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Duffy - Rockferry

Vintage Pop-Soul

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Duffy - Rockferry
© Mercury Records.
Ever since Aimee Duffy's debut single, "Mercy," was released in February 2008, there have been plenty of comparisons between her and fellow British Blue-Eyed Soul singers Amy Winehouse and Joss Stone. But in reality, the two vocalists Duffy should be compared to aren't Amy and Joss, they're '60s Soul singers Dusty Springfield and Lulu. And Duffy's debut album, Rockferry, which was released on March 3, 2008 in the U.K. and May 13, 2008 in the U.S., is as much a tribute to their vintage style of pop-soul as Winehouse's Back to Black was a tribute to girl groups like the Shirelles and Supremes.

Dusty, Revisited

For those not familar with Dusty Springfield or Lulu, the former is best known for the 1969 hit song "Son of a Preacher Man," and Lulu's main claim to fame was "To Sir With Love," the theme song to the movie of the same name, which was originally released in 1967. And Duffy's voice and style are reminiscent of their style of bleached-out Blue-Eyed Soul music.

Duffy's style isn't just old-school, it's old-fashioned. But in a good way, mostly. Her debut single, "Mercy," is a tale of lust, but is still fairly tame, lyrically. On the song, Duffy deals with her intense longing for an attractive guy, but finds enough inner strength to resist offering up her body:
"I love you, but I gotta stay true, my morals got me on my knees, I'm begging please stop playing games," she sings.
The song sets the stage for who Duffy is as an artist as well as a person. She's not a prototypical troubled bad girl like Amy Winehouse, nor a nice girl gone wild like Joss Stone. She's an old-fashioned good girl, and her music's a reflection of that. Even when sad and hurt, she keeps her composure, both lyrically and vocally, during her songs, as evidenced by the break-up song "Warwick Avenue," when she coldly sings "When I get to Warwick Avenue, we'll spend an hour but no more than two, our only chance to speak once more, I showed you the answers, now here's the door."

Authentic Retro Vibe

© Mercury Records.
Duffy's producers have done a nice job recapturing the Blue-Eyed Soul of the late 1960s on this album. Duffy is backed by a live band on each track, and the various wind instruments, stringed instruments, drums, pianos - and even a glockenspiel - add an authenticity to the music that otherwise could not exist. Much like the live instrumentation on Winehouse's Back to Black, the musicians on Rockferry play just as big a role in the retro vibe as do the vocals.

But as far as the vocals here go, Duffy displays seemingly genuine emotion on her tracks, something that one of her contemporaries, Joss Stone, had problems with on her first two albums. Joss was seen at the time to be just going through the motions and mimicking what she'd heard classic singers do on their records, but although Duffy doesn't have the strongest, most fluid voice, she definitely has mastered the art of emoting. What probably helps is that she wrote or co-wrote all the album's songs and therefore has more of an emotional investment in the material, as opposed to Joss Stone's early work, which was all cover songs and material written for her and not by her.

So the final verdict is this: Duffy's a genuine talent with a good young voice. Her old-school vibe seems to be genuine and borne out of love for classic Soul, and not just a gimmick. With a little more vocal seasoning, Duffy could be a major force in music for many years to come.

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