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Thursday, March 29, 2012

"Mercy"

Duffy - "Mercy" (2008)

I love soul revival.



Twenty three years old when this song was released, Welsh artist Duffy has drawn favorable comparisons to The Supremes, Dusty Springfield, as well as modern contemporaries Amy Winehouse and Adele. Her first EP was in Welsh and attracted interest from A&M Records who had her work with big name producers including Bernard Butler, formerly of Suede; and Grammy winner Jimmy Hogarth. they both produced big hits from the album, but it was relative newcomer to the business Steve Booker who co-wrote and produced this track. Booker had been co-writing country music songs in the US for seven years then did some pop song writing before coming back to England to start a small label and start producing.

The song starts with a bass line that immediately makes you think of Ben E. King's hit "Stand by Me". The bass keeps walking through the song, and gets some help on the bottom from a big organ. Adding to the 60s soul sound the song has a lush string section and higher pitched organ that almost takes it into Stevie Wonder style funk territory. Duffy's voice is a talented one. A song with this much production could easily chew up and spit out a less powerful singer. The song is a lusty love song with more than a hint of innuendo. Duffy has claimed Bettye Swann, particularly her 1968 song "Cover Me" as an influence on her own style saying  "It's very tender, but it's also, hilariously, quite crude." I'm not sure what to think of the quietly whispered rap about 2:15 into the song. It's too loud to be hidden, but too quite to be clearly heard over her continued singing. I get that it's a nod to the song being a modern one and not a true 60s soul song, and I don't think that's a bad idea. How many modern R&B tracks are 'featuring' a rap by either a big name friend of the artist, or a up-and-comer on the label, or even the singer themselves doing double duty like this is?  Plenty of course, but you can always hear them. That odd production choice is the only thing I have to complain about this really fun track.

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