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Cliff Richard

  • Cliff Richard &
  • The Drifters
  • Cliff Sings
  • Me And My Shadows
  • 21 Today
  • The Singles Collection

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    Cliff Richard

    Cliff Richard And The Difters( 1959 )
    Apron Strings / My Babe / Down The Line / I Got A Feeling / Jet Black / Baby I Don't Care / Donna / Move It / Ready Teddy / Too Much / Don't Bug Me Baby / Driftin' / That'll Be The Day / Be Bop A Lula / Danny / Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On

    Britain had a rock and roller to call their own then? Well, yes. Cliff was a sanitised version of Elvis, if you like. He took a lot from Elvis and also from Buddy Holly. The Drifters incidentally were soon to become The Shadows due to an American band already having the name 'Drifters'. A lot of credit here needs to goto this backing group here a good three years before The Beatles emergence and already sounding energetic and dangerous. Great little guitar solos with only the wandering jazzy bass lines betraying their English origins. American players would play simpler, yet more authentic, parts. This debut Cliff Richard album then was recorded live in front of a small, invited audience. Their screams don't really add to the excitement and I wish a version was available without the screaming. As for the songs, these aren't the quality of tunes an Elvis would have recorded. Covers abound of course, with the quirky, enjoyable instrumental 'Jet Black' a notable exception. 'Baby I Don't Care' is comparable with the Elvis version, the ballad 'Donna' is quite nice and 'Move It' it taken at a frentic pace, a different version than became a hit for Cliff when released as a single. 'Ready Teddy' is a highlight of the second half of the album, a pumping rhythm section in particular a delight to listen to.

    Now, even though the album only runs to some thirty seven minutes, the lack of variation in the vocal tones of Cliff in particular begins to grate across nearly exclusively all high-tempo, rock 'n' roll material come the final third of the LP. A version of Buddy Holly's 'That'll Be The Day' fails to be a highlight then, although 'Don't Bug Me Baby' is a good showcase for these musicians, energy plus a genuine edge, the lead guitar parts something to listen out for. 'Driftin' is a 2nd instrumental on the LP, a clear nod towards what The Drifters would become when they turned from Drifters into Shadows. The lead guitar again is particularly atmospheric. What else? Well, not a lot else to say except this is clearly unfashionable music, not much attention is paid to what British musicians were doing before The Beatles came along, especially British rock musicians. Cliff and the Shadows however deserve some respect for being in the centre of the fledging pre-beatles British rock scene. Both Cliff and The Shadows would have success both together and apart and can be seen as important early musical forerunners.

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    Cliff Sings( 1959 )
    Blue Suede Shoes / The Snake and the Bookworm / I Gotta Know / Here Comes Summer / I'll String Along With You / Embraceable You / As Time Goes By / The Touch of Your Lips / Twenty Flight Rock / Pointed Toe Shoes / Mean Woman Blues / I'm Walking / I Don't Know Why / Little Things Mean a Lot / Somewhere Along the Way / That's My Desire

    Somebody on Amazon, that ever useful resource of album reviews, claims that 'Cliff Sings' was Number 8 on his list of the Best Thirteen Records of 1959. A ringing endorsement, i'm sure. Somebody else on Amazon notes "His voice still remains one of the best kept British secrets ever in the world of entertainment". I'd rather disagree that he had a good rock'n'roll voice, it was rather too polite for that. Late Seventies/Early Eighties, he had a great pop voice though, no doubt about that. A lot of the credit for the early Cliff rockers, it has to be said, should go to The Shadows, or proto-type Shadows as they were for his first couple of LPs. They create a great rockabilly type sound, reminiscent of Sun Recording studios. Lots of echo, played live in the studio and with a strong rhythm section, particularly the bass player. British musicians tended to rush through things when interpreting American music at this point in history, but that rushing is vital in giving this album it's impressive energy. 'Living Doll' became Cliff's first UK number one single, but it's not included on the LP. Good, it wouldn't really have fitted anyway. Ah, before I forget, it is of course the immortal Jet Harris on bass guitar. I shouldn't really have forgotten that. Naturally, the rock'n'roll mood is spoilt by a bunch of songs featuring Cliff rather out-of-tune and singing against a string section. Well, we can't have everything, can we? Was Cliff a genuine rock'n'roller or a light entertainer? The argument starts here, 1959. It's still being debated some fifty years later.

