Release Date: Dec 7, 2010
Record label: Island
Genre(s): R&B, Soul, Pop/Rock, Neo-Soul
On her Grammy-?winning debut, Rockferry, Duffy recalled the sultry sounds of the 1960s — y?know, when she was negative 20 years old. This time on Endlessly, she smartly taps a producer who wrote hits during that era: Albert Hammond accentuates her smoky, blues-tinged voice and classic Stax style while also bringing out her inner pop star. She might just be the Britney Spears of blue-eyed soul — but does the world really need one of those? B Download These:Disco-vamping Lovestruck at last.fmGo-go-dancing Girl See all of this week’s reviews .
Duffy may owe her career to Amy Winehouse, whose platinum-selling Back to Black helped make neo-soul the genre du jour long before Duffy’s own breakthrough. Winehouse spun out of control during the years that followed, though, while Duffy remained on top, selling over 8 million copies of her debut and slowly molding herself into the queen of modern-day British soul. On Endlessly, she proves how far she’s come, replacing the bashful ballads of 2008’s Rockferry with a brash sound that takes its cues from disco, Europop, and vintage R&B.
Deftly turning from Dusty Springfield-like ingenue to Kylie Minogue-ish diva in the span of one album, Duffy has produced an album, Endlessly, that is nearly everything its predecessor was not: where Rockferry was by turns melancholy and majestic, Endlessly is direct and forceful. Where the songs on Rockferry portrayed a young neo-soul singer too wounded to even look at the camera, Endlessly comes blasting out, right from the possessive opener, "My Boy," and fires several more aggressive shots across the bow of anyone who thought her too subdued on Rockferry (led by the single "Well Well Well"). Co-producer and co-songwriter Albert Hammond (father to the Strokes' guitarist and a singer/songwriter in his own right) coats the album in strings, similar to the last album's producer (Bernard Butler), but also allows plenty of clubby productions and up-front beats (some provided by the Roots' stickman Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson) to give this album a fine sheen of pop gloss (where Rockferry was akin to the throwback balladry of Scott Walker) Often, the collaboration hits a sweet spot, as on "Too Hurt to Dance," which is laden with Brill Building strings, but sounds up to the minute as well.
Having sold as many copies of her debut album Rockferry as there are people in Paraguay (6.5 million, stat fans), Duffy is back with a second album of modernist takes on a distinctly 60s pop-soul sound that ought to act as both nostalgia and a gateway drug for anyone not already familiar with Petula and Dusty. Endlessly is unlikely to repeat Rockferry's wildfire success – what could? – lacking as it does instantaneous radio killers. But Duffy's success has always been dependent on both her beautiful voice and her producers' ability to tap into boomer tastes with snippets of 60s pop and nods that drift from Lulu (in Well, Well, Well) to the more modern likes of Madonna.
Pastiche. Too knowing and it’s irritating, too slavish and it’s flat, but beware the ‘modern twist’. Witness the disco-tango-pop of [b]‘Keeping My Baby’[/b], a low point on [a]Duffy[/a]’s mostly decent second album. Produced with [b]?uestlove[/b] of [a]The Roots[/a] and [b]Albert Hammond Sr[/b] (yes, the [a]Stroke[/a]’s dad), [b]‘Endlessly’[/b] is best when it doesn’t try so hard.
Duffy's debut album, Rockferry, was remarkable in its loyalty to 60s-esque arrangements that perfectly framed the Welsh singer's voice. For her follow-up, she left the UK and went to L.A. to work with songwriter Albert Hammond, who struck gold in the 70s with It Never Rains In Southern California. The pair also enlisted help from the Roots, who provide flawless musical accompaniment.
In a post-Winehouse world, retro-styled R&B singers popped up all over the U.K. while record labels on both sides of the Atlantic eagerly snatched up would-be starlets with “distinctive voices,” basically to the point that one needed flashcards to keep the new crop of sultry singers straight. What other hope was there of telling a Duffy from an Adele, not confusing Adele with Estelle, crossing your T's and dotting your Ida Marias? Brit crits dubbed the expanding cast of brand new old school divas “the new Amys,” a phrase which owed its morbid currency to the fact that the old Amy couldn't finish a week without turning up in druggy disrepair on the front page of one tabloid or another.
JUANES “P.A.R.C.E.”. (Universal Music Latino).
Welsh singer’s second LP is too slight and uneven to impress unconditionally. Paul Whitelaw 2010 By far the most successful act to have emerged from the post-Winehouse vogue for female blue-eyed soul singers, Duffy follows her BRIT and Grammy-award-winning debut, Rockferry, with Endlessly, another collection in thrall to the sounds of black American 1960s pop. Everything about it is knowingly, lovingly retro.