Cliff Richard

Cliff Live at the Talk of the Town

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Cliff Live at the Talk of the Town is one of the stranger live albums that anyone is likely to hear from a world-class performer, affording Cliff Richard the chance to sing in a relatively small-scale club setting. Dating from 1970 and produced by Norrie Paramor (who also conducts the orchestra), the record was -- typically for Richard's work of this era -- never released in the United States, but it was apparently reasonably successful in England, where it was released on the mid-priced Starline imprint. It's a strange and frustrating -- yet also eminently successful -- record, somewhat akin to Don't Stop Me Now, Richard's 1967 attempt at updating his music. He embraces a variety of sounds and repertoire here, including American R&B, Northern soul, Broadway show tunes, folk-rock, and pop/rock, and Richard proves good at all of it -- the only problem is that he doesn't stay with any particular repertoire for more than a song at a time, proving himself a powerful all-around entertainer in the process. Opening with a decently effective rendition of "Shout" backed by the female singing group the Breakaways (probably consisting of Vicki Haseman, Margot Quantrell, and Jean Ryder), he slides into the pop "All My Love," then into a strong performance of "Ain't Nothin' But a House Party," which he follows with a show tune medley that includes "If Ever I Would Leave You," and then an impassioned rendition of "Girl You'll Be a Woman Soon." Richard salutes his Shadows bandmate Hank Marvin with a medley of the latter's compositions, including "The Day I Met Marie" in a more engaging performance than the standard's single. He even works in his own solo guitar version of "A Taste of Honey" -- Hank Marvin need not have feared new competition, to judge from the evidence, but Richard does surprisingly well with the piece, and also accompanies himself on Tim Hardin's "The Lady Came from Baltimore." His version of "When I'm Sixty-Four" is a little embarrassing, featuring a rather broad, clunky brass-heavy band sound and lots of mugging, coming after Richard discussing his being referred to as "the old man of rock & roll." He then moves into Richard Harris territory on "What's More (I Don't Need Her)." He's in excellent voice throughout the performance and the recording is of exceptionally good quality, with a close, rich sound displaying lots of presence whether it's the core band backing Richard or the full orchestra. The only problem for most people will be the repertoire, which shifts too easily between pop, rock, and soul, with little acknowledgement of the singer's rock & roll roots, apart from his talk to the audience and memories of his work with Hank Marvin.

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