When Cliff Richard and the Shadows toured Britain in 1962, they were by far the biggest band in the land, both riding on a string of massive hits and effortlessly selling out a 23-date outing. The decision to record a live album two-thirds of the way through the tour, then, was less an insightful attempt to preserve history as it happened than another way of prizing pennies from the grasp of Cliff Richard's so-loyal fan base. Of course, the album's eventual shelving ensured that it didn't quite turn out that way, and many observers probably will view it simply as an historical artifact. That, however, is only half of the story. First, forget all notions you might have about live recordings from the 1960s. The Cliff Richard Show: Live at the ABC Kingston is more or less flawless in that department; certainly it wipes the floor with the similar in-concert offerings from the Beatles, Elvis Presley, and the Rolling Stones. Secondly, disavow yourself of the popular notion that the once-rockin' Richard had softened his approach by 1962. He may have become an all-around family entertainer, but the show smokes. The first half of the disc, devoted to the Shadows' supporting slot, does show its age -- interspersed with the songs (classics one and all, of course), the band's on-stage patter and humor doesn't quite translate to the modern era. From the moment Richard appears on-stage, however, blasting into a blistering "Do You Want to Dance," the energy level soars even as the years fall back. In the decades since this was recorded, many historians have pondered the singer's timeless appeal. The answer to their questioning is here. The recording is ancient, but the performance is fresh. Highlights: a medley of hits from The Young Ones movie; a clutch of songs that have never previously appeared on a Cliff Richard album, including a warmly humorous "Roving' Gambler"; and an audience singalong through "When the Girl in Your Arms" that is almost chilling in its purity and beauty. Wrap all this up in a deluxe seven-inch tri-fold sleeve, designed to replicate the EP jackets of the era, packed with bonus photographs and a replicate souvenir program, and The Cliff Richard Show emerges an absolutely essential purchase.
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AllMusic Review by Dave Thompson