To Sir with Love: The Best of 1967-1968

  • AllMusic Rating
  • User Ratings (0)
  • Your Rating

AllMusic Review by

This compilation collects 19 sides from Lulu during her burgeoning ascent as a British pop diva. The tracks include the contents of the long-players To Sir With Love (1967) and Love Loves to Love Lulu (1967) -- which share pretty much the same 11-song tune stack. The remainder were issued on a variety of singles in the U.K. as well as stateside. Although the vast majority failed to make much of an impact, she did top the pop singles chart with the title song of this package as well as from the film To Sir With Love (1967), where she likewise debuted as an actress. She played the smarmy lower-middle-class student "Miss" Barbara Pegg alongside Sidney Poitier's brilliant portrayal of high-school educator "Sir" Mark Thackeray. Her only other platter to hit the Top 40 in the U.S. was "Best of Both Worlds" -- which features an opulent score from Peter Knight. Keen-eared listeners may well hear several striking similarities between the introductory orchestration, which is a variation on a theme that Knight was concurrently incorporating into his work with the Moody Blues on their groundbreaking Days of Future Passed (1967). Specifically, musical quotes that surround the recitation (read: "Breath deep/The gather gloom...") at the end of "Nights in White Satin" are used here for a similar sonic flare. Lulu remained at the center of the mod scene in the U.K., rivaling other top British vocalists such as Dusty Springfield and Cilla Black for airplay and record sales, under the direction of Mickie Most (producer/arranger) and his crew -- which often included the distinct work of John Paul Jones (string arrangement/bass/guitar/brass) several years prior to his commitment to Led Zeppelin. In addition to co-arranging with Knight, Jones' multi-instrumental prowess can be heard on practically every track. His contributions include the Burt Bacharach/Hal David feel on the poppy "Let's Pretend" as well as the Brian Auger-like electric organ runs on the syncopated R&B-influenced "Take Me in Your Arms (And Love Me)."

Also included in her repertoire are a few interesting cover tunes -- including a soulful reading of "Morning Dew" and Neil Diamond's spunky and freewheelin' "The Boat That I Row." The same results are not quite achieved on the decidedly produced and over the top version of "Day Tripper." Her marriage to Bee Gees co-founder Maurice Gibb may have had some bearing on the affective remake of "To Love Somebody." Without a doubt, the tastefully arranged and implemented small string section on Harry Nilsson's "Without Him" is quite different from Al Kooper's swinging bossa nova reading of "Without Her" from Child Is Father to the Man. In fact, this version rivals the equally infectious reading from Astrud Gilberto from her underrated I Haven't Got Anything Better to Do (1969) LP. Lulu's influence has reached through the generations with the sampling and looping of the electric guitar intro to the upbeat and ultra mod "Love Loves to Love Love," which was featured on the 1996 Fatboy Slim (aka Norman Cook) track "Santa Cruz." The sound quality on this collection is, quite frankly, immaculate. The entire contents were remastered -- if not perhaps remixed -- from the one and only multi-track master tapes, which yielded seven previously unissued stereo mixes. Unlike the songs gleaned from the To Sir With Love or Love Loves to Love Lulu albums, the remainder of the sides were not released in anything other than traditional mono. To Sir With Love: The Very Best of 1967-1968 is arguably the best Lulu primer available.

blue highlight denotes track pick