Imelda May – 11 Past The Hour
My mother’s name was Imelda McMurray before she married, so until Ms May came along, the only other Imelda M I had heard of was Imelda Marcos. Mam wasn’t big on shoes, but she did like old skool rock ‘n’ roll, so I have a soft spot for Imelda May.
Her first four albums were jazzy and rockabilly revival stormers, complemented by her smokey, Billie Holliday croon. Her fifth album marked a change in style and foolishly, I gave up on her at that point. But hearing her on a recent episode of the Rockonteurs podcast prompted me to re-evaluate that decision.
As she points out, sometimes you have to move on, and try new styles. Latest album is indeed poppier than her initial work, but there’s lots to love here. It’s an eclectic mix of spoken word poems, duets with Noel Gallagher, guest appearances by Ronnie Wood, Miles Kane, Niall McNamee and noted women's rights activists Gina Martin and Dr. Shola Mos-Shogbamimu.
The songs cover a lot of ground from love to social justice - Made To Love motors along with gusto, a call for equality, whilst Breathe was inspired by George Floyd, all disarming, swelling strings and rousing vocals and incredible high notes. It may not be a clarion call for action, but she has covered this ground elsewhere through her internationally acclaimed poem You Don’t Get To Be Racist and Irish.
Different Kinds Of Love is gentle, yet sultry, while Diamonds is a beautiful ballad and Don’t Let Me Stand On My Own is a gentle folk duet with Niall McNamee, a singer, actor and her real life beau.
It’s not perfect – the Just One Kiss duet with Noel Gallagher is a bit of a lumpen rocker – she’d have been better on her own, I’m sure.
Closer, Never Look Back is its standout, thundering drums, menacing strings – it’s enormous. This is a great and varied pop album, though I do still miss the straightforward rockabilly, it would be great if she could work this back into her work again, but retain the new found adventurous spirit. But I am not one to argue with an Imelda...