Album Reviews

Nicky Holland

Nobody’s Girl

Artist:     Nicky Holland

Album:     Nobody’s Girl

Label:     Sony Legacy

Release Date:     07.20.2017

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Describing her musical resume, Hertfordshire, England native Nicky Holland says she has “worn a number of different hats over the years—arranger, backup singer, pianist on other people’s records, writer for other people.” Beginning with piano studies at the Royal Academy of Music, she’s compiled an impressive career just off the radar of pop stardom: one-third of Ravishing Beauties, a talented short-lived girl band that opened for Julian Cope and Teardrop Explodes on a legendary early 1980s’ tour; keyboard support for Fun Boy Three and Tears For Fears; writing scores for John Hughes films She’s Having a Baby and The Great Outdoors; and, in the 1990s, recording and releasing two solo albums for Epic, her 1991 debut, Nicky Holland, and 1997’s Sense and Sensuality.

Having become a mom and moved to New York, Holland found herself taking stock of her solo music. Last year she decided the time was right to re-evaluate and re-release some of the powerful music on those albums; the result is the moody, intense, wonderful Nobody’s Girl. If there’s any justice, this “definitive retrospective” —which sounds as fresh and compelling as anything on this week’s Billboard Adult Contemporary chart—should reach a larger audience this time around than it did in its earlier incarnation.

Nobody’s Girl features 13 songs from those earlier albums, seven from Nicky Holland and five off Sense and Sensuality, most remixed with Derek Nakamoto, the producer on Holland’s 1991 debut release. “On a couple of songs, I added a few bits and pieces,” Holland says. “Basically, it’s what was there, just in a new perspective. I’m making the storyteller, myself, and the story more present.”

The challenge of re-exploring music she made decades ago proved to be an agreeable one. “It was like no time had passed,” she says. “We were back there.”

Nobody’s Girl features the single mix of “Nobody’s Girl,” a song co-written with the rocker Lloyd Cole, and the single mix of “Tongue-Tied and Twisted,” which she co-wrote with singer-songwriter Ellen Shipley. An album highlight is Holland’s version of “Hat Full of Stars,” an exquisite tune co-written with Cyndi Lauper, who made it the title track of a studio album in 1993.

Another of the highlights of Nobody’s Girl is “New York Inside My Head,” a song originally on Sense and Sensuality for which Holland recently collaborated with photographer Karsten Staiger to create an extraordinary video that employs time-lapse photos of Manhattan to breathtaking effect.

For “time-lapse music” created twenty-to-twenty-five years ago, this Holland retrospective is a prescient, pertinent take on the process of time’s passing, and of life’s highs and lows, the changes inevitable to everyone’s life, but somehow especially acute to a life in the music business. The passage of time, taking stock, change—these are adult themes, some of the timeless themes of art, whether in music or literature. Here they are rendered smartly and sensitively, and without sentimentality.

The great pop chanteuses with soulful, smoky voices are a special breed, a group that includes Marianne Faithful, Dusty Springfield, Sam Phillips. With Nobody’s Girl, Nicky Holland puts forward a case for membership in the club.

—Peter Jurew

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