Music Week's round-up of the latest album reissues and catalogue releases, including Kiki Dee, Renaissance and a Mickie Most tribute.
Kiki Dee: The Rocket Years
(Edsel EDSL 0027)
A promising 16 year old when she signed to Fontana in 1963, Kiki Dee produced a string of worthwhile singles, an album, and became a regular performer on TV over the next few year. She subsequently became the first British artist to sign for Motown but success eluded her until Elton John made her the first signing to his fledgling Rocket record label in 1973. The rest, as they say, is history – Dee became a chart regular over the next few years, and released four splendid albums before moving to Ariola in 1981. Those albums – Loving & Free (1973), I’ve Got The Music In Me (1974), Kiki Dee (1977) and Stay With me (1978) – form the basis of this sturdy book set, alongside 10 bonus tracks, the cancelled 1976 album, Cage The Songbird, which didn’t emerge for the first time until 2008 and a lavishly illustrated book. A superb vocalist, with a pleasing smooth delivery when appropriate to songs like Loving & Free, and a more gutsy, soulful second gear as demonstrated on I’ve Got The Music In Me, Dee was also the recipient of some excellent material, with her bewitching version of Veronique Sanson’s Amoreuse, her uptempo bluesy treatment of How Glad I Am and the anthemic I’ve Got The Music In Me, written by her keyboards player Bias Boshell, all hitting the heights. Overall, an edifying listen with Cage The Songbird definitely proving its place in her canon, even if it wasn’t boosted, as it is, by the inclusion of Kiki’s chart-topping Don’t Go Breaking My Heart duet with Elton John as a bonus track.
Renaissance: Song For All Seasons
(Esoteric PECLEC 32667)
A progressive and symphonic rock band with a folky edge, Renaissance released their eponymous debut album in 1969, but it was to be another nine years before they released their eighth and most successful album, Song For All Seasons, which also spawned their only hit single, the haunting Northern Lights, which reached No.10 in 1978. Still the go-to Renaissance album, it has been newly remastered and expanded by Esoteric, returning to the market as a clamshell-clad triple CD set with several bonus tracks appended to the original album, including the single mix of Northern Lights, which has never been on CD before, and an excellent contemporaneous Philadelphia concert, which sprawls across two CDs, includes some previously unreleased material and finds the band at the top of its form.
Various: The Pop Genius Of Mickie Most
(Ace CDMOST 1528)
Once a budding pop star in his own right, Mickie Most became one of the most successful producers and arrangers of his time, initially finding success as an independent producer for EMI’s Columbia Records, then forming his own highly successful RAK label. Most seemed to have an uncanny knack for finding and developing talent, and this hit-studded album includes 25 examples of his craft. After his own attempts at pop stardom – with pal Alex Wharton as the Most Brothers – petered out in 1962, it wasn’t long before he found his feet as a producer, with an initial flurry of hits that included Tobacco Road, a storming version of the John D. Loudermilk track by The Nashville Teens which undoubtedly had the biggest bass guitar sound of any hit to that time; and The Animals’ adaptation of the traditional House Of The Rising Sun, which, at 4m 28s, was the longest of the 172 No.1 hits there had been to that point. When a faltering Lulu was dropped by Decca, Most added her to his stable and immediately rekindled her chart career – from that era, the UK Top 10 hit The Boat That I Row and the sublime To Sir, With Love, a US No.1 that was only ever a flipside here – are included on the album. Also here are Jeff Beck’s Hi Ho Silver Lining, a track loathed by the artist but still loved by the public; and songs from Herman’s Hermits, The Yardbirds and Donovan. The RAK years saw Most’s career move into overdrive and coincided with him becoming a popular TV pundit. From that era, there is Duncan Browne’s mellifluous folk song The Journey, CCS’s jazzy big band style hit Walking, Suzi Quatro’s 48 Crash and Kim Wilde’s debut smash Kids In America. Arguably his biggest success came from Hot Chocolate, from whose considerable canon comes the sinewy 1973 hit Brother Louie. So numerous were his hits that a second volume of Most productions seems inevitable but Ace has gone above and beyond on its booklet for this one, which runs to 72 pages and includes a welter of information and illustrations.