(26 February 2011) Fiona Ford has released her debut solo album, a 12-track project entitled Leave Everything You Know (Independent Release (UK), 2011). Recorded and mastered at West Orange Studio in Lancashire, UK, the jewel boxed album includes a compact disc and a professionally designed 12-page black and white booklet with photography and sleeve design by Contrast Creative.
Readers will recognize Fiona Ford as the last in the series of female vocalists fronting the UK progressive rock band Fula. In fact, Fiona's album came to Musical Discoveries via Fula's first vocalist, Nadine [Plant] Plumtree who has returned to the band in recent years. Nadeen recorded two albums with Fula (Songs From Beyond The Merrygolight and Kissing Trees), preferred studio work to gigging and her role was filled briefly by Janet Galloway.
Zoe Stafford was Fula's next singer. She toured with the band and recorded the Dark Matter album but eventually departed to pursue other interests. Zoe resurfaced a few years later with One Window and City Lights. Josie Bostin joined Fula after Zoe left, toured for a couple of years and recorded The Beautiful, The Delicate and The True with the band before departing to complete her formal education. Fiona Ford replaced Josie and gigged with Fula and worked with Rob Gould for a few years before pursuing her solo career.
Fiona told us, "I've continued to sing on and off with friend Rob Gould and Fula and we've had some fantastic gigs including a performance broadcast live on Radio Caroline from the Ross Revenge ship and also a weekend of performances from inside The Devil's Arse'! (Derbyshire's famous Peak Cavern)." She continued, "I was delighted to appear on Rob's albums China and Wookey, both soundtracks to short films commisioned by underwater and cave photographer Gavin Newman." Both of these albums were recognized by The Classic Rock Society.
The music on Leave Everything You Know is by Fiona Ford and Gerard McDonald. The album was produced and engineered by Alan Gregson. Fiona told us, "Gerard and I have been partners since 2005 and not long after getting together we strarted to fuse our writing ideas, some of which date back many years." She said, "We realised we had a chemistry for writing together and slowly but surely formed Leave Everything You Know." They are so proud of the album because it sounds exactly how we'd planned. She said, "We took our time. We have been very fortunate in working with Alan Gregson, who produced the album and, with the great musicians that have played on the album.
Fiona does all the lead and most of the harmony vocal work and wrote the lyrics. The album's lineup also includes he work of her partner Gerard McDonald (hammond, saxophones, piano, synthesizers, backing vocals) and a lineup consisting of: Alan Gregson (acoustic and electric guitars, percussion, dulcimer), Steve Wren (piano), Jay Irving (drums), Joel Allison (bass), Gary Thistlewaite (bass), John Pettifer (acoustic and electric guitars, banjo), Richard Curran (mandolin, violin, viola) and Steve Wren (fender rhodes). As a showcase for Fiona's vocal work, the album is a great collection of rock, blues and pop-oriented tracks.
The album opens with the upbeat rocker "Get Real" with arrangements that support an excellent introduction of Fiona's smooth lead vocals and stunning harmonies. Tightly produced, the track shows that her lineup has great chops as well. "The Stalker" clearly complements the opening track. "Ode To The Orb" is a gentle piano-based ballad that highlights Fiona's range superbly.
"Fly" is the first of the progressive-oriented tracks on the album. Fiona's powerful vocal stylings and the band's arrangements fit perfectly together. Thick harmonies add a fantastic texture creating a stadium rock sound within the track. "Like" provides an excellent contrast with piano and crisp percussion providing the backdrop for layered vocals to a lovely pop-oriented song. Listen for the superb string arrangement.
"Just A Little Thing We Do" is a very memorable and upbeat rock track. Verse and chorus are well contrasted. The power of the chorus is underscored by the outstanding mid-secton. The almost fully a capella "Don't Throw The Baby With The Bathwater" is a welcome inclusion on this album. The gentlest ballad on the album is "Split Lip." It is sensually sung and delivered superbly. In sharp contrast, the bluesy "Hang Me From That Grapevine" illustrates yet another dimension of the artists' virtuosity. Listen for the extremely strong string parts.
Album standout "Untouchable" is a highly accessible and memorable rock track with stunning vocal layers and rich hammond- and guitar-based arrangements. The vocal harmonies and production are simply exquisite. The upbeat rocker "Danny" highlights the sheer power of Fiona's voice and ability to deliver the lyrics atop raunchy electric guitar and a thick rhythm section.
The stunning and epic title track concludes the album. The atmospheric arrangements contribute a progressive texture that is perfectly complemented by extremely rich vocal harmonies and Fiona's crystalline vocal lead. It certainly left us longing for more and eagerly anticipating another project from Fiona and Gerard.
About the making of the album, Fiona said, "Everyone was so creative and open to the songs. The musicians are all people we have worked with professionally and become friends with." The band hope that the lineup will join them on tour. They are presently securing festival dates and are open to offers of gigs and representation. Fiona's debut album is a stunning collection of diverse material!