It has been a joyful experience for Genevieve Alison Jane – an Essex girl born to a French father and English mother who left school at 16, became famous at 21 as singer in Yazoo, and released her triple-platinum solo debut, Alf, at 23. She found fame hard to handle at such a young age, but hindsight has helped her appreciate those experiences. “For a while in the mid-80s, it was amusing to be a pop bitch, but that changed, and it stopped being enough. Now I am able to put my early work into context and find pleasure in the innocence of it. It matters to connect with your audience and these songs have had their place in more lives than my own.”
Between 1984 and 1987, Moyet was Britain’s biggest female solo star. Covers of That Ole Devil Called Love and Love Letters confirmed her reputation as an interpreter of classic songs, while her own self-penned hits like Love Resurrection and All Cried Out confirmed her gift as a songwriter. She won Brit Awards, performed at Live Aid, toured extensively and broke the Billboard Top 40. After that, she started to explore what she could do with her wonderful voice, a powerful but sensitive instrument that never forgot its Essex roots, but yearned to experiment in a world beyond pop. Hoodoo and This House are the first results of this shift – the former a sexy finger-clicker that makes a beautiful bridge between the music of Soul II Soul and Blue Lines era Massive Attack; the latter a heartbreakingly honest ballad about a broken relationship that Adele or Amy Winehouse would find a home in. Here was Alison flowering, growing up and becoming the artist she had always wanted to be, with her efforts winning her her first Grammy nomination.
The later tracks on this anthology are even more emotionally affecting . The gorgeous acoustic version of Moyet’s cover of Jules Shears’ Whispering Your Name from 1994’s Essex, the sultry melancholy of Yesterday’s Flame and Should I Feel That It’s Over from 2002’s Hometime, the covers of Windmills Of Your Mind and Almost Blue from 2005’s Voice, and the showstopping theatre of One More Time from 2007’s critically acclaimed The Turn, all blaze with honesty, romance and beauty. “I know that it’s expected to include the hits, and that’s fine, but I’m glad these are included. They are honest pieces of work, and I’m proud of them.”
In the last decade, Moyet has taken other career turns. She has played Mama Morton in the West End hit musical, Chicago; acted with best friend Dawn French in the Kathy Burke-directed play, Smaller; narrated jazz documentaries for Jazz FM; reformed Yazoo with Vince Clarke for a triumphant reunion tour in 2008; and recently toured the UK as the guest of the Academy Award-winning French composer, Michel Le Grand. Married to her second husband, David, with three children aged 24, 21 and 13, she is a grown-up for us all to be proud of – and a woman finally enjoying the legacy of her brilliant back catalogue.
But while she does, she remains wonderfully and warmly down-to-earth about it all. “After all, a retrospective is strange. It pinpoints you at certain stages in your life that you don’t have to revisit if you’re not a recorded and photographed musician. But if you stop remembering what you didn’t like about yourself at certain stages – your crassness and arrogance as a young person, for instance – you start to regard your life as a constant learning curve. And although I recognise myself more now in my later songs, I also look at my younger selves, see the battles I had to fight, and I’m proud of what I achieved, and the lessons that I learnt.”
She should be proud. The Best Of Alison Moyet is a true testament to the diversity of her terrific talents throughout her career. They remind us of the unique qualities of the singer we have always loved, and with whom we have grown older – and a woman who has never stopped evolving.
© Alison Moyet