(As noted in my first Essentials entry, this is an occasional series in which I spotlight albums that, in my estimation, everyone should experience at least once.)
Immense. That’s the first word that comes to mind when I think of “Rockferry,” the title track of – and lead single from – Duffy’s stellar 2008 debut album. Co-written with former Suede guitarist Bernard Butler, the song is laden with echoes of the ages. Way back at the end of 2008, in a Facebook post (now available here), I noted that it “has an utterly timeless feel, conjuring the likes of Procol Harum, Lulu and Petula Clark.” I should have added Dusty Springfield, too.
Although the single didn’t do well in the charts, peaking at No. 45 in the U.K., it’s the song that drew me to the album. In those days, I sat in a cubicle composing TV descriptions that the whole world – or, at least, TV Guide subscribers – read. An episode of the Brit TV show Later…With Jools Holland that she appeared on was slated to air in the U.S. in the spring of ‘08, and the single moniker led me to verify that, indeed, she was a she and, too, a single-name singer. I also learned that her full name is Aimée Duffy, and that she hails from Wales (which seems to produce more musicians per capita than just about any other country). Anyway, I remember plugging in my headphones to my work computer, pulling up YouTube, and watching the video for “Rockferry” – and being transfixed. It’s a magical song.
I ordered the CD that night, and played it to death over the next few months. And when she released a “deluxe edition” that included six additional songs later that year, I purchased that, too.
Another highlight: “Mercy,” the second single, which broke big. It topped the charts in 13 countries and made her a household name in the United Kingdom.
“Warwick Avenue,” another wondrous track, was the third single. It reached No. 3 on the U.K. charts.
“Syrup & Honey” is another tasty number. Here’s a clip of the songstress singing it in the studio…
My favorites, however, are the title song, which kicks off the 10-track set, and the closing number, the yearning “Distant Dreamer.”
The deluxe version is well worth seeking out, I should mention. It includes the hit single “Rain on Your Parade,” which was in contention to become the theme song for the Jame Bond flick Quantum of Solace. (It lost out to “Another Way to Die” by Jack White and Alicia Keys.)
Other “deluxe” gems include “Oh Boy”…
…and “Enough Love,” which – like “Rockferry” – echoes long-ago days while sounding utterly modern. (At least, it does to my ears.)
There’s much to be said of the trajectory of Duffy’s career in the years since, but that’s grist for another post. The reality is that, even if she never records again, she’s gifted the world with a “bag of songs” that resonates still, a decade later.
Here’s the track list of Rockferry, the album, in its deluxe form: