Since Cuddly Toy reached number four in the charts back in 1988 - when, at its peak, it was selling 33,000 copies a day - Andrew Roachford has carved out a career for himself as one of the most compelling, and consistent, rock and soul artists the UK has produced. He has released 10 studio albums, several greatest hits collections, has been approached to write for various other artists including Chaka Khan, Michael Jackson and Joss Stone, and toured with contemporaries including Terence Trent D’Arby and The Christians. For the past nine years, he has been part of Mike + the Mechanics, recording with Mike Rutherford’s post-Genesis band, playing live with them across the world. His enduring career perhaps shouldn’t be surprising, because in so many ways Roachford was born to do this. Raised in south-east London, he comes from a musical family, his father a drummer, his uncle a saxophonist. He was out on the road with his uncle from the age of 14, and by 15 was working in a studio with The Clash. In his early 20s, he signed a seven-album deal with Columbia, and would go on to be one of the label’s most successful acts for the next decade with a string of hits singles and international success.
He is someone who channels the energy of James Brown before going on stage each night, and who, on record, summons up the spirit of everyone from Al Green to Joe Cocker. When he sings, you listen.
‘Twice in a Lifetime’ is the album he’s been gearing up to make for decades. It’s the sound of someone at the top of their game, of one who knows his craft inside out. Produced by Jimmy Hogarth, who has previously worked with Paolo Nutini, Duffy and Amy Winehouse, and featuring several members of Winehouse’s band, it’s full of grit and the most tremendous sonic energy, tracks like ‘Are You Satisfied?’ throbbing with Stax-era musicality and soul. Lyrically, meanwhile, the album reveals an artist who has unambiguously Lived A Life. ‘High On Love’, echoes Womack and Womack in both its celebration of the purity of love but also the acknowledgement that love can often come from a dark place, the brilliant ‘Won’t Think Twice’ is about those lessons we learn from relationships we have conspired, often unwittingly, to break. Another album highlight is the track ‘What We Had’, a duet with Beverley Knight.
And so, in 2020, Andrew Roachford finds himself writing and recording the best songs of his life. He’s come a long way since the giddy chart success of Cuddly Toy, with his deep-rooted desire to work at his trade and to make great music ever-present and never stronger.
Those efforts have been duly noted: earlier this year, he was awarded an MBE for Services to Music.
He’s a survivor, too, and it’s the survivors in this game that make the best music, those whose work is not mere artifice, but rather the real deal.