I remember the first time I saw Hazel O’Connor on television in 1980, it was certainly a clip from the film Breaking Glass and she was there in all her colourful brilliance performing Eighth Day. I say colourful brilliance, following my parents divorce, we had been reduced back to a black and white TV set. But somehow the energy, charisma and colour of this exciting new wave singer-songwriter broke through.
O’Connor did it all again by contrast, some months later with the haunting ballad, Will You, which with its bittersweet lyrics and saxophone solo created a timeless hit which still gets regular airplay today.
No doubt it was the combination of this exciting vocal and song writing talent and producer Tony Visconti, famed for his work with David Bowie, that helped make Breaking Glass and its music such a great success.
O’Connor would quickly follow the success of Breaking Glass with her second LP Sons and Lovers, in late 1980 which spawned the top 10 single, D-Days.
In 1981, O’Connor found herself back in the recording studio reunited with Tony Visconti, putting together her third LP, Cover Plus. Combining original compositions and covers, the album is probably best remembered now for its iconic cover painting of O’Connor by artist, Edward Bell,
Cover Plus reached a respectful No.32 in the charts although in the years since its release, it’s the earlier success of Breaking Glass has overshadowed the album’s success. A long overdue reissue of Cover Plus from Cherry Red therefore redresses the balance.
Cover Plus themes resonate with many of us and were particularly personal to O’Connor as she sings of experiences of an autobiographical nature including, childhood insecurities, growing up, falling in and out of love and seeing people for who they really are. Rather than Breaking Glass, O’Connor was this time breaking ground, trailblazing a style and sound that combined a raw honesty with heartfelt performance.
(Cover Plus) We’re All Grown Up and Runaway are both particularly stand out tracks amongst O’Connor’s self-compositions. Further gems include O’Connor showing she wasn’t afraid to rework the occasional song, be it her own or somebody else’s.
Her debut single from 1979 Ee-I-Addio gets a chilling revisit with a more child-like refrain to the chorus that reflects on the horrors of a nightmare childhood, bringing greater meaning in its presentation. There are also sit up and listen renditions of Jimmy Webb’s Do What You Gotta Do, Lou Reed’s Men of Good Fortune and The Stranglers’ Hanging Around.
Cover Plus is an album in every true sense. It balances light and shade in tone and rhythm, and has the perfect climax with That’s Life a song of no regrets over a broken romance, written and presented in the style of French Chanteuse Edith Piaf. Lush with choral like backing vocals and saxophone, That’s Life makes the listener want to put the stylus back to track one and experience the album all over again.
We can’t return the stylus to the beginning on the expanded release, but Cover Plus Expanded goes on to feature several bonus cuts including the original 1979 version of Ee-I-Addio, the 7-inch version of Cover Plus, B sides and French renditions of Dawn Chorus and (appropriately, given the Piaf influence) That’s Life.
A lost classic if ever there was one, Hazel O’Connor’s Cover Plus is long overdue its deluxe reissue status and deserves to be recognised as one of the greatest albums of the early 1980s.