Personally, I regard Mark Northfield as a sort of national treasure. Although I am sure that the man and his cravat will one day dissolve into a pool of Noel Coward seasoned self loathing, it remains a simple fact that he is a songwriter of quality.
Within the digital walls of his album “Alterations”, he stretches himself beyond his normal inspirations of musical theatre and the American popular song and takes on all comers in a 10 song match against the triviality of the modern music business. He also has perhaps the longest explanations for each of his songs on his website but I like my rather simpler conclusion. If you had actual musical talent, as Mr Northfield clearly has, then it has to be galling, to say the least, as yet another fourteen year old plastic toy soaking up the millions during their mercifully short bout of Saturday night television promoted chart domination. So, what do you do in such circumstances? You do what Mr Northfield does best and you cleverly weave one song into another and pepper the constructional perfection with both spirited performances - Ellen Jakubiel and Alexandra Howlett provide exceptional assistance here – and the kind of wry lyrics that take grumpiness and dump it squarely on the table of Noel Coward. “Up Shit Creek Blues” and “The Death of Copyright” are prime examples of the effectiveness of the Northfield approach.
I may well have said this before but, and you may well reach the same conclusion as the drama underpinning the performances on this album make their mark on you, that Sir Cameron Mackintosh should get Mark Northfield on his books and force him – at gunpoint, natch – to write a musical about a Northern lass leaving the Hovis factory to escape to the bright lights of seventies London and, there, to find love (and fame as a pianist in Abba’s touring band). The coach parties of the land would converge on any theatre that ran it. On a serious note though, methinks Mark Northfield writes out of both love and misery and that is what makes him a treasure and his album, “Alterations”, a joy.