Just one week until we unveil the top spot in the fifth Alfie Best Best Ever Song poll and in at number two is a song that was once part of Alfie’s live set on a regular basis but has since made way for his more recent material. The song has only once entered the top ten, at number five in 2016 and is First Time Ever I Saw Your Face:
The song was written by folk singer songwriter Ewan MacColl for Peggy Seeger before they were married although the song only became world famous when Roberta Flack’s version was used in the Clint Eastwood film, Play Misty For Me.
In a recent interview, Seeger retold the story of how the song came into being:
I told him [Euan MacColl] that I was doing a radio show and they wanted a love song and they would prefer a new one…He said, “how about this” and sang The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face
In the years since, there have been many, many cover versions, (all of them hated, at least those recorded before 1989, apparently by MacColl) but my favourite is George Michael’s version. Somewhat controversially, I once made an admission that I prefer George’s version to Alfie! It’s still the case I’m afraid, especially now that George is no longer with us.
It’s rare that I find another artist’s version better than Alfie’s version but with this song, George’s phrasing edges it for me. Certainly, it’s the best track on George’s album Songs from the Last Century. Interestingly, in a long ago radio interview, Alfie picked George Michael as having a great voice and could have been even better if he’d gone down the route of vocal training.
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