By mid-1962, Cliff Richard had racked up more U.K. hit singles than any artist outside of Elvis Presley. From "Move It" in September, 1958, to "I'm Looking out the Window," in May, 1962, 20 singles had charted, a tally which included four number ones, 11 more Top Tens, and just one (1959's "Never Mind" which fell short of the Top 20. Oh, and soundtracks notwithstanding, only one of those hits had ever appeared on album. The CD age would have problems sorting out a genuinely pleasing greatest hits collection from that little lot -- imagine the problems when all you have to work with is two sides of long-playing vinyl. That was the challenge facing Cliff's Hit Album, and it is to the anonymous compiler's credit that neither success nor popularity was allowed to stand in the way of creating a supremely well-rounded summary of the story so far. All of the biggest hits are included, of course, but some astonishing gems, too, are resurrected. The delightfully twee "Theme for a Dream," all lilting melody, subtle backing, and overwhelmingly chirpy girlie backing vocals, is an oft-overlooked gem, while two cuts from The Young Ones movie score, the title track and "When the Girl in Your Arms," reinforce that album's reputation among the most successful British soundtracks ever made. From Expresso Bongo, "A Voice in the Wilderness" is deliciously desolate, while two other tracks were among the handful of songs premiered to a specially invited panel of fans, who were then asked to choose Richard's next single from among them: "Please Don't Tease" was voted into first place, and duly rose to number one; the artist's own favorite, "Nine Times out of Ten" came third, and, released as the follow-up, it reached number three. Proof that sometimes fans really do know what they're talking about. Perhaps surprisingly, Cliff's Hit Album peaked no higher than number two on the chart, although its five-month run on the listings ensured that it was still there or thereabouts by the time his next new album, When in Spain, arrived later in 1963. Even more importantly, however, the album remains the finest single summary of Richard's early years yet released -- later collections, of course, include later material, while the Rock'n'Roll Years box set, which covers the same span as this set, is probably too vast for any but the most devoted palate. Here, 14 songs in a little more than 30 minutes offer the ideal introduction not only to this artist, but to the era itself. So this is what people listened to before the Beatles came along.
AllMusic Review by Dave Thompson