I KNEW HER FIRST as Marcy Levy, a noticeably beautiful girl singer who played with Eric Clapton and Leon Russell a lifetime and a half ago. She is credited as co-author on the song Lay Down Sally, which appeared on Clapton’s 1977 album Slowhand. Work it out: that’s 36 years ago.
She went on to become half of Shakespears Sister, writing the haunting song Stay, which did just that when it got to the top of the UK charts and stayed there for eight weeks. These days she’s simply Marcella Detroit, and she’s still an absolute bloody knockout.
My pal Paul Pacifico, who runs the All Stars Collective, snuck me and the missus into Marcy’s London gig at Apartment 58 underneath Centre Point in May 2013. It’s a tiny venue, a bar with a balcony, and we found ourselves so close to the front that we were getting in the way of the instruments.
The band was huge for such a small space: trumpet, sax, keyboard, bass, drums, percussionist, backing vocalist and, frankly, brilliant guitarist. I’m guessing that Paul provided some or all of them from the session musicians that make up the Collective. Marcy fronted in exhausting style and Paul played harmonica – blues harp – on one song, although I wish he’d done more: he’s up there with the best.
The gig was to “start up” Marcy’s new album The Vehicle, which she produced in an amazing 16 days. If you can hear the speed of production in it at all, it’s in the freshness of the sound – a mix of jazz, funk, R&B and country.
Marcy looks 20 years younger than she really is and she has lost none of her vocal power. Her range is simply amazing, as anybody who saw her in TVs Popstar to Operastar would have heard, and the energy she throws into her performance is humbling. I don’t think I’ve ever had that much enthusiasm for anything, and I would consider myself an enthusiast.
My favourite song of the evening was Good Girl Down, a real post-Motown soul tune with horns and vocal punctuation – ‘hoop’ – from the backing singers. Listen to it here, and be amazed: