Music Week's round-up of the latest album reissues and catalogue releases. This week, we run the rule over releases from Cilla Black, Big Country and a Make Mine Mondo! collection on Ace Records.
Surround Yourself With Cilla/It Makes Me Feel Good
(Strike Force Entertainment WSFE 069D)/
Cilla All Mixed Up/Beginnings Revisited (WSFE 071D)
Kicking off a series of deluxe reissues of albums by the late Cilla Black to mark the 55th anniversary of her debut, and released in association with her eldest son and former manager Robert’s co-operation, these are a strikingly different pair of releases, one of which will appeal enormously to Black’s core audience, the other less so. To start with the release that I feel less at home with, namely the 2 CD set that pairs 2009’s Beginnings: Revisited (which is itself a revised version of a 45th anniversary set which strips new recordings of old hits, leaving largely new recordings from the time) and Cilla All Mixed Up - a no-holds barred dance album, with several esteemed mixers, most notably the hi-NRG Almighty team, who put their floorfilling formula to play on four of the 12 revisions here. For traditionalists, it is one to skip. The other set combines much-expanded versions of Black’s fourth album - the 1969 set Surround Yourself With Cilla, as produced by George Martin - and ninth album, It Makes Me Feel Good, which dates from 1976. Aside from one track, the original Surround Yourself With Cilla albums appears in both mono and stereo versions. Its name is a clue to the title of smash hit single, Surround Yourself With Sorrow, which reached No.3, becoming Black’s biggest hit for five years. In addition to appearing in stereo and mono, the track appears in a truncated version where Cilla fluffs the vocals; a version where the customary fade is absent, leaving the track to peter out; and a rare Italian version. There are also decent versions of The Bee Gees’ Words, and the traditional Scouse air, Liverpool Lullaby – a song, ironically, that Black learnt from Irish singer Val Doonican. It Makes Me Feel Good was less successful but it a very slick and sophisticated album, on which Black is accompanied by the cream of session players, including David Paich, Lee Ritenour and Jim Gordon from America, and Herbie Flowers, Terry Britten and Trevor Spencer from The UK. Opening with an uptempo take on The Four Tops’ Something About You, is also includes a gentle cover of Buddy Holly’s Heartbeat and a surprising version of Tom Waits’ San Diego Serenade. Despite the smooth stylings, it’s an interesting album on which Black stretches herself, and takes risks. It’s only a pity it wasn’t more successful.
Why The Long Face
(Cherry Red CRCDBOX 58)
Combining high octane rock with more traditional elements nodding towards their Scottish heritage, Big Country were chart regulars in The UK for the best part of 20 years from 1982 onwards, and even managed to secure a return to the chart as recently as 2013, although the band’s inspirational leader Stuart Adamson died in 2001. Dating from 1995, their seventh album Why The Long Face barely scrapped into the Top 50 but finds the band in fine fettle. Maybe the songs weren’t as memorable as they were earlier in their career but they commit to full throttle, and there is never any doubting Adamson’s passionate delivery. Long out of print, the album has been given a facelift and has been substantially expanded. With all tracks digitally remastered the set – which is now housed in a clamshell box and accompanied by an informative 20 page booklet – fills the first of 4 CDs here in its original form, but is joined by three further CDs – two stuffed with demos and bonus tracks, many of which are making their CD debut, and a third which is effectively an expanded version of their incendiary 1996 live album, Eclectic. The latter CD sees the band making interesting explorations of Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi., The Rolling Stones’ Ruby Tuesday and The Beatles’ Eleanor Rigby to name but three, while sidestepping their own biggest hits.
Make Mine Mondo!
(Ace CDTOP 1521)
Its sleeve promises ‘fuzzed out garage bands’, ‘manic instrumentalists” and ‘wayward rockabillies’ from the Los Angeles label Dore’s wacky roster, and delivers just that. Ranging in vintage from 1958 to 1969 and crisply remastered, the 28 tracks herein – all mono – include 11 rare garage band singles, eight previously unreleased instrumentals and several other previously unreleased rock tracks, all lovingly documented and illustrated in the accompanying 28 page booklet. As Dore was a small label, it needed to provide an alternative to major label chart fodder, and this is certainly did- as founder Lew Bedell observed: ‘everything’s oddball – you have to be if you are a small record company’. While that is largely true – there are some really way-out tracks here – my favourites are those that tread closer to normality. Most impressive in that respect are The Day Is Hard and You’ll Understand, both sides of an impressive 1969 debut single an obscure act called The Wrench. The Day Is Hard (the A-side) is a spirited but trippy confection that perfectly evokes its time, while the arguably superior You’ll Understand is a lilting, laid back and melodic track. Also of particular merit are a jazzy cover of Willie Dixon’s The Seventh Son, given a slightly detached almost spoken vocal by Julie London’s husband, Bobby Troup, and Ecuadorian band Los Corvets largely Spanish-language cover of The Rolling Stones’ Satisfaction.