It’s 44 years since Linda Hoyle released her only solo album in 1971, Pieces of Me, and 45 since she was lead singer in the brilliant band Affinity, releasing their eponymous and only album in 1970.
There’s the maths done.
And now Hoyle has released her latest solo album The Fetch, and this too is brilliant: both that she has returned to performing after all these years, and the album itself. Her distinctive tone is still there, completely, as is the power of her voice. Hoyle is one of the great female rock vocalists – not in the Janis Joplin sense; not the growl of this fine type – and it is the album Affinity that has always exemplified this most for me, especially songs like Three Sisters and the competing-with-Hendrix cover of Dylan’s All Along the Watchtower, Hoyle stamping that pure tone and strength on these and all tracks. She is perhaps better described as a jazzy vocalist, but best as simply superb.
The Fetch doesn’t ‘rock’ as much as was the case in the 70s, but the tracks instead showcase the clarity and absolute sweet replication of the tone she has always had. The opener and title track is one of the liveliest on the album, her vocal starting in an exotic and atmospheric overlay before dropping into the sassy melody, a melodious resonating tone that is exquisite. Then the shift: an oriental-esque rap, before we are swooned back to the melody. 44 years? Gone. As if nothing has changed, at all.
Third Confessional is a brooding jazz ballad and reminds me of the Affinity cover of the Sebastian/Yanovsky song Coconut Grove, again the vocal tone so pure and smooth. Fourth is a beautiful folk song Brighton Pier, the town where I believe Hoyle now lives. Fifth It’s the World is a polished blues with sass again, this time the violin. You try to fuck with a lady luck sustains that sass as lyrics in the following blues of Fortune, organ and horns pumping out some proper oomph.
Ninth Maida Vale begins with snippets of radio announcement, including references to jazz and Affinity and Linda Hoyle and Mo Foster, so echoes of the past, and the song is quirky as lyrical reflection on that past, referring to music contracts and tube stations and the BBC and black and white and two track tape, so personal recollections on recording and living, and a guitar sound from The Stylistics. Hoyle's voice is sublime throughout.
Penultimate track Earth and Stars is as ‘psychedelic’ as it gets, not that Affinity and Hoyle ever were, but the backwards vocal loops and effects are entirely atmospheric, with an electronic choral layer that is gorgeous – though little to do with singing [...though I have subsequently seen this explanation by Linda on her Facebook page, and this 'discovery' also links to my more recent posting on the process of listening/reviewing/learning: I will be going back into the studio on Sunday to start making something rather strange. Jack Hey, my nephew, is a whizz electronic composer. He created a piece for the new album, which is called Earth and Stars. I sang an unaccompanied, rather free rendition of Dido's Lament, a 17th Century aria by Henry Purcell.( It is sobering to note that when he wrote this masterpiece he was about twenty seven years old. ) Anyway, I asked Jack to break my rendition apart, and dissolve it as though into the air. I found it a thrilling result]
This is a surprising return, and a triumphant one. The album has genuine depths in the songwriting and production, whilst Hoyle’s singing is timewarped from the 70s in an astonishing resurrection of talent. Closer Acknowledgements is a hoot, by the way: a hymnal litany of other singers/performers as influence, and acknowledgement of such.