Dave Berry

Picture Me Gone

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Like the prior set in this two-volume series (This Strange Effect: The Decca Sessions 1963-1966), this two-CD compilation cannot be faulted in either its packaging or comprehensiveness. Together with that earlier volume, it collects every recording Dave Berry made for Decca. This anthology, of course, is devoted to the second half of that output, running from 1966-1970 with the exception of a 1974 single containing remakes of "My Baby Left Me" and "Memphis Tennessee." But even more than the first volume, it's recommended more to collectors and Berry completists than general British Invasion fans, as his work was quite uneven. Unfortunately, it also wasn't as good as it had been during the earlier part of his career, though there were unpredictable and intermittent highlights throughout that made him impossible to dismiss as an artist wholly in decline. Artists who don't write their own material are at the mercy of what they're given to some degree, and the songs in this era simply weren't as good as the best he'd done in the mid-'60s, often teetering distressingly close to mawkish middle-of-the-road pop with a dash of sentimental country. That approach yielded both the biggest British hit of his career (the tortuously sentimental 1966 number five single "Mama") and one of the least listenable tracks ever done by a significant '60s U.K. pop star (the icky, half-spoken "Stick It to Ivity"). Yet alongside such lowlights were quality pieces of the kind of haunting pop that was Berry's strongest suit, like "Ann," "And the Clock on the Steeple Struck 13," and the folky flop 1970 single "Chaplin House." In the same vein, and highly worthy of a hearing, is the obscure Jackie DeShannon-Jimmy Page composition "I've Got My Tears to Remind Me"; other celebrity writers are found in the credits to the less impressive "Forever," written by the Bee Gees. Note that this anthology actually contains a couple tracks that are also on This Strange Effect: The Decca Sessions 1963-1966 ("The Girl from the Fair Isle" and "My Baby Left Me"), probably because they were issued on LPs in 1966 and 1968, respectively, after they'd made their first appearance on vinyl. That's not a serious drawback considering that, taken together, both volumes of the series offer the most complete overview of the prime of Dave Berry's recording career likely ever to be undertaken.