75 at 75
Warner Music UK/PLG UK Cat.
Forget Tom Waits turning 66 or the fact that Dennis Wilson would have been 71 were he here, Sir Cliff of Richard is 75 and he is here and he’s sure he’s got the hits to prove it. Three discs hold this career perambulation, though I’m not quite sure we needed three discs. Nor the walk. Nor the 75 songs, 74 if you consider he repeats Move It – wonderful in its original guise, a bit grandpa-dressed-up and doing dishwash-pop when he ‘reworks’ it.
Better marketing might have been to call this 45 at 75 and release a 45rpm record of the crucial things you need by Cliff Richard. Not quite the same ring to it, granted, but a sting of truth there in offering the best. For there are in here around the detritus that marks a strange and often unsatisfying career a small, well, handful of hits from a guy whose Peter Pan of Pop free-card gets him on and off the bus and seemingly wherever he wants to go. (But let’s not delve – fully – into that!) But imagine it – who would have the honesty to release a Greatest Hits EP. Perhaps, again, we’re best not discussing honesty when it comes to the man born (you might have correctly guessed) in 1940 and then-named Harry Rodger Webb. Earnestness from “Cliff”, yes. But honesty – not so much. Suddenly is as close as he gets to Honesty, in that it’s a similar word anyway, nearly the same amount of letters. But the song Suddenly isn’t even here. A shame. Is that pesky record company control or is Dame Olivia distancing herself just a tad? A mix-up clearly, for that should be on this album along with five or six other shining gems. Wired for Sound and Devil Woman, obviously. Move It of course. We Don’t Talk Anymore and Some People are there. Because, yes, they are wonderful. But any Cliff Richard hits album – and there are 137 of them by my count, so far – starts to feel very thin on the ground if the gaps between those hits start to grow too far and wide apart.
The cover of Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s treatment of Over The Rainbow/What A Wonderful world, served in a cod-reggae way is nearly the nadir, would be were it not for Sir Cliff’s tragic love of Christmas and Christmas songs. And yes, you can say bah humbug to me but he’s all mistletoe and whine.
And the hands? We must address those. Big enough, I should think, to gather all of these songs and hold onto them.
And why hasn’t he done a cover of Uncle Albert? That should be there somewhere in his canon. If only for Sir Cliff to stretch himself and sing the Hands Across The Water refrain. A duet with Sir Paul perhaps? For Paul is approaching 75. It’s unlikely he’ll ever catch up to Sir Cliff in age, in this lifetime, but we can but wonder how that meeting might have played. Makes more sense than some of McCartney’s more recent attempts to “Get Back” to where he once belonged, and should probably have stayed.
And I mentioned canon – Cliff’s undoubtedly large canon of song. But where are the cannons? We could have used those! Even if to just drown the final moments of his Lord’s Prayer, renamed for some reason The Millennium Prayer, clearly some sort of tie-in with the end of the last century.
As it stands then, six songs for the 45 at 75, and a bonus LP-length collection of the early rock’n’roll sides and some of the Shadows’ contributions. That stuff is good fun for this – or any – summer holiday. You don’t have to have it, but it’s lasted a lot better than the woeful country attempts (In The Country) or that Salvation Army/Telethon-type deal, Congratulations.
Near the end of this four-hour collection of songs I heard something resembling a tune that was called Somethin’ Is Goin’ On. And that might be Sir Cliff Richard’s version of honesty there. Hmmm, well it makes you think.