Friday, November 16, 2012

Cliff Richard - 2 in 1

Cliff Richard - 21 Today (1961)

Not many albums are titled after their release date, but October 14, 1961, was a significant date whichever way you look at it, as Cliff Richard finally advanced into adulthood. He could drink alcohol. He could vote. He could drive a car. He could even have sex. And the fact that he was already the single most popular and successful solo pop star Britain had (or would) ever produced did not diminish the significance of the event. His fifth album even opens with a distinctly stylized Shadows version of "Happy Birthday To You," over which Cliff, the band and sundry friends revel in his new found freedom... "we should get the young ladies a drink," says someone and, perhaps, we should be grateful that the track fades out quickly after.

In fact, it would not necessarily be a bad thing if the entire album followed suit. While by no means the nadir of Cliff's recording career, 21 Today is very much a portrait of the artist on auto-pilot, a succession of pleasant mid-tempo ballads, with Shadows-lite backing, soaring strings a-go-go and - the curse of British MOR later in the decade - the utterly wholesome oohs, aahs and echoes of an army of clean-living backing youths.

A couple of tracks buck the trend - "Without You" and "Tough Enough" are gritty Shadows-led stompers, while Hank Marvin and Bruce Welch's "Y'Arriva" at least packs an intriguingly mock-Spanish backing, to match vocal stylings lifted straight from an old Speedy Gonzales cartoon. There is also a bizarre version of "Tea For Two," Cliff giving it his best well-mannered showband vocal, while the Shadows noodle away in best smokey jazzclub style.

Overall, however, 21 Today is the sound of a singer growing old before his time and hindsight insists that it is no coincidence that, within a year of its release, the arrival of the Beatles had already consigned Cliff to Boring Old Fartdom. How, the sniggering Fabs fans whispered each other, how would he ever escape from those clutches? And, more importantly, would he even want to?

1-Cliff Richard -Happy Birthday To You (01:33)
2-Cliff Richard -Forty Days (02:45)
3-Cliff Richard -Catch Me (02:27)
4-Cliff Richard -How Wonderful To Know (02:37)
5-Cliff Richard -Tough Enough (02:14)
6-Cliff Richard -50 Years For Every Kiss (02:29)
7-Cliff Richard -The Night Is So Lonely (02:42)
8-Cliff Richard -Poor Boy (02:57)
9-Cliff Richard -Y'arriva (03:35)
10-Cliff Richard -Outsider (02:41)
11-Cliff Richard -Tea For Two (02:15)
12-Cliff Richard -To Prove My Love For You (01:50)
13-Cliff Richard -Without You (02:05)
14-Cliff Richard -A Mighty Lonely Man (02:13)
15-Cliff Richard -My Blue Heaven (02:26)
16-Cliff Richard -Shame On You (02:08)


Cliff Richard - 32 Minutes & 17 Seconds (1962)

When 1962 dawned, Cliff Richard was the biggest pop star Britain had ever known. By the time it ended, he was all but washed up, trampled beneath the stamping feet of Beatlemania. But did he even raise an eyebrow in concern? Did he, hell. The generation gap may have built a bridge right over him, but Richard wasn't slowing down for anyone. His last album was titled for its release date. His latest was named for its running time. Such brevity would scarcely be considered a selling point today, but still Richard's final release before Brian Epstein rewrote the rock & roll rule book, offers considerable value for money. Excellent versions of skiffle king Chas McDevitt's "How Long Is Forever" and Sid Tepper's "I'm on My Way" rank among his strongest ballad performances in some time, while another Tepper effort, "I'm Walking the Blues," could easily be "Travellin' Light" revisited, so closely (and knowingly) do voice and instrumentation ape that earlier hit. He brings an excellent new voice to "Spanish Harlem" only months after Ben E. King scored his original hit version, while "Let's Make a Memory" steps out of the same kind of arrangements which stirred the soundtrack to The Young Ones, only without the mawkishness which marred that production. There's also a deliciously sultry and echo-drenched "You Don't Know," a song which so desperately wants to be "Fever" that you can almost hear its pulse racing. Covers of "Blueberry Hill" and the Rodgers & Hart showtune "Falling in Love with Love" are little more than an exercise in treading water -- both could have appeared on either of Richard's last couple of albums without any modification whatsoever. But lest they tempt us to write off even portions of 32 Minutes & 17 Seconds as Richard on cruise control, the album also sets its boundaries with deliberate precision and triumphant defiance, and nowhere so volubly as the moment needle hits vinyl for the first time. As if already mindful of the challenge developing in the nightclubs of northern England, 32 Minutes opens with Richard's liveliest 45 of the era, the furiously rock & rolling "It'll Be Me." Indeed, the unaccompanied bellowed opening lyric -- "if you hear somebody knocking"...the flourish of keyboard and the sudden thump of the full band coming in is almost primal, a massive red flag being waved at the bullish young beat merchants gathering to topple his throne. And though he'd never be so vulgar as to say the words out loud, you know what Richard is thinking...let them gather!

1. Cliff Richard-It'll Be Me (01:56)
2. Cliff Richard-So I've Been Told (02:27)
3. Cliff Richard-How Long Is Forever (02:22)
4. Cliff Richard-I'm Walkin' The Blues (02:03)
5. Cliff Richard-Turn Around (02:26)
6. Cliff Richard-Blueberry Hill (02:41)
7. Cliff Richard-Let's Make A Memory (02:04)
8. Cliff Richard-When My Dreamboat Comes Home (01:47)
9. Cliff Richard-I'm On My Way (02:56)
10. Cliff Richard-Spanish Harlem (02:56)
11. Cliff Richard-You Don't Know (02:48)
12. Cliff Richard-Falling In Love With Love (01:44)
13. Cliff Richard-Who Are We To Say (02:43)
14. Cliff Richard-I Wake Up Cryin' (02:09)

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