Sophie Ellis-Bextor has had quite the eclectic music career spanning just over the past two decades. Cutting her teeth as vocalist on indie rock outfit theaudience, she was propelled to mainstream prominence as the voice on handbag house smash Groovejet (If This Ain’t Love) from Italian DJ Spiller, pipping Victoria Beckham‘s banger Out Of Your Mind to the top spot in an epic chart battle that raged in the red tops, who labelled Ellis-Bextor the real Posh Spice, alluding to her eloquent timbre.
She released her first solo album in 2001 and the pop disco of Read My Lips resonated, shifting very many units and filling dancefloors. Her follow up Shoot From The Hip was a more trippy and leftfield affair. Then came the nu-disco and poppers o’clock feel on Make A Scene in 2011. She embraced folk and baroque pop on the acclaimed Wanderlust in 2014 and explored this further on 2016’s Familia. This culminated in The Song Diaries in 2019, an orchestral set of her greatest hits.
As lockdown loomed in March this year, Ellis-Bextor saved us from darkness and uncertainty by filming a Kitchen Disco every Friday evening on Instagram Live for 10 weeks, during which she performed some of her classic hits and some covers. It was incredibly endearing to see her trip over mic cables and her children, while her husband Richard Jones (The Feeling) donned masks and strummed his now iconic Millennium Falcon guitar. Such was the appeal that she also filmed two specials since the first lockdown ended, an End Of Term edition and a Halloween edition just in time for lockdown 2.0, where she performed rousing covers of Ghostbusters and Kate Bush‘s Wuthering Heights dressed like the waitress from Clue.
Songs From The Kitchen Disco is a collection of her chart hits with a sprinkle of the covers she explored in her concerts by cuisinart. All of the staple smashes are here. The smooth cover of Cher‘s Take Me Home, the career-defining Murder On The Dancefloor and the cheeky, trippy kiss-off Get Over You from her first album are all still fresh as daisies. The slick disco of Mixed-Up World has added heft, the ambient synth-pop of Starlight has Richard X all over it and the Cathy Dennis penned Catch You sparkles in all its rocky electronica glory. There are some more tender moments with the beautiful chamber pop of Young Blood and the bittersweet guitar-driven Today The Sun’s On Us.
The hits aside, there is a thumping and astral cover of New Order‘s True Faith, a live version of Pulp‘s Do You Remember The First Time which suits her smoky and sincere vocal perfectly, and a stellar version of Alcazar’s Crying At The Discotheque, the video adding a powerful punch, as we see her performing in empty music venues. This version makes the hairs stand up on the back of your arm and serves to compliment the highlight of the set, the transcendent house shimmer of Heartbreak (Make Me A Dancer) with the Freemasons, echoed on the celestial dancefloor electronica of Bittersweet.
It’s a shame that there are not more of the covers here that featured in her Kitchen Discos, yet this could signal hope for an Afterparty Deluxe edition of the set as part of the campaign. The album closes with a beautiful version of My Favourite Things, and this fits Ellis-Bextor’s elegantly dictioned singing style to perfection, and is a particularly poignant end as renewed lockdown restrictions again envelop the country.
Sophie Ellis-Bextor has here ensured she will forever be the queen of the kitchen disco, and this outstanding retrospective is a shining reminder of her charm and versatility, underlining why she is a much-loved and respected artist. Magnificent.