Joe Brown

The Very Best of Joe Brown: 50th Anniversary

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The very cheeky, chirpy cockney sparrow Joe Brown celebrated his 50th anniversary in the music business early in 2008, although his first few years were as a rather good but anonymous guitar player in backing bands, playing for brighter stars such as Billy Fury. When he finally broke out as a solo singer and guitarist in 1960 with his first hit, "Darktown Strutters' Ball," he came across as less of a serious rock & roller than his former mentor Billy Fury and instead as an artist whose songs owed more to music hall comedy and skiffle than rock & roll, especially "What a Crazy World We're Living In" and "I'm Henry the Eighth I Am." Brown then turned out a series of lightweight pop songs, including "A Picture of You" (his biggest hit, reaching number two in the summer of 1962), "That's What Love Will Do," "It Only Took a Minute," and "Sally Ann," before the arrival of Merseybeat and new pop groups swept him and his kind away. Brown was a well-respected guitarist but this was never really given a chance to show through, although the Israeli tune "Hava Nagila," a very Shadows-sounding guitar instrumental, did give his fingers a workout. It says something about the pop records of the time that Universal managed to squeeze 25 tracks onto this single-CD compilation with a running time of 72 minutes. Even though it was over 30 years old at the time of its release here, a cover of Ram Jam's "Black Betty" gave the album a contemporary feel as well as being a retrospective of an artist who had long since departed the charts. In 2008 Billy Fury successfully placed a compilation of his work in the Top Ten and Universal reckoned on Joe Brown following him there, but Brown only had 11 hits -- and strangely, four of them were omitted from this collection. Surely, if Brown's back catalog had been properly researched and these tracks included, The Very Best of Joe Brown would have been more complete -- "Your Tender Love," "Nature's Time for Love," "With a Little Help from My Friends," and "Hey Mama" could easily have been substituted for the final three tracks, re-recordings of his hits that had already appeared earlier in the running order: "A Picture of You," "Sally Ann," and "It Only Took a Minute."

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