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It may seem perverse, after a few days in town where Martha Wainwright and Angie McMahon were powerful and brilliant and in no way blancmange, and recently Beth Orton played shows that from all reports were stunning. But hey, the calendar is relentless and we can’t argue.

So the 25th anniversary of one of the bigger albums at the end of last century and the beginning of this one – it was released in mid-1999 and then went ballistic when pushed to the whole world two years later, which is when it found its way to my desk – means we can throw coincidence and contrasting taste in the air.

Dido’s No Angel has sold more than 15 million copies, reached the top of the charts from Australia, France and Greece to the UK, New Zealand and Finland – finishing top 5 in places like the USA, Poland, Canada and the Netherlands – and won a Brit Award.

Interestingly – well, ok, mildly interestingly – in Australia, the album deposed from the number one by No Angel was Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP, which featured the song Stan, a track that sampled Dido’s Thank You, which he or his producers had heard in its first, much less heralded incarnation in 1999’s original American release of No Angel.

The combination suited everyone; this review may not have fared so well. But it’s not as if the world cared one wit then or now for such carping. And Ms Dido returned from a long family break in 2019 with an album, Still On My Mind, that suggested she wasn’t any more interested in those opinions nearly 20 years on.




No Angel (BMG)

DIDO ARMSTRONG’S VOICE borders on the lazy. It's slow to rise, regularly threatens to be slightly behind the beat and always sounds as if she is only now waking up.

These are part of its attraction, along with a slightly out-of-its-time timbre that suggests late-'60s English folk more than girlpower days.It's one reason why it worked a treat when potty-mouthed rapper Eminem sampled her song Thank You on his otherwise scabrous American hit Stan last year, contrasting both in sweetness and relative timelessness with his tale of a stalker all too modern in mind and deed.

And Thank You is sweet. So sweetly innocent, in fact, you could tempt Gary Glitter to turn on his computer and download. It's a perfect song for a perfume ad or that scene in a Julia Roberts film when the wind blows through her hair, the sun shines in golden hues and her smile flashes brilliantly. Expect to hear it on stations devoted to music to clean houses by.

The rest of No Angel isn't quite that sweet but the folkishness remains, tempered by a beat-consciousness not too surprising for an occasional singer with UK electronic outfit Faithless, led by her brother Rollo (who has co-written several of the songs on No Angel with Dido).

The most promising of those beat/folk songs is the opening track, Here With Me, which at first swings between verses with pronounced drum loops in that slightly dragging trip-hop style and a more mellow chorus before the drums invade that, too.

After that song the quality is even but not particularly outstanding, except for the nicely bitter Don't Think Of Me, where Dido leans into the microphone with just the right amount of venom to underscore the building strings.

Dido lacks the grace notes, the lyrical and emotional depth that Beth Orton has or the richer voice of Everything But the Girl's Tracey Thorn or even the quirks that Dolores O'Riordon of the Cranberries offered. But it's likely that Dido will break through where the likes of the much superior Orton and Aimee Mann haven't, for there's enough smoothness in these songs to soothe and just the right amount of Corrs-like traditional-lite sound in songs such as ballads My Lover's Gone and All You Want to be comforting rather than disturbing.




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