Cliff Richard was England's most successful 1950s homegrown rock & roll star, although his credentials have long been suspect, a result of his shift to a softer sound in the wake of "Livin' Doll" in late 1959. But on this album, newly reissued on CD in 1998 in both its stereo and mono versions on one disc, there's no credibility problem -- he sings hard and the band plays even harder. Richard and the Shadows (who were still billed under their original name, the Drifters, on the first pressing's jacket, reproduced here) performed live at EMI's Studio No. 1 on February 9 and 10, 1959, in front of several hundred screaming fans, an audio precursor to the mock concert "played" by the Beatles at the end of A Hard Day's Night, except that there's nothing "mock" about this show. White rock & roll's first professionally recorded live album is a red-hot document of England's first world-class rock & roll phenomenon. At his best here, which is 95-percent of the show, he sings like a hard-rocking Ricky Nelson with a little bit more power and depth than that description implies, while the Shadows show themselves to be the most professional, if not quite the wildest, rock band in England at that time. Lead guitarist Hank B. Marvin has a genuine American sound, with perhaps more embellishment and flamboyance than a lot of American players might have bothered with, while Bruce Welch, Jet Harris, and Tony Meehan reveal themselves as a solid rhythm section. They also rip through numbers like "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On," not very much slower than a lot of punk bands 20 years later might have done it. Apart from the inclusion of Ritchie Valens' "Donna" (virtually a tribute, Valens having died a week earlier in a much-lamented plane crash), there isn't a slow or soft number here. Interestingly, the stereo mix (which only appeared as fragmentary tracks in countries other than England, most notably Holland) may be preferred -- the stereo isn't primitive binaural, although the bass and drums, with Richard's voice, are centered in one channel, and the guitars on the other; obviously, this was a live recording, so there was bound to be some bleeding of the sound, thus making this concert disc a bit more "modern" sounding than many of EMI's other early stereo efforts. And Jet Harris' bass and Tony Meehan's drums are certainly more prominent on the stereo tracks.
AllMusic Review by Bruce Eder