Mari Wilson: track-by-track

Mari Wilson first arrived on the scene in the early 1980s with her skyscraper beehive hairdo and fully choreographed twelve piece band The Wilsations. She had six hit singles, the biggest being ‘Just What I’ve Always Wanted’ and ‘Cry Me A River’, both taken from her album Showpeople.

In the mid-eighties, after constant touring of the UK, Europe and the United States, Mari reduced the size of her band (and her hairdo!), changing direction with a more intimate show. With regular appearances at venues such as Ronnie Scott's, The South Bank and festivals alongside legends such as BB King and Ray Charles, Mari has continued to build her reputation as a great live performer.

Teaming up with string-arranger, orchestrator, composer and pianist Simon Hale, Mari has recorded some of her favourite songs for her new album Cover Stories: “I’ve never made an album of covers before and thought it was about time, especially as I perform some of these songs in my show and have often been asked if they are available on CD.”

Mari has talked about the tracklisting and we've got some exclusive previews of a couple of our favourite numbers below.

Don’t Get Me Wrong (Chrissie Hynde)

This is one of my favourite records, everything about The Pretenders version of this song is perfect, the drumming is sublime, the pace and attitude, the guitars, everything, with a brilliant ending. I’ve been performing this song live just recently and wanted to find a way to show off the beautiful lyric so we’ve slowed it down and given it a completely different groove with percussion and organ and some great bass.

Disney Girls (Bruce Johnson)

This is another song I’ve been performing in my live show and it’s always really popular so it had to be on this album. When you’ve been performing a song for some time you feel you can really get inside it and tell the story, plus it has this kind of 1950’s American Dream type atmosphere. This is about being British and growing up watching American TV shows where everything seemed way ahead of us here, where people’s lives were bathed in sunshine, with surfing and the beach, modern and futuristic, with huge refrigerators that’s what it makes me think of, the 50’s/60’s British view of life in the USA.

Be My Baby (Jeff Barry/Ellie Greenwich)

I’ve been performing this song live for the past couple of years and it’s always very emotional because I do it in such a different way from the original (obviously!). Everyone knows it and the audience always sings along the backing vocals and it’s almost church-like it’s so deeply etched in people’s memories.

Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying (Gerry Marsden)

This is one of those timeless songs with a gorgeous melody and a great theme. I remember Ricky Lee Jones’ version which was fabulous and I thought it was time to bring it out again.

I Only Want to Be With You (Mike Hawker/Ivor Raymonde)

I played Dusty Springfield in Dusty the Musical in 2000, singing 23 songs a night for 7 months! I always have a Dusty song in my live show and in the recording of this we put a completely different take on it, slowing it down to the point where it is full of melancholy.

First of May (Bee Gees)

When I was 11 I was planning to marry Barry Gibb and would practice harmonies with the The Bee Gees. I recorded How Can You Mend a Broken Heart on my Dolled Up album and recently downloaded all of their early work which is now getting the attention it deserves. This song was a challenge because it has such a range but we kept it simple and sweet.

Own Side (Caitlin Rose)

I saw Caitlin Rose supporting Ron Sexmith in LA in April and was knocked out by her songs, her voice and her personality – she ticked every box. Only 23 and sounding like Loretta Lynn/Iris DeMent – she’s definitely going places. I bought both her CD’s and this song was the one that got really me and I thought it would be interesting to cover a song written and recorded by someone half my age and to put a different perspective on the lyric – I hope I’ve managed to do that.

Right About Now (Ron Sexsmith)

This is the second time I’ve covered one of Ron’s songs – I could just record a whole album of his songs, he has a gift, like a Canadian Nick Lowe. The lyric and the melody seem to be so right, they’re so meant for each other.

Dear Someone (Gillian Welch)

I absolutely adore Gillian Welch and her voice. I’ve known and loved this song for a long time. It sounds like it was written about 150 years ago, a bit like Peggy Lee’s “I Don’t’ Wanna Play in Your Yard” which I covered on my Dolled Up album in 2005. So I’ve tried to put my own stamp on it by giving it an unusual atmosphere with different sound textures.

They Don’t Know (Kirsty McColl)

I knew Kirsty back in the early 80’s – she sang back-up on a couple of my demos and later on I demoed a couple of her other songs which I have on cassette somewhere. Anyway, she was a gem and I always wanted to do a bare, minimal, stripped-down version of this song, Once we’d recorded it with just piano, bass and voice, we knew it didn’t need any more.

Everybody Needs A Holiday (Mick Jones, Don Letts)

I spent some time with B.A.D. in LA in the summer and went to their show at The Nokia Club which was brilliant. When they did this song, even though they do it with a heavy reggae-type feel, I could see something else, a kind of lullaby - a tender song underneath the groove. So that’s what I’ve done with it – I’ll be curious to find out what Mick and Don think of it …

Cover Stories is released on Monday, 2 April. Follow Mari Wilson on Twitter or visit her official website.

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