Friday, February 28, 2014

Mike Sarne - Come Outside with Mike Sarne: The Definitive Singles Collection (1962-64)


 Actor/singer/director Mike Sarne carved a peculiar niche for himself in the British rock & roll of the pre-Beatles era. Born Michael Scheur, and of part-German descent, he acted in a few movies at the dawn of the '60s. His multilingual skills not only served him as an actor but brought him into the music industry -- Sarne was responsible for providing the phonetic transcriptions that were used to guide such singers as John Leyton and Billy Fury in cutting German versions of their hits for that market. Sarne, who also played guitar and sang, was signed by Leyton's manager, Robert Stigwood. In 1962 he enjoyed a novelty hit, "Tell Me What," recorded in tandem with Billie Davis (another Stigwood discovery). His subsequent singles included "Come Outside," "Just for Kicks," and "Code of Love." Since the early '60s, Sarne has concentrated largely on his screen career.


It's not certain from the liner notes (which are actually quite good and lengthy) whether this has everything Sarne recorded from 1962-1964. But if it doesn't, this grouping of 27 tracks -- including material from his singles, his only album (from 1962, also titled Come Outside With Mike Sarne), film soundtracks, and an export-only cover of Heinz's "Just Like Eddie" -- must come damn close. However, even those willing to cut some slack for compilations of British rock & roll from just before the Beatles might find this way too corny and lightweight. Well, let's not pull punches: If you're looking for an exhibit of just how necessary the Beatles were to inject life and personality into an insufferably tepid British rock scene, this CD will do nicely. Sarne's voice was far better suited for vaudevillian theater than rock & roll, and in fact the material is basically pre-rock British music hall (complete with prominent British accent) with some pop/rock influence in the backing. Even though the songs were arranged and largely written by Charles Blackwell, who would go on to create some U.K. pop of notable quality later in the '60s, they're neither too tuneful nor too witty in their gentle satirical humor. "Come Outside," Sarne's 1962 number one hit, is here, as are his other British charters, "Will I What," "Just for Kicks," and "Code of Love." Half a dozen songs were written by Joe Meek sidekick Geoff Goddard, a few by Sarne himself. Yet none are very good, and are sometimes suffocated by a comic touch that was perhaps a bit racy at the time but terribly dated several decades later. And Sarne's wobbly voice isn't that good even considering the inherent limitations of the genre, even if it has a moderately engaging good cheer. So what does that leave to say in favor of this collection? Not much, though the 1963 single "Hello, Lover Boy!" actually is a not half-bad Merseybeat takeoff, bolstered by session guitar from a young Jimmy Page. The disc also includes an enhanced CD track with a promo film for his atypically Rolling Stones R&B-influenced "Love Me Please," the studio recording of which is contained elsewhere on the disc.


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