Thursday, September 22, 2011

FIONA: "Unbroken"

Rating: 9/10

Label: Cargo Records 2011

Review by Alan Holloway

A month after celebrating her 50th birthday and a staggering nineteen years after her last album “Squeeze”, Fiona Flanagan is perhaps not the most likely comeback queen, but she’s certainly as viable today as she ever was, as “Unbroken” demonstrates with every play. When I was younger I was quite a fan of Fiona, and whilst admittedly it didn’t hurt that she was a stone cold babe, her voice and hook laden, pretension free songs were always a pleasure to hear, particularly on the 1985 self titled debut. When I heard she was coming back I was intrigued but not too excited, if I’m honest, but then I heard the album.

“Unbroken” is an absolute corker of an album, co written with the reliable likes of Tommy Denander, Holly Knight, Marc Tanner and James Christian (who also does a bang up production job). Fans will be glad to hear that Fiona’s voice has lost none of it’s power and passion, and is still oddly unique in the way she sounds like she’s being gently strangled much of the time (but in a good way…). The songs themselves are a tight collection of rather cliché ridden staples that nonetheless bear, even demand, repeated listening. Opener “Loved Along The Way” sets the tone perfectly, hearkening back to the earlier albums with an irresistible melody and chorus. There’s nothing remotely new here, and fans of the genre will be able to spot the inevitable last chorus key change coming a mile off, but for whatever reason (Aliens? Vampires?) it just works. Holly Knight contributes “Badge Of Love”, which is, disappointingly, close to a carbon copy of “Hide Your Heart”, co written by Knight back in the 80s and done by Bonnie Tyler, Kiss and Molly Hatchet as well as Knight herself. Every time I hear it I can’t help sing the older song over the chorus, and it fits perfectly, which sort of kills the song for me.

Fortunately, “Badge Of Love” is the only disappointing track here, with the rest providing catchy melodies, fist in the air moments and some truly memorable choruses. There’s a killer duet with Robin Beck, “This Heart”, unsurprisingly a power ballad but a bloody good one. There’s some oddness to "Wild One", as Fiona sings about her rebel bloke picking her up from school and things of that ilk, but it's still a great song. Things get a little rockier for the brash, punchy “Get Yer Kix” and the alpha female “I Love You But Shut Up”, the latter a track that Paramore wouldn’t find out of place on their set list. There’s two cover versions as well, with Fiona doing justice to Pat Benatar’s “Shadows Of The Night” (a great track then and now), as well as a superb cover of Prophet’s “Everything You Are”, which may or may not have been written originally about the girl now singing it.

I’ve waffled on a bit longer than usual about this album, I know, but it’s entirely justified. It is simply a top class melodic rock album that is not ashamed of giving us uncomplicated throwback anthems sung by a woman who should always have lasted for more time than she did and got more recognition. Whether treated as a comeback album or simply a new slice of the AOR pie with added deliciousness, “Unbroken” will definitely be in my personal top 10 this year, and deserves to be checked out.


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