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Last Updated: Monday, 6 September, 2004, 07:43 GMT 08:43 UK
Alison Moyet frees her voice
By Tom Bishop
BBC News Online entertainment staff

Alison Moyet
Alison Moyet covers Burt Bacharach and Jacques Brel songs on new album Voice
Acclaimed British singer Alison Moyet has temporarily put her own songs aside to perform an album of cover versions with a classical orchestra.

It is the latest twist in the star's career, which began 22 years ago in groundbreaking synth duo Yazoo alongside Erasure's Vince Clarke.

Twenty million album and singles sales later, Moyet has enjoyed global success as a solo artist and endured a protracted dispute with ex-record company Sony before being vindicated by her hit 2002 album Hometime.

"After my versions of Love Letters and That Ole Devil Called Love did well, there was definite pressure for me to become some sort of jazz diva," she said.

Changing taste

"But I was a 23-year-old single parent then dealing with various demands, which were sometimes tough, and I was not ready for that kind of music.

"Now as a 43-year-old I'm finding that reflective, beautiful songs appeal to me."

Inspired by her performance with the BBC Concert Orchestra, broadcast on BBC Radio 2 last year, Moyet teamed up with Oscar-winning arranger Anne Dudley.

"That was the first time I had actually sung with an orchestra," Moyet said. "It was terrifying but also fantastic.

Alison Moyet and Chicago cast
Chicago was the most fantastic thing because I got to sing every day and I was part of a troupe where I was really accepted
Alison Moyet
"No-one in an orchestra will ad lib to catch you up if you get something wrong, but you also know that no-one will ever throw in a bum chord, so you have that support."

New album Voice features songs written by Burt Bacharach, Elvis Costello and Jacques Brel alongside childhood favourites and standards Cry Me a River, The Man I Love and Windmills Of Your Mind.

Part of the challenge was for Moyet to put down her guitar and rely upon somebody else's compositions.

"I'm not the most prolific writer, I don't wake up and just desire to write every day," she admitted.

"But I am quite a prolific singer, in the sense that I have a versatility and I don't want to be limited purely to the songs that I can write."

New respect

This impulse led Moyet to spend six months playing the part of prison madam Mama Morton in West End musical Chicago, an experience she relished.

"Doing Chicago was the most fantastic thing because I got to sing every day and I was part of a troupe where I was really accepted as a human being and welcomed without being the centre of attention," she said.

It also gave Moyet new respect for the stars of musical theatre, which in her early days as a pub rocker she regarded as "a bit naff".

Alison Moyet and Peter Powell
She has had 15 hit singles in the UK with Yazoo and as a solo artist
"I have seen how cosseted musicians are in comparison to these troupers, who are paid infinitely less and whose working conditions are much harder. They are really quite incredible dedicated artisans."

Her stint in Chicago was followed by a Brits nomination for Hometime, an album written by Moyet two years earlier which she fought to have released in the face of a lack of interest by ex-record company Sony.

"It was tough persuading Sony to give me my record back after they decided not to release it," she said.

"A vocalist can be like an athlete, and I could see my prime years going out of the window.

"So when Sanctuary released it and I got the reviews of my life, it was the open-mindedness of people that touched me more than anything."

Family scrutiny

Despite talking freely, Moyet said she will not write an autobiography as she has "absolutely no right" to expose her husband and three children to scrutiny.

Instead she intends to appear in a play with comedian and friend Dawn French and to perform live with an orchestra "to see how well I have managed to master these songs".

One thing's for sure - Moyet will not be trying to emulate her 1985 Live Aid performance, soon to be released on DVD.

"Live Aid was two months after I had given birth to my first son and I was the size of a small office building," she said.

"I had done my own hair but had forgotten to do the back bit. So I will avoid looking at that DVD."

Voice by Alison Moyet is released by Sanctuary Records on 6 September.

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