    Hank Marvin and Jet Harris rip through 'Twenty FLight Rock', they really do - superb stuff. Cliff then winds up the LP singing lots of soft ballads that don't really showcase him very well. Everything becomes a bit samey and his soft vocals coated in echo and strings start to irritate. Still, at least the debut Shadows LP was just around the corner.

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    Me And My Shadows 7 ( 1960 )
    I'm Gonna Get You / You And I / I Cannot Find A True Love / Evergreen Tree / She's Gone / Left Out Again / You're Just The One To Do It / Lamp Of Love / Choppin' 'n' Changin' / We Have It Made / Tell Me / Gee Whiz It's You / I Love You So / I'm Willing To Learn / I Don't Know / Working After School

    Just over half of the songs on LP were penned by members of the Shadows or Ian Samwell, early member of The Shadows and writer of 'Move It'. EMI producer Norrie Paramor was the man in the studio helming the early Cliff and Shadows records, and in fact did so right up to 1972. The records he worked on for Cliff particularly have a clean yet natural sound, the instrumentation really coming through. In addition, if you wanted some idea of how successful Norrie was, until 1997 he held jointly with George Martin the record of having produced the most UK number 1 hit singles - despite the fact he died in 1979. He wins props in my house for scoring the orchestrations on Helen Shapiro's 'Walking Back To Happiness' alone.

    There are some good songs on this record, although no classic songs arguably and certainly nothing that might have made a hit single. 'I Don't Know' for instance, by 'Move It' writer Ian Samwell is very soft Buddy Holly style. Just how important Buddy Holly was over all of music late fifties/early sixties cannot be underestimated.

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    21 Today 7 ( 1961 )
    I'm Gonna Get You / You And I / I Cannot Find A True Love / Evergreen Tree / She's Gone / Left Out Again / You're Just The One To Do It / Lamp Of Love / Choppin' 'n' Changin' / We Have It Made / Tell Me / Gee Whiz It's You / I Love You So / I'm Willing To Learn / I Don't Know / Working After School

    It is almost impossible to imagine a 21 year old Cliff Richard, isn't it? Well, the opening number is indeed Happy Birthday as played by The Shadows whilst we apparently have 'the guys' having something of a party of sorts in the background - with chatter. We are still thankfully in the Cliff plus Shadows era here. 'Catch Me', don't think it was a single, I may be mistaken. Yet, this is the kind of classy Shadows enhanced release with a soft vocal, the kind of song producer Joe Meek spent his entire career trying to get into the charts. Cliff and the Shadows were influential, whether you like it or not. Cliff goes a bit odd on 'How Wonderful To Know' - he just could not do those ballads as well as Elvis. Well, we have a UK version of course with second rate material, musicians used to playing classical music and engineers that thought they were scientists. This was Abbey Road kids, pre-beatles. 'Tough Enough' has a feel of 'All Shook Up' and is a worthy budget contender in the same musical sphere, if you understand. The album kind of progresses with high tempo number followed by low tempo number. Yet, the UK producers and engineers at the time were really very good at producing string sections that sounded like mice, Vocals beautifully recorded and with just the right amount of echo, all along with polite but full bass sounds.

    I really like 'Poor Boy' - is that wrong? It has Hank twanging away and lots of cymbals going on. That echo those Abbey Road guys got, love it to bits! Couple of years later The Beatles got very lucky to hook up with EMI, for decades one of the very best music studios and record labels on earth, shame they are now a shallow hole of their former selves. 'Poor Boy' if you watch any 'Top Of The Tops' or other music show of the era has you doing the same bloody weird 'arm dance' they did back then. Can't help it, and the rhythms here across many songs are Spanish, or Mexican or North American. Yet, we have said rhythms filtered though the British sensibility. We have clean lines, wonderful sounding vocals thanks to the production, and of course, Jet Harris on Bass. We have Hank Marvin on lead. What else do you need? Ah, 16 tracks on this album and it was the first Cliff album to hit number one on the UK charts. Sold zip worldwide otherwise, but each country has artists that do said things. Cliff did later have a couple of hits in the US, and one or two hit albums in the US, so it is not entirely true he is a UK thing only.

