The Best Of Tanita Tikaram

"Sometimes we need the benefit of hindsight to truly appreciate the consistency and range of a body of work, and it may be thus in relation to that of Tanita Tikaram. Best Of Tanita TikaramBecause she became so successful so quickly - from Hampshire schoolgirl to top 10 chart star in what seemed like five seconds flat - it was all too easy to think we had her pegged. After all, she was the singer/somgwriter with the bookish lyrics and the dark blue, about-to-break-up voice, the one who brought you songs like 'Twist In My Sobriety' into the relentlessly cheery world of 'Top of the Pops' studio...

More than three million people bought her debut lp, 1988's Ancient Heart, some of whom thought that it told all there was to know about her and so stopped really listening. Their loss, as is proved conclusively by this first retrospective of what has been, to date, a five album career.

At the time of writing, Tanita is 26 years old and, happily, still very much alive and well and active in music. But she has chosen to take a little time out at this point - time to work on her songs away from the spotlight, at the same time as reclaiming something of the offstage life she sacrificed during those first heady few years of round-the-world performing and promoting. It is, then the perfect moment to look back and assess her achievements to date. Quite considerable they are, too. This is a woman who went from being a tentative newcomer playing the acoustic room of North London's Mean Fiddler, to being the owner of a recording contract, to enjoying multi-platinum status here, there and almost everywhere else in little more than a year. And having won that status, she used it bravely and well.

There is nothing safe, over-familiar or formulaic within the 17 tracks that make up 'The best of Tanita Tikaram'. This daughter of Fijian-Malaysian parents, brought up first on the British army bases of Germany and then in suburban Basingstoke, combines lyrical acuity, musical invention and a completely individual vocal style to always intriguing, sometimes stunning effect. With its inclusion drawn from all five of her releases - in addition to 'Ancient Heart', they are 'The Sweet Keeper' (1990), 'Everybody's Angel' (1991), 'Eleven Kinds of Loneliness' (1992), and 'Lovers In The City' (1995) - the compliation acts achieves three different roles. First and foremost, it provides testament to a maturity of musical vision rarely found in one relatively so young. Secondly, its largely chronological make-up allows the listener to witness the development of that vision over time. And, thirdly, it acts as the perfect introduction for those previously unfamiliar with any or all aspects of her work.

Throughout her time in the public eye, Tanita has been scrupulously generous in praising those artists who have inspired or infulenced her, among them Nina Simone, Jennifer Warnes, Dinah Washington and Mary Margaret O'Hara. On record, she is anything but a copyist though, as these 17 songs demonstrate. Back in 1988, 'Good Tradition' sounded like nothing else on the top 40 - and gloriously so. Seven years on, she was continuing to make wholly original if very different music to that debut hit, as the gorgeous track to 'Lovers In The City' demonstrates here. Not the first to grow up within the spotlight and on record, of course, but undoubtedly one of the more self-aware and articulate of those to have faced that challenge. 'The best of...' makes clear her strength, both as an artist and as an individual, and so suggests that we can look forward to her returning with new ideas and new material in her own time. Meanwhile, it offers pleasures worth exploring, for fans and the uninitiated alike. There has been and still is, no-one else quite like her."
Alan Jackson
The Times, May 1996

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