. I now do my scales as I am charging to the bus stop to collect her, where as before I could devote giant chunks of time to writing and practicing and looking fabulous."
Talking of changing as a person, the last time we met was here in Ferndale, MI (US) back in 2002 when you were touring the Concrete Love album. Looking at the photo of us backstage before the show what first comes to your mind - seeing it now for the first time in 14 years?! "The first that comes to mind is my saying on a non stop loop ”where are my glasses” [it seems the photo I sent Julia came through a wee bit smaller in size than I had hoped for!] "We look good though don’t we. That was my hair extension phase, an awful lot of work to get that effortless, glam look I was sporting for the "Concrete Love" era!"
Do you still have, and more importantly still use your Dream Book? "I do have a dream book and sometimes write vivid dreams in there. The last one was about a white duck and a rabbit, who knows what that means. I went through my sign book trying to decipher it but it all seemed to point towards caring for a baby, and trust me that is NOT GOING TO BE HAPPENING!"
Please sum up Julia Fordham (the debut album) in just five (5) words "A spirited and compelling debut."
Now, please sum up Julia Fordham (the person, here today) also in just five (5) words "Seasoned singing battle weary veteran."
Finally, and yes we ask everyone this question, we here at Exclusive Magazine love penguins (the birds)! So, I wondered if you did also and if you had a story about one (soft toy or zoo real) also, perhaps? "I do have a penguin song, I really do! It’s called, I think, “If Only I” or “If Only I could" and would be around the 3rd album / Swept era and along with a song called, “Antartica," was part of a Japanese project. I was asked to write songs for a penguin movie, I am not sure if it ever came out. I also recorded “Melt" written by my friends Angie Giles and Michael Moran. There was a strong, blimey it is cold look at those penguins theme through out all the songs recorded!"
'Julia Fordham: Deluxe Edition' CD Purchase Link