Cliff Richard

Cliff Sings

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Producer Norrie Paramor knew exactly what he was doing. Cliff Richard burst onto the British pop scene with a rocker -- his first album, accordingly, rocked just as hard. But when he scored his first number one with a ballad, it only followed that album number two would follow suit. Cliff Sings is almost unrecognizable as the successor to the hottest live recording of the late '50s. True, the two sides of the original vinyl open with blistering intent -- a vicious "Blue Suede Shoes"; a sneering rockabilly "Twenty Flight Rock." But the heart of the album lies in the biggest ballads, the warmest strings, the most dramatic arrangements -- all the things, in fact, for which the veteran Paramor had been renowned before he was nipped by the rock & roll bug. It was not a complete disenfranchisement. A second Carl Perkins song, "Pointed Toe Shoes," a fluid "Mean Woman Blues," and the furious "The Snake and the Bookworm" rocked at least as hard as past 45s "Dynamite" and "High Class Baby." And when the last dance loomed at the youth club, George Gershwin's "Embraceable You" was always going to get a lot more couples smooching than some raucous one-two-three o'clock rocker. But a perfunctory "As Time Goes By" and an anemic "Here Comes Summer" were surely included as much because Paramor enjoyed rearranging them, than because they were crucial additions to Cliff's canon, and asked whether the album struck Cliff's existing audience as a disappointment, at the time, it probably was. Certainly the bright young things who sent "Move It" soaring up the British chart would have had little time for the likes of "Little Things Mean a Lot," "I Don't Know Why," or "I'll String Along With You"; might not have been instantly impressed by the newfound rich warmth of the Richard tones. But that audience hadn't exactly broken its neck buying Cliff's post-"Move It" rockers either, so what did they expect? Rock & roll was still young, but its heartiest practitioners were growing older by the day. Cliff knew that if he was to survive in show business, he would need to start adapting to a far wider audience than the rockers would ever allow him to embrace. Cliff Sings was the first day of the rest of his career.

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