Cliff Richard & the Shadows

Cliff Richard in Spain

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Through the first half of the '60s, Cliff Richard was recording at a furious rate, turning out material not only for a seemingly endless stream of new U.K. singles, EPs, albums, and soundtracks, but also for the foreign markets where his appeal was strongest. What makes this latter category especially appealing is that he actually sang in the language in question -- Germany, Spain, France, and Italy were all granted a number of exclusive recordings, with the first-named earning the equivalent of six full albums' worth of material between 1960 and 1974. This vast corpus has since been compiled onto the Bear Family box set On the Continent; less well-documented is the fact that a number of these recordings were also made available in the U.S.. History, after all, insists that prior to the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper, artist's albums were essentially little more than random collections of songs. But Richard and producer Norrie Paramor had been scheming thematic (i.e. conceptual) albums since 1963, beginning with Cliff Richard in Spain. Recorded in Barcelona, Cliff Richard in Spain arrived at a time when Merseybeat was ensuring that his domination of even the U.K. pop charts was undergoing its most serious challenge yet. The fact that he did not rise to the challenge, however, only amplifies his untouchability. As far back as his second album, 1959's Cliff Sings, he had stated his intentions to ascend above simple rock & roll; by the time of Cliff Richard in Spain, he was ready to transcend pop altogether.

Overlook the fact that the track listing is very much a beginner's guide to the genre, the kind of thing which turns up on TV-advertised "Latin Lovers Greatest Hits" type albums, and it is a beautiful album. "Perfidia," with the Shadows in full flight behind him; an insistently percussive "Frenesi," and the flirtatious "Maria No Mas," all draw out some of his most majestic vocals, while the moments where he slips -- a gently drifting, and clearly hesitant "Vaya con Dios" -- themselves possess a convincing fragility which only amplifies the album's overall appeal.

The same can be said for Richard's occasionally suspect pronunciation, and the nagging suspicion that he might not be fully aware of what he's singing about. Several songs from this album would be reprised with English lyrics on Richard's next U.K. album, 1965's eponymous set. But it's a mark of Cliff Richard in Spain's naïve strengths that neither "Sway" nor "Kiss," "Magic Is the Moonlight" nor "Perfidia," could ever improve on their Spanish language siblings.