Herman's Hermits

Greatest Hits Live

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This is an excellent overview of the work of Peter Noone featuring 12 of the 18 hits that charted for Herman's Hermits between 1964 and 1968. Is it live or is it Memorex? That is the question! Released as the first disc on Peter Noone's own record label, No.One Records, the catalog number for this title is #1 (the play on words, of course, is that Noone's name spells out "No. One"), reflecting the not so subtle humor that Peter's fans relish. Many '60s artists re-recorded their material separate from the original masters originally played on the radio. The Crystals did this on the Elap label, as did Rob Grill and a version of the Grass Roots. What Peter Noone appears to have done is a real anomaly -- and that he's pulled it off gets him a thumbs up. Greatest Hits Live sounds like new studio re-recordings with legitimate on-stage patter edited in between the new renditions, like some kind of cross between Having Fun with Elvis on Stage -- the album containing only Elvis Presley's interaction with the audience and no music -- combined with updated versions of many of Noone's famous songs. It's a testament to Peter/Herman's variety of skills, because these versions sound as fresh and exciting as the hits his fans love and cherish. Tracks 19 through 21 actually do sound like live takes recorded in concert, while the other songs included on this disc have an incessant electronic drum and crystal-clear vocals, seemingly too refined to be taped from a stage show.

The final three tracks after "Can't You Hear My Heart Beat" and its incessant Lynn drum -- "Mrs. Brown You've Got a Lovely Daughter," "I'm Henry the Eighth I Am," and "There's a Kind of Hush" -- indeed sound like they were recorded live in concert. There are no musician credits, no venues listed, no dates of the recordings. The funny thing is, Noone's delirious fans would buy a CD made from a hand-held audience mike, so why he may have gone to the expense of re-recording everything is a mystery. When interviewed, he went as far to say that a bass note was out of tune from a "live performance" on this album and they put it in tune with MIDI equipment. OK, in any event, there is none of the embarrassment of the Rolling Stones' studio version of "Fortune Teller" slipped onto the Got Live If You Want It! disc along with fake applause. The applause here is very real -- but check out the drums on "Can't You Hear My Heartbeat" and then listen to them on "Mrs. Brown You've Got a Lovely Daughter" -- there's a world of difference. Everything on this disc is highly listenable, and perhaps Noone could very well separate the studio recordings from the applause and release them separately. Then he could give listeners a real live album with the energy of the final three tracks here.

About the material -- there are two songs originally recorded for Noone's other band -- the Tremblers, from their album Twice Nightly. Those are the Noone originals "Steady Eddy" and "Don't Say It," though "You Can't Do That" and "I'll Be Taking Her Out Tonight" from that disc are more in the style of Herman's Hermits and might have been more appropriate for this endeavor. Peter also performs a duet with his daughter Natalie Noone on "The Angels Are Crying" à la Neil Sedaka and his daughter Dara Sedaka. "Leaning on the Lampost" is not here, nor is the Top 40 hit written by Donovan, "Museum," but it is intriguing to hear this artist without the production of Mickie Most on what is a very important catalog of pop music. This is not Milli Vanilli, but the prankster that Peter Noone is makes one wonder why he didn't take live tracks from the bogus Herman's Hermits that were floating around for years and put new vocals on those tapes. Peter Noone is the only artist who has successfully re-recorded his hits and created a listening experience that is worth the admission price, and this unique presentation, Greatest Hits Live, is essential to any collector of '60s music and classic pop.

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