Aurora J Young’s album sounds a million dollars but with some of the songs she’s got, it feels like money well spent. Since it doesn’t look like Adele will ever make a record again (or the next album will be entitled 64), there must be a place in the market for a hard working British soul star who doesn’t deviate too far from the script laid down by the classic Motown canon. While Aurora’s tales of unreliable confidantes, no good dirty rotten men and lessons learned at the school of hard knocks are pretty generic lyrically, the sheer unfeigned enjoyment in the way she tackles her mighty choruses is infectious, witness the gospel-tinged ‘Ain’t Got the Best of Me’ or the imploring pop of ‘Local Hero’.
Young’s voice shares with Joss Stone’s the aura of being too large for her body. It’s extraordinarily flexible, possessing as much might as you’d want (‘Guilty Pleasure’ is outstanding), capable of sounding tough and care-worn (‘What Doesn’t Kill You’) and equally at home in more delicate passages, such as the vulnerable chorus on ‘You’re A Dirty Friend’. The songs also offer the odd harmonic surprise, with some of the unsettling piano work on the latter resembling that on Polly Harvey’s ‘We Float’, and in general the musicianship is first rate. Too often this sort of music sounds like it’s knocked up in an afternoon by Simon Cowell’s robot butler but the band (including producer George Shilling) make contributions that are often thrilling. Top marks too to the backing singers who sound like they’ve been flown in by TARDIS straight from ’60s Detroit.
Reservations? Well, some of Aurora’s lyrics are a bit stodgy (‘Keep These Fears’ has a wonderful singalong tune but gets bit wordy (never use the phrase ‘self-worth’ in a pop song non-ironically) and she’s up against a veritable squadron of presentable MOR females at the moment. On the other hand she has the songs and voice to compete with most and I’d rather hear her than the likes of Paloma Faith (too squeaky), Duffy (too Lulu) or Ellie Goulding (too pally with Elton John). Reap what you sow? Should be a good harvest, then.