Variations – Hafdis Huld (reviewed by T. Bebedor)

Aah, the covers album, a tricky beast, an almost unwelcome visitor to the party and one that is immediately faced with dilemma’s; do you stay true to the original or do you change the arrangements entirely giving it a new spin but risk losing the essence of the song? Do you choose unfamiliar tracks so not to offend fans of the original, or do you pick classics but always be in a battle of comparisons?

Icelandic singer Hafdis Huld has chosen an almost biographical mix of songs, songs that mean something to her but, due to production choices and musical trends of the time, often don’t reflect the true meaning of the song, or, more importantly, the lyrics. So she’s recorded these songs in a stripped back style to emphasise the words and meaning of the original song.

She’s very brave in her selection, choosing a mix of country, soul, rock, 80’s synth pop, 90’s euro pop, ballad and even finding space for some disco, she’s tackled each song head on, (and in doing so has tackled some of the most iconic voices in modern music; Freddie Mercury, Whitney Houston, Tina Turner, Dolly Parton, Annie Lennox and Barry White) some are successful while others don’t work as well. Considering the variation in genres the album sometimes feels too limiting in its scope; ‘Bargain Store’, ‘One Moment In Time’, ‘Here Comes The Rain Again’ and ‘What is Love’ work very well, each benefitting from Huld’s mischievous, seductive voice and the more fuller arrangements by Alistair Wright suggesting that a five-track EP would have been a wiser package because the album drifts into water that is too calm and not meeting the challenge that these genres pose.

Obviously this is only my view of the album – and its by no means a bad album, Huld’s voice is interesting enough to carry the songs and it’s a compliment that her own original songs are stronger than over half of what is on offer here (check her 2017 track ‘Violet’) – and the same can be said for David Bowie and George Michael’s foray into cover albums, so she’s in pretty good company, but if you like her music and have experience in her folky pop style, give it a listen for yourself.

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