It happens to the best of us, I suppose. A record comes out at some point during the year, you hear it, you like it… you forget it. For whatever reason, this thing that rightfully should have become an all enveloping presence in your life has instead drifted to the back of your consciousness. Such was the case with me and Mav!s, a new collaboration from British DJ/Producer Ashley Beedle and Darren Morris on the K7! label. What they’ve done here is taken an infatuation with the Burt Bacharach composition “A House is Not a Home,” worked out an instrumental piece to pay homage to the melody of that song, asked various vocalists to contribute, then manipulated the results so that the song remains the same, but the way you hear it — from track to track — is entirely different. The project is called Mav!s, because it was Mavis Staples‘ version of “A House is Not a Home” that they fell so deeply in love with in the first place.
I was drawn to the project initially because one of the vocalists featured is Edwyn Collins. His ‘80s-era band Orange Juice was hugely important in my musical upbringing. On first glance, a musician like Edwyn seems a natural fit for a project like this one, as he always managed to seamlessly blend a variety of genres into his songs. Surely both Burt Bacharach and Mavis Staples would have been referenced a number of times both in Orange Juice’s material, and his subsequent solo work.
Here’s the thing though — in 2005, Edwyn Collins suffered a stroke so severe that he has spent every moment sense relearning everything from how to hold a toothbrush to how to sing a song. Live performances have been occurring over the past few years, but there was just something so thrilling about hearing his first new recorded material in a long time.
Of course the whole project is populated by some pretty incredible performers; Sarah Cracknell, Ed Harcourt, Candi Staton just to name a few. There are also plenty of voices here that are new to me. Each track is lovely and can easily stand on its own. However, since having picked up the CD again this past week, I’ve spent far more time concerned with how the whole thing plays out as an album. It really is stunningly beautiful to hear it in its entirety. Every song is woven together in the most seamless fashion. Having the same backing track on every song is a contributing factor for sure, but there is a subtlety at work here that others attempting a similar thing would not be able to achieve. The skillful production here has transformed this simple collection of songs into a hazy dream world of gentle grooves and sweet soul that is uniquely Mav!s.
Think of a record that you perhaps heard, liked… and forgot. Perhaps it’s time to pull it off of the shelf and give it another listen. It could very well lead to a brand new love.