Cliff Richard

Rare and Unseen

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Cliff Richard is a very important figure in British rock, and one of its most successful, even if he never did break big in the U.S.. This hour-long compilation of clips (mostly from interviews), however, is in no way a place to get any sense of his importance or his music. Presumably, the material was chosen because it was rare, as the back cover blurb reads in part, "using clips from TV interviews shown once and thought wiped [erased]." Infuriatingly, however, much of the interview footage -- spanning the '60s to the early 21st century, though specific dates are given for none of them -- focuses on his Christian religious faith, with scant attention paid to how he and his backup band, the Shadows, were the first British rock act to build a credible longterm career. Even more infuriating, there's very little in the way of music, other than a bit of gospel singing -- hardly the best way to experience Richard as an artist -- and bits from a ghastly version of Little Richard's "Lucille" from Richard's middle-aged years. The film jumps back and forth between the clips chronologically with little regard for continuity, the screen sometimes irritatingly breaking into two frames in which Richard as a talking head is seen on one side, and Richard singing live is seen on the other. Bland assertions of his belief, and reflections on his fame and success dominate the interviews -- Richard cautiously criticizing David Bowie and Alice Cooper's live acts as "dubious," and explaining his decision not to perform "Honky Tonk Angel" because it might be about a prostitute, is about as spicy as it gets. It's all the more galling considering there is quite a bit of performance footage from his early career that could act as the basis of a very entertaining DVD that zeroed in on his music. The closest you'll get here is a brief snippet of home movies of Richard on holiday in 1959. While Richard is entitled to his religious beliefs, it can also be said that, at times, he verges on arrogance in his statements about them, particularly in the very last segment of the disc (admittedly while bantering with an interviewer who's baiting Richard about his faith).