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New anthology keeps MacColl's legacy alive

This past week, a colleague approvingly compared the new material on the third album by Scots songwriter Paolo Nutini with the phenomenally successful Back To Black album by Amy Winehouse, quickly adding she had immediately sent up a prayer for the young Paisley chap when the thought had occurred.

In fact, there was some musical rapport between the two, before the latter's decline, and they did perform together - so any similarity may not be entirely coincidental.

The reason for the word with the Almighty was that Nutini, right, was 27 in January, and although he seems a well-adjusted chap with a very supportive family and network of professional collaborators, that was the age at which Winehouse and a remarkable list of pop musicians succumbed to the pressures of stardom. The 27 Club, as it is somewhat tastelessly called, was founded by Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, and has been the subject of Fringe theatre shows as well as acres of speculative journalism, to which I suppose I am already in danger of adding.

This very day, in fact, is the 20th anniversary of the death of another famous name on the list, Kurt Cobain of Nirvana, an occasion that seems to have been marked by rather fewer commemorative articles than might have been expected. He may, however, be birling in his grave to know his batty widow Courtney Love appears to have used the occasion to sanction a Broadway musical based on his life - although I reckon Kyle Falconer, of Dundee band The View, should be a shoo-in for the lead in that.

Anyway, we come this weekend not to extend the hack's school of spurious coincidences, but to celebrate another tragic loss - the result of an appalling accident rather than any drug-accelerated breakdown. Monday sees the release of a two-disc anthology covering the career of Kirsty MacColl, below, who was still far too young at 41 when she was hit by a speedboat while on holiday in Mexico with her two teenage sons. With 43 tracks, it is by far the most thoughtful compilation of her work since her death in December 2000, by which time she already had a career two-decades long, somewhat stop-start though it was.

As an avid collector of every release on the Stiff Records label in the late 1970s, I have her debut single as a teenager, They Don't Know, a song that was a transatlantic hit for Tracey Ullman five years later. And in the last year of her life I saw her front a band as big as Nutini's current outfit on the stage of King Tut's in Glasgow as she toured her Latin American-flavoured final album, Tropical Brainstorm. My Herald review of the February 2000 gig read somewhat pointantly by the end of that year, and still does, as I talked of her new direction as a "work in progress" and arrogantly offered advice on its development. "I hope she sticks with it. Ditch the music stands, share the vocals, and loosen up, and the MacColl Latin experience could become a new Kid Creole And The Coconuts," I wrote.

When she died, online bulletin boards were full of a remarkable number of people who were at the same Glasgow gig, which presumably proves only that MacColl had a large number of literate, sharing Scots fans. They will all be delighted with the new All I Ever Wanted double album, which has rarities and live tracks alongside the essential singles and other much-loved songs. Billy Bragg described her as "the missing link between Sandie Shaw and Lily Allen" and I don't think I can improve on that.

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