    Cliff sings impeccably throughout this album, the stupid song 'Tea For Two' summing up the entire enterprise. Songs are not top-rate but the production and playing certainly is. 'Tea For Two' is jazzy and as accomplished as you could possibly want it to be. The Shadows at this stage of their career as well, couldn't fail but record anything with utter class. They could also do stuff like 'Without You' which is a proper sounding rock n roll tune, albeit filtered through British recording engineers. Cliff tries Elvis, but when Cliff ever tried Elvis he sounded somewhat more like Buddy Holly only without the hiccup. His deeper vocals here and there do sound affected, but overall, '21 Today' is a thoroughly enjoyable album from start to finish, 16 songs in 40 minutes.

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    The Singles Collection 8 ( 2002 )
    Schoolboy Crush - Move It - High Class Baby - Livin' Lovin' Doll - Mean Streak - Never Mind - Living Doll - Dynamite - Travellin' Light - A Voice In The Wilderness - Fall In Love With You - Please Don't Tease - Nine Times Out Of Ten - I Love You - Theme For A Dream - Gee Whizz It's You - When The Girl In Your Arms - What'd I Say - The Young Ones - I'm Looking Out The Window - Do You Wanno Dance - It'll Be Me - Bachelor Boy - The Next Time - Summer Holiday - Lucky Lips - It's All In The Game - Constantly - Don't Talk To Him - I'm The Lonely One - On The Beach - The Twelfth Of Never - I Could Easily Fall - The Minute You're Gone - Angel - On My Word - Wind Me Up - The Time In Between - Blue Turns To Grey - In The Country - Time Drags By - Visions - It's All Over - I'll Come Running - The Day I Met Marie - All My Love - Congratulations - I'll Love You Forever Today - Don't Forget To Catch Me - Marianne - Good Times (Better Times) - Big Ship - With The Eyes Of A Child - Goodbye Sam - I Ain't Got Time Any More - Sunny Honey Girl - Silvery Rain - Flying Machine - Sing A Song Of Freedom - Living in Harmony - Brand New Song - Jesus - Power To All Our Friends - Help It Along - Take Me High - It's Only Me You've Left Behind - Honky Tonk Angel - Devil Woman - Miss You Nights - I Can't Ask For Any More Than You - Hey Mister Dream-Maker - My Kinda Life - When Two Worlds Drift Apart - Please Remember Me - Yes He Lives - Can't Take The Hurt Any More - Green Light - We Don't Talk Any More - Hot Shot - Carrie - Dreamin' - A Little In Love - Wired For Sound - Daddy's Home - The Only Way Out - Where Do We Go From Here - Little Town - True Love Ways - Please Don't Fall In Love - Never Say Die - Baby You're Dynamite - Ocean Deep - Shooting From The Heart - Heart User - It's In Every One Of Us - My Pretty One - She's So Beautiful - Born To Rock 'n' Roll - Some People - Remember Me - Two Hearts - Mistletoe And Wine - The Best Of Me - I Just Don't Have The Heart - Lean On You - Stronger Than That - From A Distance - Saviour's Day - Silhouettes - More To Life - We Should Be Together - This New Year - I Still Believe In You - Peace In Our Time - Human Work Of Art - Never Let Go - Misunderstood Man - Healing Love - Be With Me Always - Can't Keep This Feeling In - The Miracle - The Millennium Prayer - Somewhere Over The Rainbow - What A Wonderful World - Let Me Be The One

    127 solo singles, spread over six CDs. Why bother? Well, read on. Whilst Cliff remains obscure in America, he's been popular almost everywhere else for many, many years. This collection goes from 1958 right through to 2002, for example. He's actually, my sources tell me, the most sucessful British singer of all time and is likely to remain so. Considered a joke for a considerable amount of time, i'll lose all my remaining credibility even covering him. He's like the Royal Family and December the 25th, an institution. How did he become an institution though? Two main routes to doing so, actually do something worthwhile or court controversy in order to become famous, then cling onto it. Cliff did the former. The first disc in this six disc set focuses on his rock n roll sides. Britain was hardly crawling with their own rock n roll artists. Cliff did enough to be labelled the British Elvis, although in hindisght, Cliff was a very different, far cleaner cut type of singer. In serious rock and roll circles, for example, certainly in this country 'Move It' is still labelled as a classic. The sheer energy of the performance does it for me and with The Shadows backing Cliff on many of these early recordings, you can't go too far wrong with early Cliff material. Nearly all rockers, the first ballad arrives ten tracks in, a pretty good Elvis-type ballad 'Voice In The Wilderness' with great, atmospheric guitar from Hank Marvin. Apart from 'Move It' though, the next huge hit that I remember was 'The Young Ones', so beloved of early eighties alternative comedians. It's no more cheesy than any Elvis hit of the era and just as catchy and memorable as many of the Elvis hits. This is pre-beatles British pop at its very best, very Buddy Holly influenced vocally, rather than Elvis, interestingly. Great swooping string sections, all wrapped up in a three minute pop song. It's truly a lost art in this age of Girls Aloud and Boyz II Men.

