Imelda May - Love Tattoo
Imelda May wants you to believe that she’s the new Wanda Jackson but, while the basic premise is broadly similar (a woman singing rockabilly) the reality couldn’t be further from the truth. First of all, title track and Johnny Got a Boom Boom aside, there’s not a whole lot of what you could really class as Rockabilly on this album, with the rest made up of saccharine sweet ballads which Wanda Jackson would have run a mile from. No, if you want to know where Dublin girl Imelda May is really coming from then you need to be thinking in much safer terms because much of this album could have easily been culled from some long lost Doris Day sessions. Nothing wrong with Doris but she ain’t no Wanda Jackson.
Furthermore, it is too clean and polished to be classified as authentic rockabilly. There’s not a note out of place here and that’s because the album is held together by accomplished session musicians. The album was just made for the Jools Holland market and you can see how she’s got a major record deal after just one appearance on his show. The album is the manifestation of the ‘Jools’ experience, a mish mash of styles, including the obligatory trademark boogie-woogie, Blues Brothers style shuffle. All the album lacks, in this respect, are a few chants of Hootenanny!; so why not add them yourselves for that authentic party atmosphere.
The fact of the matter is that being the ‘new’ Wanda Jackson is a facile ambition as Wanda, like Jerry Lee or Hasil Adkins, was the real deal. Wanda was there when Rock n Roll happened, a teenage girl sharing a record label with Gene Vincent and the Bluecaps. She dated Elvis. She lived rockabilly and she made the genre her own, so when you hear Wanda you hear the excitement, the mistakes and the danger. When you hear Imelda May you hear the sound of middle England, record company accountants and pr stylists. You can’t blame Imelda May for her roots but you can point out the fundamental flaws in comparing yourself to rock royalty. She’s as much Wanda Jackson as Cliff Richard was Elvis.
Aside from the wholly inaccurate marketing campaign the album is actually pretty good. It is a warm, organic sounding album with some delightful, inventive guitar lines and stunning double bass work. Imelda is absolutely at her best on Doris Day mode, although true to form her PR compares her to Julie London on these occasions! Basically, if you love all things Jools Holland then you’ll be head over heels with Imelda May but if, however, you want some genuine rockabilly then get out and buy yourself Wanda Jackson’s Greatest Hits, a couple of Cramps albums and some Hasil Adkins. You’ll never be the same again.