Stephen Duffy - Memory & Desire: 30 Years in the Wilderness
Life is full of surprises; until this arrived on the desk I had always thought of Stephen (Tin-Tin) Duffy as a one-hit-wonder who set all the girls in form 2b alight for a couple of weeks back in the 80s with his hit Kiss Me. I guess, judging by the 30 years in the Wilderness title, that I am not alone in this misconception but a double disc full of tunes proves us wrong. If truth be told I secretly had quite a soft spot for his psychedelia-lite pop hit and was rather looking forward to hearing it again but, with perverse style, he’s rerecorded his only hit so that it barely resembles the original. What a card.
Still, this is the pick of the career of a founder member of the mighty Duran Duran, we must be in for a sickly sweet extravaganza of bubblegum pop, right? Wrong. This is a resolutely low key album which demands a fireplace and a bottle of Rioja rather than a handbag and a Blue WKD. Julie Christie carries a whiff of Neil Young’s Only Love Can Break Your Heart, complementing Duffy’s distinctive tones with a full string section.
This retrospective set is the first attempt to collate the career of Duffy, from Lilac Time to his solo work, culminating in the reflective new track Memory & Desire from which the set takes its title. The album forms a cornerstone of a trilogy of releases which will also include a forthcoming documentary and book. If you’ve ever been moved to investigate the work of Mr Duffy then this set is certainly an excellent place to start and although it does miss out on his work with Robbie Williams songs like Salvation Song show what a significant influence he's had on Robbie's work. Black Velvet is perhaps how Syd Barrett might have ended up sounding if he hadn’t gone completely mad while Julie Written on The Fence is the sort of shimmering, singer-songwriter number that ought to cause David Gray to hang his head in shame and seek a job in merchant banking. 36 tracks is hard going in a single sitting but there’s a wealth of material here, like the pastoral A Day in the Night, featuring a hooting owl, which needs to be gradually enjoyed like a fine whiskey. Ill advised rehash of Kiss Me aside, this is a fine body of work which deserves to see Duffy spend some time in the spotlight rather than the wilderness.