    An unexpected highlight of Disc I has to be 'It'll Be Me', a song I'd never heard before. A great rock number with a stinging vocal delivery full of desire and raunch. Yes, raunch from Cliff! 'Bachelor Boy' is more familiar fare, the kind of cheesy song Paul McCartney would have sung in 1975. Forward onto? Well, the title track from the hugely fun 'Summer Holiday' film. You'll know this song, it's part of the national conciousness. Cliff by now has developed a smooth vocal delivery that's pure class. So, we continue on our way and Cliff suddenly seems less sure footed than before. Disc II for example opens with a well intentioned ballad performance 'Constantly' but it just falls flat and emotionless for me. In true, inconsistent Cliff style 'On The Beach' is a Shadows backed guitar number, excellent pre-beatles rock and pop. The guitar work and the rhythm section truly excel. Moving past some sub-par numbers again, 'The Time Inbetween' is genuinely good. Speedy, slightly jumpy yet with a smooth pop vocal that works in contrast. It comes across as an energetic Cliff fronting Love circa their Byrds flavoured days. A great pop tune this, it really is. These kind of things are the reason 'The Singles Collection' is a great buy at less than 20 on Amazon. You're getting enough great songs for your money between the lesser moments. You're also getting a history lesson of sorts of the changing British music scene for the past fifty years.

    The mid to late Sixties, early Seventies saw a Cliff Richard lost at sea releasing increasingly inferior work to indifferent responses. Come the mid Seventies, his career was restored with one of his finest ballad performances during the song 'Miss You Nights'. It's a million miles removed from the then on-coming Punk storm and sees a grown up Cliff releasing a grown up ballad for his audience who suddenly remembered why they liked him in the first place. Cliff has that honesty in his personality. His Christianity also means we don't look upon him as a kind of money-grabbing rock star, rather that Cliff is in the business because he actually enjoys music. I'm not going to be critical of anyone who genuinely loves music, whatever the differences in our tastes. 'Miss You Nights' ends up soaring in overblown mid-seventies style yet Cliff keeps a tight grip on the emotion in the song and lets it out slowly. He then gets funky with American top ten hit 'Devil Woman', his biggest tune in America by miles and surprising those critics who had expressed a disgust for the sort of bland material Cliff had been performing. 'Devil Woman' is proper though, a rock band performance with funky bass lines. Some of Cliffs finest tunes are from this era, notably 'We Don't Talk Anymore', 'Carrie' and 'Wired For Sound', classics all. 'We Don't Talk Anymore' is genuinely classic pop music and continues with the funky bass lines and full band performance of 'Devil Woman'. 'Carrie' is an always intriguing, classy slice of pop and 'Wired For Sound', slightly embarassing lyrics aside, is just great pop music. So there.

    As Cliff moved into the eighties and beyond, finding rich pickings becomes increasingly more difficult. We'd have the annual attempts at the Xmas number one spot and middle of the road ballad pop songs. He even hooked up with Stock, Aitken and Waterman for awhile, heaven help us all. The musical 'point' of Cliff beyond those Xmas and New Year tunes, memorable ones admittedly, is a little hard to argue for once we get into this era. 'Millenium Prayer' became a surprise massive hit for him though and is indeed stirring come that time when one year flows into the next. Next year, i'm getting married ( 2008 ), Cliff music will likely be absent from the reception, but i'm glad i've got this set that contains nearly all of his singles. He's easy to dismiss but has given us some great music here and there through the years.

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    this page last updated 26/09/10

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