Cliff Richard

32 Minutes & 17 Seconds

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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!

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