Weekend Intermission is our regular feature where we look at an artist or band not from the Nordic countries, just to mix things up a bit.
The second in what may be a short, sharp series in the Weekend Intermission section during the extended Nordic vacation period asks what happened to Kelly Llorenna, the voice of N-Trance’s biggest hit, the 1990s (multiple release) classic and peerless dance anthem ‘Set you free’.
She entered the business at a similarly young age to that of the previously featured artist, Amy Studt, and, like Amy, I’m glad to report she is still going strong.
That dance track, in my opinion the best of its genre, period, isn’t Kelly’s only notable hit or contribution by any means but it is the one almost everyone remembers above all others, reaching #2 in the charts in 1995 and then #4 when rereleased for a third time a few years later.
Written only a few hundred metres (or yards as we still call them in these parts) from where I am right now – and initially ignored by the media and public alike – it went on to play a large part in establishing house/rave music in the UK and N-Trance went on to have 14 chart singles in the UK between 1994 and 2004.
Kelly was only 16 when she recorded it, having been seconded from Oldham College by the song’s writers Kevin O’Toole and Dale Longworth, themselves students there of sound engineering, in a sublime example of serendipity.
Prior to N-Trance she’d formed a band with fellow drama students, coincidentally called Freedom.
And what a tune it is. Kelly Llorena’s tremendous vocals are only one thing to admire but she is the ‘voice’ of ‘Set you free’ every bit as much as Iselin Solheim is of ‘Faded.’ You can’t imagine anyone else singing it.
(Including Sam Ryder. Good try lad, but it ain’t a power ballad).
Along with those vocals are the fabulous syncopation and directional changes in the introductory piano part in this early (1992) White Label version, for my money the most impressive of any of the many versions and remixes you’ll find scattered around the internet.
The relationship between the synths and piano throughout is one night in heaven culminating in perfect coitus. And I bet you never thought you’d read anything like that in here.
But this article isn’t about ‘Set you free’ or N-Trance, it’s about Kelly Llorenna. Over the years she’s returned to collaborate with N-Trance which never went away either but in 1995 just as the song obtained its first big chart success Kelly launched her solo career with the song ‘Brighter Day’ which reached the UK Top 40.
In 1997, she returned to N-Trance to sing on their cover version of the Rod Stewart hit ‘Da Ya Think I’m Sexy’ and she would continue to sing on their hits which included covers of the Guns N’ Roses’ ‘Paradise City’ and the Jackson 5’s ‘Shake ya body’ although not always credited.
In 2001, she appeared on Flip & Fill’s ‘True Love Never Dies’ which when re-released in 2002, became a Top 10 hit. She has continued to collaborate with Flip & Fill on and off ever since.
In 2002, re-launching her solo career, she released a solo album, called ‘All clubbed up’, which featured her most well-known work including a cover version of Taylor Dayne’s ‘Tell it to my heart’, which went Top 10 in October 2002, as well as a new version of ‘Heart of Gold’, a song she originally recorded with Force & Styles in 1998.
In 2004, she again reached the UK Top 15 with a cover version of Donna Summer’s hit ‘This time I know it’s for real’.
In 2007, she reunited again with Kevin O’Toole to record new tracks for N-Trance’s forthcoming album.
At the same time she was working with Love to Infinity on a number of new tracks for their forthcoming album, including ‘Hot Stuff’ (another Donna Summer track).
2009 saw another return to her solo career, this time with a cover of the Madonna song, ‘Dress you up’, which reached No.1 on the dance charts but also a continuation of the collaboration with the Grammy-nominated Love to Infinity, three brothers working in production and mixing for a host of global artists but also an ‘act’ in their own right.
Then, 2010 saw Kelly forming a new band with Love to Infinity, known as Freak Asylum, and working with Peter Hook from New Order.
That arrangement seems to have lasted a few years and saw Kelly dressing in custom made latex outfits by all accounts, but afterwards things get a little vague and hazy and I did wonder at one time if she might have dropped out of the business. It happens.
There’s certainly a large gap, throughout the 2010s, where there is little mention of her. I remember about five years ago Oldham Council put on a music festival over a summer weekend and she was one of the artists. Slotted in for a mid-afternoon show someone else cancelled and they put her on an hour early so that droves of people turned up ‘too late’ to see her.
I was about to say that only Oldham Council could be capable of such incompetence but of course Manchester City Council somehow contrived to allow The Hacienda, the globally famous 1990s nightclub where the germ of the idea for ‘Set you free’ was conceived, to be converted into a tacky block of flats.
Anyway, a little digging quickly revealed that she’s still performing, apparently solo but also with Flip & Fill, at festivals, ‘90s special shows’ and ‘club’ reunion shows, recently in Preston, Wigan, Sunderland, Scarborough, and Wakefield.
She has a particular penchant for Pride festivals.
A list of forthcoming shows can be found here: https://www.skiddle.com/artists/Kelly-Llorenna-123507426/
And yes, she’s still singing ‘Set you free’ at every opportunity, a song she has often said she simply “loves to sing.”
There’s very little in the public domain about Kelly’s private life, which is as it should be I suppose. I can’t tell you if she’s single or married, who she’s dating, her height and weight, her shoe size, her bra size, her ‘net worth’, where she goes on holiday or any other of the celebrity gossip nonsense that pervades the internet.
Even if she’s still living in Oldham; though I doubt it.
What I can say for sure is that she has a voice that might be heard from Tommyfield Market to Mumps roundabout in her home town without any artificial amplification. She redefined the vocalist’s ‘belt,’ and especially on ‘Set you free’, where it sounds like she’s singing to save her life.
But what a sweet voice it is too; and long may it continue.
Find her on: