Adele – 30: Album Review

Adele is the reigning Empress of Soul and takes us on a trip into the heart and mind which is deeply personal and simultaneously all inclusive. That most rarefied atmosphere at the pinnacle of artistic achievement that few are privileged to breathe in.

Adele Adkins is omnipresent, here there and everywhere. She has probably sold a billion units of her music by now. Multiple awards and honours, a Royal recognition cannot be far away.

Born in Tottenham, London. She is as English as a Hotspurs supporter, and she idolised the Spice Girls as a child. Sugar and spice and everything nice/ That’s what love is made of sang Smokey Robinson. Father was gone by age two, and she was brought up by her mother. There are naturally elements of this in her lyrics a well as her recent divorce. The greatest artists will draw from a seemingly bottomless pit of suffering to illuminate the transcendent. It’s not just about themselves, though.

Strangers by Nature and the song begins with a casual Billie Holiday accent which seems so off-hand as to make it a great hook to enter the album. Her phrasing moves quickly into the precise and nuanced style of a Sinatra, when he reached a pinnacle in the Fifties. I’ll be taking flowers to the cemetery of my heart.

Many of the songs here appear to have paternal DNA in Frank Sinatra’s Sings For Only the Lonely. A nod to Roy Orbison too in his music of fear amidst heartbreak.

Easy On Me. A Soul song sung with some deeper Gospel chest tones. She can mix Dusty Springfield with some of the pipes of Ella Fitzgerald. I was still a child/ Didn’t get the chance to feel all the world around me. Hits the high notes easily and at will. She has a more nuanced natural swing than another great voice, Whitney Houston.

My Little Love is a Mike Leigh movie in under seven minutes. The deeper contralto voice sounds Black. A lot more overt than Dusty’s. This is her passion for Ella and Etta James. A maudlin song wallowing in self-pity with a hangover. Mama’s got a lot to learn she says to herself, and a small daughter also appears. A contemplation on depression, but the song stands out as it is again the nuances of phrasing which elevates the experience for the listener. Compare this to Gladys Knight’s Midnight Train to Georgia as to how a great Soul singer rides out of deep sadness.

Adele, Vogue 2021

Cry Your Heart Out. It will clean your face. Women will understand what the men don’t know. Closer to the classic Philly Soul sound, with close to a personified bass in the style of a James Jamerson.

Oh My God. Picks up the tempo a little from the last one. Swings into the rhythm with masterful grace and works it up into a Sly and the Family Stone Soul strut. The instrumentation is minimal but it sounds like a big arena number.

Can I Get It On. Gospel Soul let off the leash. Acoustic guitar riffs lead the song. Inspiration for this comes seems to come from cult favourites the Valentinos, specifically the pinnacle they reached with Sam Cooke producing. Through it all, the good, the bad, the ugly and divine.

Can’t help thinking of Divine the actor from John Water’s Hair Spray and Pink Flamingo’s.

I Drink Wine. Every song on the album shows a wonderful and masterly control of voice. The gestures are big, and at the same time they are subtle and not overplayed.

Except for To Be Loved. A slow piano descending down the scales. Another lament which builds to an uncomfortable crescendo when her voice sounds ragged, painful and loud. Something you need to turn away from. There is a great line All I do is to bleed into someone else.

To be loved and love at the highest count/ Means to lose all the things I can’t live without/ Let it be known that I will choose to lose. The only two tragedies in life as outlined by Oscar Wilde.

There are present the touches of Folk and Country as on the previous albums. Nice Girl Group backing vocals which could well be mostly Adele.

Massively popular without a doubt. Full of heart and soul and Adele continues to live and breathe in that most rarefied atmosphere.

Rev Orange Peel