On the rare occasions that Mary Hopkin agrees to be interviewed these days, one message constantly rings through. No matter how much the fan club may beg and plead, the chances of a career-spanning rarities box set are minimal - at least partially because she really does seem to have a low opinion of a lot of what she recorded, at least in the early days.
And listening to this collection, a bucketful of fun though it is, one cannot blame her. She really was saddled with some sorry songs to sing. But when she was good she was staggering, a point she proves from the very outset, as a French language "Those Were The Days" ("Les Temps des Fleurs") emerges as one of the best vocal performances of her career.
A German version ("An Jedem Tag") follows, after which Lost Songs simply rages through the catalog. Disc One, dedicated to the Apple years, is the most cohesive (if, in terms of the aforementioned quality control, the most variable), ranging from the sheer mindless joy of the b-side "I'm Going To Fall In Love Again" through a peculiar Japanese language version of "Let My Name be Sorrow," a clutch of lost 45s, and even two versions of the Christmas offering "Mary Had A Baby." There's also a late '70s version of "Those Were The Days," recorded with husband Tony Visconti, and really not as bad as a lot of rerecorded hits end up.
Disc Two might be subtitled the Visconti years, with the bulk of its weight absorbed by the producer's own Inventory solo album - Hopkin provided backing vocals, which seems a slim reason to lumber us with the full LP. It really wasn't that good, and if we really must sit through Mary's session appearances, what about her contributions to albums by Sparks and Bowie?
But it gets worse, as a succession of movie soundtrack offerings hit a Beatles medley ("For No-one"/"Here There And Everywhere") which really is one of the worst things ever done to two such defenseless songs. Disc Three, however, is an absolute treasure trove, opening with live performances of the six songs from which Hopkin's 1969 Eurovision Song Contest entry were selected. The sound quality is poor, although we forgive it instantly; all six performances are unheard since their original broadcast on television's Cliff Richard Show. Their very survival is the stuff of miracles.
alongside Donovan, Peter Sellers and Jon & Vangelis join a clutch
of demos and unidentified odds; an Apple promo of the Bee Gees' "In The
Morning" catches Hopkin sounding closer to Joan Baez than ever before;
and, highlighting the entire package, a Welsh language duet through Frank
and Nancy's "Something Stupid." There's no clue as to whom she's duetting
with, but it's a spellbinding performance, one that raises Lost Songs
beyond the mere storehouse for oddities that it might have been, and into
a package that you'll find yourself returning to again and again. Well,
some of it, anyway. -
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