MHM008 - Painting by Numbers (2013)
A fine gem of an album. Stripped-down and bare, or "nearly naked" as she puts it, these songs are straight from Mary herself, recorded at home or with friends. With just the barest instrumentation, mostly herself on guitar, Mary's voice shines through on 10 of her own songs. Friends Benny Gallagher and Brian Willoughby help out on songwriting and guitar on one track each, but the rest is pure Mary.
Mary's son, Morgan Visconti, produced track 5, 'Gold and Silver'. He said "Mary recorded the basic guitar and vocal in about 10 minutes during the sessions which later became You Look Familiar.
"It clearly stood out as a song that was so pure that it worked better without any production around it - the other songs being quite dense. Later we decided to hold it back from the album for that reason."
Read more about 'Gold and Silver' on our blog pages.
The video has been gathering favourable attention on Youtube (but you can watch it here).
Rescued from darker reaches of her attic, these recordings have no master back-up, which means they will stay as they are... for now.
Neil King, Fatea
It probably dates by Mary Hopkin and myself to state that Mary was one of the first singers that I had a real recognition of, introduced to her wonderful voice through my parents record collection back when she was recording on Apple. I'm pleased to say that I've managed to update that tradition by introducing her to one of my boys via Apple as his immediate reaction to hearing, Painting By Numbers was to ask for a copy for his ipod.
Painting By Numbers is the most stripped back album I've ever heard from Mary. With the exception of two guest appearances from Benny Gallagher and Brian Willoughby, who both get a guitar and songwriting credit apiece the album is pure Mary, just her, her songs and her guitar.
That stripped back approach really does highlight the pureness and beauty of her voice, one that defies the year to sound as fresh today as when I first heard it and one that does open her up to a new generation, who may not be as aware of her heritage.
The album opens with the title track and that immediately lets you know that you're about to hear something special, just how special it gets becomes clear when you get to 'Gold And Silver', a track that has already gained favour on Youtube and one that made me go back to the following track, 'Improvisation', not because it's a bad track, more that I was still basking in the joy of its predecessor and missed the beginning. It's well worth going back for as it creates a wonderful atmosphere of mystery with some brilliant voice work and is probably the most full bodied track on the album.
In short if you've never come across Mary Hopkin before, you could take Painting By Numbers as a really good introduction to an artist that sounds fresh enough for her to give the likes of Ellie Goulding a run for the money. If, on the other hand, you're a well established fan, then this is definitely an album that will more than enhance your collection.