Reviewed by Jeff Walker

My Alternative Music Standard – Radiohead – OK Computer
My Pop Music Standard – Kelly Clarkson – Breakaway
My Soul Music Standard – Sam Cooke – Portrait of a Legend: 1951-1964

The success of female British singer-songwriters with an affinity for soul music continues as Duffy’s stellar debut album delivers heartfelt and catchy tunes that capture classic Motown sounds, while still being fresh and original.

Release Date: May 13, 2008

Tracks/Length: 10 tracks / 37:50

Producers: Bernard Butler (The Libertines, guitarist from Suede), Steve Booker


Honest Opinion: While Duffy supposedly despises the comparison, it is almost impossible not to compare her to Amy Winehouse. Both are UK singer-songwriters with a penchant for throwback soul sounds that give unique spins to modern pop music. However, if they were two Catholic schoolgirls, Winehouse would be the bad girl smoking cigarettes in the bathroom, cutting class, and shortening her plaid skirt. On the other hand, Duffy seems like the girl who would sit in the front of the class, use pink pens for her lovelorn doodles, and sing in the school choir. In terms of the actual music, Winehouse’s major breakthrough Back to Black is more emotionally revealing in the lyrics as well as musically dynamic (thanks in large part to Mark Ronson’s production). Yet despite some drawbacks, Rockferry is arguably a more enjoyable listen and more consistent in the strength of its songs.

There really isn’t a bad song in the album’s ten tracks (though “Syrup & Honey” is a bit slow and “Mercy” is being played everywhere). After the one-two punch of “Rockferry” and “Warwick Avenue”, the pace slackens before picking up in the second half and ending quite strongly (which is one of my big keys for a great album). Duffy may not have a perfect voice (it cracks a bit in her higher register adding a dose of rawness and imperfection), but it is always front and center in the songs and complemented well by a mix of piano, guitar, and strings. With each listen, you discover more interesting textures adding to the re-listenability (not a word, but you get the point) of the whole album.

The biggest deficiency of Rockferry is the repetitive themes in the lyrics. Most songs either seem to be about her wanting more from her man or her finally deciding to move on. While there is diversity in the music, there are a few songs where you think, “wait, didn’t she just talk about that?”. The last song, “Distant Dreamer”, suggests that perhaps in both her personal life and as an artist she is ready to move beyond the back and forth games of modern relationships. If she continues to grow lyrically and if this album is any indication, Duffy could have a bright future that may just outlast the inevitable over-saturation of soulful Brit chicks.

1st Single Representation: Similar to Winehouse’s “Rehab”, Duffy’s “Mercy” is the most up-tempo song on an album dominated by many slower, soul-infused songs that take their time building to their climaxes. If you’re expecting an album full of “Mercy”s or were disappointed with Winehouse’s Back to Black, then avoid Rockferry and just download the single.

If You Are Going to Download Three Songs (legally of course), This Is What I Would Download: “Rockferry”, “Warwick Avenue”, “Hanging on Too Long"

Rule of 4 (if you like at least four songs the whole album is worth buying): I love the aforementioned three and think any of the four songs that follow “Hanging on Too Long” are pretty damn good as well.

Verdict: Overall, I really like this album and think that if you at all enjoy modern music incorporating elements of classic soul (as I enthusiastically do), then I recommend getting Rockferry. Don’t let the ad nauseam play of “Mercy” deter the discovery of the many gems this album possesses.

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