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Tanita Tikaram

By coincidence, if fellow German-born chanteuse NICO had been on uppers rather than downers, she’d have sounded like sultry singer-songwriter TANITA TIKARAM; for that matter, if LEONARD COHEN had been a woman he’d have sounded like TT – no offence intended.
Born 12th August 1969 in Munster, Germany, to an Indo-Fijian father and a Bornean-Malayan mother, Tanita subsequently moved to Basingstoke in England as a teenager. A budding starlet, she was soon making a name for herself on London’s small venue circuit and through agent Paul Charles, she signed to W.E.A./Warner Bros. Featuring veterans Peter Van Hooke and ROD ARGENT working in both a production and writing capacity, TIKARAM’s promising debut set ANCIENT HEART {*8}, was released in summer ‘88. Previewed by the uncharacteristically upbeat fireside waltz of Top 10 single `Good Tradition’, the album revealed the smoulderingly exotic TIKARAM to be a moody, sensual and intense pop-folkie in a kind of latter day COHEN/ARMATRADING style. Brooding follow-up single `Twist In My Sobriety’, arguably remains her finest moment, its relatively lowly Top 30 chart placing hardly reflecting the quality of a song that’s since been the subject of countless cover versions. Though her voice was sufficiently husky to lend her songs an air of rootsy-ness, subsequent albums, THE SWEET KEEPER (1990) {*5} and EVERYBODY’S ANGEL (1991) {*6} veered ever closer to coffeehouse safety, the latter set failing to match the sales of her previous efforts.
Despite a fairly rigorous touring schedule, 1992’s ELEVEN KINDS OF LONELINESS {*4} saw both her critical stock and popular appeal drop away further and TIKARAM has been subsequently marginalised to cult status. Augmented once again by JENNIFER WARNES (on backing vox), LOVERS IN THE CITY (1995) {*6} continued her trend toward orchestral arrangements, scraping a Top 75 placing but hardly reclaiming her lost commercial standing.
Her first record for Mother Records, THE CAPPUCCINO SONGS (1998) {*6} took in several good reviews for a change, although they were tempered on the subject of her choice of coffee table cover via an upbeat-box reading ABBA’s `The Day Before You Came’ – EURYTHMICS she was not. Several years in the making and released on French label Naïve, SENTIMENTAL (2005) {*5} was rather torch-jazz or a “strange fruit”, although it was boosted by two NICK LOWE collaborations.
That 7-year itch once again prevailed when 2012 saw the release of her eighth album, the Paul Bryan-produced CAN’T GO BACK {*6}. Co-written with Mark Creswell and two years in the can, EarMusic of Germany gave it the green light; no doubt taken in by her podcasts and a guest appearance of GRANT LEE PHILLIPS. Accompanied by a download single, `Dust On My Shoes’, and other deep thinkers `All Things To You’, `Make The Day’ and the title track, TIKARAM had some degree of success in and around her native country.
The same could be said for 2016’s CLOSER TO THE PEOPLE {*6}, an easy-on-the-ear set of 10 cues cut from similar cloth. A little light and airy, not to mention jazzy, featuring download-single `Glass Love Train’ (the opener), TIKARAM teetered on the side of sentimentality; but relaxed in her not-so ancient heart, her fans should love the compelling title track, `Gris Gris Tails’ (inspired by DR. JOHN, no doubt) and `Food On My Table’. She definitely fills the space between the cool of ANNIE LENNOX, EDDI READER and JULIA FORDHAM.
© MC Strong 1994-2011/GRD-GFD2 // rev-up MCS Mar2015

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