When David Essex was at the height of his popularity in 1975, he released an album called All the Fun of the Fair, a ten-track LP featuring his current (at the time) number one single, "Hold Me Close," and two further hits from 1975, "Rolling Stone" and "If I Could." That album is not to be confused with this 2008 compilation, released by UMTV from the stage show musical based on David Essex hits, even though it opened with the title track just as the earlier album had done. The 21st century was fertile ground for hits-based musicals, the most successful being We Will Rock You and Mamma Mia for Queen and ABBA, respectively, although there had been lesser successes among musicals based on hits by Boney M., the Four Seasons, Rod Stewart, and Billy Joel, among others. All the Fun of the Fair had a story threaded through it of a man working at a traveling fair who has recently lost his wife and is struggling to deal with his rebellious teenage son. It deals with the darker side of fairground life with "Jack the Lad" characters operating the rides and various con artists whom this sort of life is notorious for attracting. The show and the album featured most of Essex's major hit singles from "Rock On," his first hit in 1973, to "A Winter's Tale" at Christmastime 1982. His two number ones, "Gonna Make You a Star" and "Hold Me Close," are of course included, as well as a whole host of album tracks that suit the story line of the musical. However, this should not be regarded as a standard greatest-hits compilation, as several major hits were missing and could easily have found their way into the story, including "Stardust" and "Rolling Stone" from the original All the Fun of the Fair album. Also missing was "Oh What a Circus," David Essex's song as Che Guevara from another musical, Evita, which -- although on a similar topic -- may have been too closely associated with Evita to be considered for another musical. There was also no room for the song "Tahiti," his final Top Ten hit from Mutiny in 1983, but those hits that were included served as a reminder of what an innovative and expressive singer David Essex was, all those years ago.
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AllMusic Review by Sharon Mawer
feat: Samantha Janus