Cliff Richard

Listen to Cliff!

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Hot on the heels of the fall 1959 hit "Living Doll," ABC picked up two Cliff Richard albums for U.S. release: his U.K. sophomore Cliff Sings, and his fourth album, Listen to Cliff. (The vastly superior Me and My Shadows was inexplicably passed over.) The label's hopes for the singer were evident in their choice of the material showcasing him for an American audience. Intending to package him as a strictly English phenomenon, ABC often opted against releasing his covers of well-known American material in favor of homegrown material. A skillful cover of "Willie & The Hand Jive," recorded as the flip to 1960's "Fall in Love with You" 45, for example, was dropped from the American release, in favor of the Ian Samwell original "Choppin' and Changin'," while the Listen to Cliff album shed four tracks including, unfortunately, the pace-setting version of "What'd I Say" that opens the U.K. version. A seething version of "Beat Out Dat Rhythm on a Drum," Lerner & Loewe's exotic "Almost Like Being in Love," and Fats Domino's "I Want You to Know" also departed -- not only were U.S. versions already better known, it has been remarked upon elsewhere that, of the three groups of musicians with whom Cliff recorded this album, the Shadows and the Bernard Ebbinghouse Band both lost two performances each, while longtime producer Norrie Paramor's eponymous orchestra emerged from the pruning with their contributions unscathed. Politically, that one could run forever. Musically, however, the end result of such carnage is not so significant as one might expect. If there is any one major criticism to be directed at the U.K. original, it was that the variety and versatility sometimes became overwhelming. Trimming away four songs -- two rock numbers, two jazzy pieces -- leveled the sonic playing field somewhere, not only presenting a well-rounded portrait, but a well-mannered one as well. No raucous shouting, no seductive fire dancing, just a well-mannered English lad with a happy smile and a lovely voice. Or, as the American liner notes introduce him as "a balladeer, a rock & roller, and a swinger." Indeed.

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