Like his idol Elvis Presley, Cliff Richard was never much of a songwriter, so Ace's task with their 2013 compilation Cliff Heard Them Here First isn't necessarily tough: they round up 24 tracks that were later popularized by Cliff. Richard has one of the longest-running careers in rock & roll, but compiler Tony Rounce smartly focuses only on the early years, bypassing rock & roll standards that Cliff sang in favor of songs that he either brought to the charts or sang during his pre-Beatles prime. A few cuts date from a little later -- the last four are from the mid-'60s, including Dick & Dee Dee covering the Rolling Stones' "When Blue Turns to Grey," along with the Gosdin Brothers crossover country-pop "Hangin' On," the Brill Building styles of Neil Diamond, and the Baroque psychedelia of the Everly Brothers' "It's All Over" -- but for the most part, this compilation concentrates on the days prior to British Invasion and Merseybeat, which means it's heavy on sock-hop pop, novelties, country balladeering, and light R&B, with a bit of big-band crooning and just a dose of rock & roll. Collectively, it all feels a little old-fashioned, but there are individual moments that spark, usually arriving via such trusty rockers as Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bill Haley, and Elvis himself (some early Little Stevie Wonder is also fun). But this isn't really designed for listening as a compilation outside of the context of Cliff Richard: this is the blueprint for his years as a hitmaker, capturing his persona and sensibility. You can hear Richard between the lines of these 24 songs, but oddly enough, when compared to Richard's covers, the music here often seems livelier.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine