2009 is quite recent to state something is a ‘great album’. But where Florence Welch is concerned, I will make an exception. Recording as Florence and The Machine, that might give the impression of a large group. But it was only her, and one other woman, her collaborator Isabella Summers. Mind you, lots of producers and other musicians were involved in the production of this startlingly original album.
Florence treads a rare path, one inhabited by the likes of Kate Bush, Bjork, and few others. A female vocalist, singer/songwriter who was completely original, and as refreshing as a shower in a remote waterfall. Appearing apparently from nowhere, she went from obscurity, to overnight acclaim and fame. Before the album was released in 2009, some singles were released the previous year, serving as teasers for the public and critical reception that was to come.
With her mane of red hair, Florence was good to look at, as well as being obviously talented as a singer. She was young, feisty, and very English. ‘Lungs’ was an immediate success, spending months in the charts, and peaking at number two. In 2010, it won the Brit Award for best album, and Florence was undoubtedly on her way. I already owned the album by then, and I was lapping up the originality, and the superb vocals on offer.
Like many before her, Florence embraced the chance to create great videos to promote her songs. Making the most of her looks, and slightly ‘hippy’ style, she went from strength to strength, based on just this one album. One track was even used on a film soundtrack, widening an already excited audience.
Like other artists before her, Florence realised the beneficial effects of changing her image, promoting her femininity and sexuality, and hitting the record-buying public with imagery, dance, and sheer talent. ‘Lungs’ also tipped its hat to the old days of disco, with a cover version of Candi Staton’s ‘You’ve Got The Love’. This modern version crowned the album with class, and did something very rare. In my opinion, for what it’s worth, she surpassed all previous recordings of that classic dance track. In my life, I have rarely heard such a flawless vocal performance.
Florence carried on after ‘Lungs’ with the follow-up album ‘Ceremonials’, in 2011, and the third album ‘How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful’, in 2015. That album topped the US charts, but was less well-received in the UK. Florence continues to record and perform, but it is fair to say that she never repeated the overwhelming success she enjoyed with that first album.