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Julia Fordham: China Blue

Two decades, 10 albums and sales in the multimillions after her eponymous debut, British pop star Julia Fordham has opted to shift into a smooth-jazz groove for this assemblage of fresh compositions and reworkings of earlier hits. Fordham’s oxymoronic fragile sturdiness evokes a porcelain-like beauty that suggests the ethereal purity of Kate Bush crossed with the earthier mew of Cleo Laine. Akin to Patti Cathcart, Fordham floats on soft rhythmic clouds as she gently muses about the sweetness of love in all its guises. When she delivers lace-trimmed missives like “My Only Valentine” and “For You Only for You” (from 1989’s Porcelain), it’s hard not to be swept up in all her cuddly warmth.

Nor can the bouncy travelogue “I Want to Stay at Home With You” (written for her infant daughter and included on her 2007 EP Baby Love) fail to delight. And, given her delicate air, her expressed desire to escape the “clutter and clatter” of workaday life in “Holiday” seems entirely understandable. But, as best evidenced by the album’s sole cover, a deep-aching treatment of Leiber and Stoller’s “I Keep Forgettin'” (complete with Michael McDonald on backing vocals) as gray and barren as a rain-soaked October afternoon, Fordham can navigate heartache as easily as heart-filled joy.

Originally Published