Throughout my years involved in or around the music business I’ve managed to accumulate an immense amount of recordings. Every so often I venture into my warehouse space to sift through my treasures with the half-hearted intension of putting some of my “collectables” on Ebay. At one time I began to catalogue my hoard but gave up one day because I was running out of sub-categories for Techno. Consequently there are now stacks of crates labeled: “To Be Sorted”.
Today I nonchalantly rummaged through one those crates and came across an album that has always intrigued me. Like much of my collection, it was sent to me unsolicited, nothing unusual about that except this was 1999. In those days almost everyone sent out promo CD’s not vinyl. When I’d originally unwrapped the platter the cover artwork prompted me to put this one in my “Keep” pile even if the music proved to be crap. Seductive cover photos rarely tell the truth and most often mislead, (Norman Seeff’s brilliant cover for Carly Simon’s Playing Possum excepted). Nicola Waddinton Almost There the sleeve simply announces over an alluring photo of a young lady…er…um…rubbing her leg? Is she Nicola? And where was almost there?
Side one opens with a spare minimalist drum and bass line on Ancient Love, then over an almost classical guitar coda Ms. Waddington begins to sing. Think an English Francoise Hardy filtered through Hope Sandoval, a hint of Tracy Thorn with echoes of Lisa Gerrard. Haunting, was my first reaction and still is. The more up-tempo second track, Make Me finds the chanteuse managing to perform little yelps at the end of every verse that sound as if she is in the throws of ecstasy. Track three is a startling cover of The Cowboy Junkies Lay It Down where Nicola completely transforms the song into her own adding a peculiar rap-style finish over a long fade. Side two begins suddenly with a thundering drum roll then the harsh statement “Fuck you!” as Ms. Waddington delivers the title track Almost There, clearly a tirade about an unreasonable lover. Together We Took The Trouble To Never Learn is next, a sad slow song that clocks in at nearly nine minutes and easily my favorite. The last track Missing is almost an instrumental, Nicola Waddington appears after four minutes to repeatedly whisper the phrase, “Take my time I don’t use it”. The work as whole is extraordinary, complicated and fascinatingly unique. According to meager information on the sleeve the disc was released on the Patience and Cream imprint, recorded at Olympic Studios in London and produced by Saint Luc D’ Arms. More information about this curiosity I don’t have.