Cilla Black

The Essential Cilla Black 1963-1978

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The Essential Cilla Black: 1963-78 is a mid-priced double-CD alternative to the pair of triple-CD sets devoted to Black's work -- dating from 1999, it boasts excellent sound and, for Beatles or Burt Bacharach completists, its 40 tracks encompass every Lennon/McCartney and Bacharach song that she ever recorded (opening with McCartney's delightful 1968-vintage "Step Inside Love"), without slighting too many others in her repertory. There's no attempt at presenting any of this material chronologically, but that's not a huge problem; apart from her gradually expanding range and confidence, Black was a startlingly consistent performer across the 15 years represented here, so that, say, the eight-year leap between 1966's "Love's Just a Broken Heart" and 1974's "The Air That I Breathe," and back to 1966's "Alfie," hardly seems like a chasm at all, at least vocally -- though the leap from orchestral accompaniment to electric, guitar-heavy sounds and back delineates a huge change in pop music sensibilities (that can mostly be chalked up to the Beatles). The annotation isn't terribly lengthy or dense, but it gives a good overview, and the sound is up to early 21st century standards, and considering that it's only a couple of dollars more expensive than the next best single-disc Black compilation, this is a bargain in any context.

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