Live At Talk Of The Town
Original album remaster released by EMI in March 2007. Liner notes, recording data and discography (with Peter Lewry).
CLIFF LIVE AT THE TALK OF THE TOWN was Cliff Richard’s second live concert album. It was released in July 1970, his first album to be released that year. Interestingly enough though, it had been recorded almost two years previously and, ever since it saw the light of day, it has been regarded as one of the strangest live albums of Cliff’s career. Strange because it placed Cliff in a relatively small nightclub setting compared to what he was familiar with, and although the sound was typically Cliff for the period, and even though he experimented with a variety of repertoire on the 45-minute set he performed, it spoke volumes about the kind of performer Cliff had now become. An all-round entertainer who indulged in everything from American R&B, Northern Soul, Broadway show tunes, folk rock and pop, and who, for some reason, passed over most of his early 1950s and 1960s hits, with the exception of a medley.
It was the same kind of material he indulged in during the run of his television series It’s Cliff Richard in the same year. If it’s true that Elvis Presley had become an all-round entertainer since his discharge from the US Army in 1960, then perhaps Cliff – who was no longer deemed ‘too sexy for television’ – was treading the same path. But perhaps the strangest thing of all about the original issue of this album is that it was on the Regal Starline label, EMI’s budget-priced imprint that had numerous albums, including this one, retailing at less than £1.
The Talk of the Town, of course, was already well- known as one of the most prestigious cabaret nightspots in the heart of London’s West End. Located on Leicester Square, it was a nightclub as well as a theatre-restaurant, but it wasn’t just Cliff who was attracted to play there. Other popular names of the 60s, such as Tom Jones, The Temptations, Joe Brown, The Seekers, The Supremes, and even Cliff’s own backing group, The Shadows, would all play three-to four-week seasons at the venue at least twice a year. In fact, it was less than six months before Cliff played the Talk of the Town for this album that the Shads had a dramatic experience there. During their run in January 1968, bass player John Rostill collapsed with mental exhaustion and had to be temporarily replaced by ex-Shadow Licorice Locking.
All the same, the Talk of the Town was renowned as one of London’s finest venues and a favourite with most artists until it closed its doors to the public in 1982. Exactly one year later, it re-opened as the London Hippodrome, another nightclub-restaurant, under the guidance of the rising nightclub tycoon Peter Stringfellow.
Although Cliff would use his May 1968 engagement to make a live record of his performance (recorded from three identical shows), it is interesting to note that he incorporated more cover songs into his act than ever before. Because each show was identical to that released, we have added some studio recordings as bonus tracks from Cliff’s 46th and final EP release, Congratulations, released in the same year that this album was recorded. Although the EP contained the six tracks that were contenders for Britain’s entry into the 1968 Eurovision Song Contest, we have omitted two (Congratulations and High‘n’Dry), simply because they have been released elsewhere in this series of remasters. For the uninitiated, Cliff performed each of these six songs each week on Cilla Black’s TV series until viewers’ votes weeded the choice down to the winning song, which as most know, was Congratulations.
It was Cliff’s first outing to represent England in the often criticised competition and sadly Congratulations lost by just one vote to Spain’s long-forgotten La La La. It was a bemusing decision which came about in the final seconds of voting when Germany awarded Spain six points, bringing its total up to 29 against Britain’s 28. It is probably because Congratulations was such a massive hit, selling two and a quarter million copies, that Cliff was nailed to the jaunty Eurovision sound that is evident on this album, at a time when rock was actually returning to its roots with the re-release of Bill Haley’s Rock Around The Clock and Elvis Presley’s Heartbreak Hotel, the very song that Cliff attributes to why he wanted to be a singer in the first place. But ‘jaunty sound’ or not, this album is still a timely reminder of what it was like to see Cliff in person in 1968, without The Shadows, whom would split up and go their separate ways that December.
In one review of the album, reviewer Bruce Eder summed it up as an eminently successful record, in which Cliff ‘embraces a variety of sounds and repertoire and proves he’s good at all of it. Opening with a decently effective rendition of Shout backed by the female singing group The Breakaways (Vicki Haseman, Margo Quantrell, and Jean Ryder), he slides into the pop All My Love, then into a strong performance of Ain’t Nothin’ But A House Party, which he follows with a showtune medley that includes If Ever I Would Leave You, and then an impassioned rendition of Girl You’ll Be A Woman Soon. Cliff salutes his Shadows bandmate Hank Marvin with a medley of the latter’s compositions, which includes The Day I Met Marie in a more engaging performance than the standard single. He even works in his own solo guitar version of A Taste Of Honey. Cliff does surprisingly well with the piece, and also accompanies himself on Tim Hardin’s The Lady Came From Baltimore. His version of When I’m Sixty Four is a little embarrassing though, featuring a rather broad, clunky brass-heavy band sound and lots of mugging, coming after Cliff discussing his being referred to as “the old man of rock ‘n’ roll,” and then moves into Richard Harris territory on What’s More (I Don’t Need Her). He’s in excellent voice throughout the performance and the recording is of exceptionally good quality, with a close, rich sound displaying lots of presence whether it’s the core band backing Cliff or the full orchestra. The only problem for most people will be the repertory, which shifts too easily between pop, rock, and soul, and little acknowledgement of the singer’s rock ‘n’ roll roots, apart from his talk to the audience and memories of his work with Hank Marvin.’
It is indeed the choice of material that makes this album so intriguing. Aside from some of Cliff’s familiar hits of the time, such as All My Love, Visions and Congratulations, it did seem a strange choice to include such oddities as La La La La La, the title track from Cliff’s EP of the same name released two years earlier, or What’s More I Don’t Need Her, which would end up as the B-side to Don’t Forget to Catch Me, the single Cliff would put out that November. And yet his more recent A-sides from the era, such as I’ll Love You Forever Today, Marianne and It’s All Over were totally ignored.