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Having lately been playing the hell out of a couple of her late 1970s/early ‘80s albums – Winner and It’s A Man’s Man’s World, if you’re wondering, and yes, if you ever see them, buy them – and drafting some of their great moments for recent playlists, Renee Geyer has been on my mind.

Why not see what we talked about in 2007 when, having made a cracking return to form with the album, Tonight, in 2005 - with songs by Dan and Paul Kelly among others, and production by rock and art rock specialist Magoo - she made the surprising decision to do another album of older soul songs.

Safe? Hardly: song choice, arrangement and performance were all zinging. Boring? Never: whatever else one could say about Ms Geyer, the greatest soul and R&B singer Australia has yet produced, the words predictable and uninteresting would never figure.

As Wind Back Wednesday finds, she was having a pretty damn good time.


Renee Geyer is feeling pretty chuffed.

It's the end of a long day of promotion for her new album, Dedicated, just one day out of many lately that's seen her hitting the pavement, from the east coast to Perth and back again. She's ordered a cocktail, talking non-stop, laughing at how the young record company staff keep whispering about how amazed they are at her energy and her good humour.

"What did they think I was going to be? Pushing a frame?"

But what's pleasing her even more is that the response to the obscure or lesser known soul covers on Dedicated has been much better than she'd even hoped for.

"I've been doing press for 30 years and I've never done press like the reaction to this record. It's bizarre. It's very special. And I done 22 of them [albums] so I know," she says in her characteristic husky voice.

"Young people have surprised themselves by loving it. What everybody is saying is that it has that feeling about it, and I reckon this is what it does, that this record, more than [her 2003 soul covers album] Tenderland, has captured a kind of live performance. All the takes were pretty much one take, so were the vocals in the end. It's captured somehow that elusive butterfly that is a soul moment."

Geyer's satisfaction isn't just that of an artist hearing good things. As a producer - and she's been producing or co-producing herself for some time even if she didn't always take the credit - she made some brave calls. As a newly signed artist to another major label, this time EMI, she's made some surprising calls. But as she sees it, they are calls being backed up by the suits for the first time in a long time.

That's why she can't say enough about her record company. Firstly their backing for her song choices ("what record company would put out and promote like a pop record something with [Marvin Gaye's little known in Australia] Distant Lover and So I Can Love You by the Emotions when they were on Stax, before they even met Earth, Wind and Fire?") and then their plan to push her album for months and not just weeks, as is usual.

She reckons she hasn't done this much gladhanding of retailers as well as media since her brief moment as a pop star in the late 70s around the time of Say I Love You.

"I thought, golly it's a little thing to do, and all these years that I have not done it because it's all [she makes a sour face]. It's such a small thing to do these people who are actually standing there selling this,” she says. “It means that they are going to play the stuff through the shop, put it in the window."

Probably realising the obvious cynical response to this change of heart, Geyer adds: "I'm not doing this because I am desperate, I'm doing this because you get to a point in your career when you finally see how things work, how hard people work and you are investing in something that's going to be good for you.

"When I was young I didn't feel the money, everything was a job. Now I'm actually working for myself."

I confess that before hearing the album, I had assumed - wrongly as it turns out - that it would be a fairly safe record. Probably a wise business move to establish herself at a new record company, but not the adventure and pleasure offered by her last album, the mostly original but under promoted Tonight.

"There'll be more where [Tonight] came from, don't you worry about that," Geyer says wagging a finger at me. "This [soul covers album] is not where I'm heading. But this is not a safe album anyway. These songs are obscure mostly. And it was my idea."

Safe or otherwise, this album is it seems the culmination of a change in the way Geyer, long seen as our greatest soul singer, sees herself and her craft. Using her favourite extended metaphor for her connection to soul music she has a surprising confession.

"When I started singing somebody gave me a beautiful suit of clothes and I wore them. I know they never fitted me quite well but I always wore them even though I was a bit embarrassed wearing them,” Geyer says. “Well, I've grown into the suit. This record is the first time I haven't gone 'I'm trying to sound like …', it's just me.

“It's me sounding righteous. The suit fits."


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