Sincerely Cliff

Original album remaster released by EMI in July 2004. Liner notes, recording data and discography (with Peter Lewry).

Sincerely Cliff

In the year that followed Congratulations, Cliff Richard’s first Eurovision song entry, Cliff seemed to settle into a pattern of recording material that, according to the critics, was lacklustre, dull and unadventurous. What they forgot to tell us was that, in the decade of Cliff’s biggest European hit, his only new studio album for 1969 (his first without The Shadows who had split up and gone their separate ways the previous December) clearly demonstrates his ability to diversify his musical tastes in a period when you could look at the Top 30 for almost any week and find it cluttered with songs that are now regarded as classics.

Originally released in October, it was, interestingly enough, the last time a Cliff Richard album would be made available in both mono and stereo. The only other album from Cliff that year had been a hits compilation in June, The Best Of Cliff, which, despite the objections to what Cliff was then churning out, was chock-full of good material that covered a four-year period from 1965 to 1968. The singles of the period were just as good, although for some these were equally questionable. Cliff’s career entered a period that could perhaps best be described as combining his spiritual commitment with dropping back into pop suburbia, allowing challengers such as Tom Jones and Engelbert Humperdinck to rule the charts. Many asked, as Steve Turner did in his 1993 biography, ‘was it really possible to be moved by Good Times? Did anyone care who played guitar on Big Ship or what the lyric of Goodbye Sam, Hello Samantha was attempting to describe?’ Maybe that was so, but it was also true that they were all Top 20 hits.

With the album recorded at four different studios with three different orchestras, and different sessions spread over almost four years, perhaps it’s no wonder that the album ended up with such a hotchpotch of songs. But, unlike Cliff’s previous studio album Established 1958, a tenth anniversary set that shared half the tracks with The Shadows, and with Cliff In Japan about to be released, another live album already in the picture, and a gospel album about to be started, perhaps there was no rush to make any recordings that would form the basis for a new album. Rather, it was a case of Cliff simply laying down tracks for future use. With hindsight though it does seem strange that no track from the final selection was lifted as a single, or indeed that Throw Down A Line, the hit single that preceded the album, was not included.

One of the first sessions, at Abbey Road Studios, was as far back as 1966, with the Bernard Ebbinghouse Orchestra, The Mike Sammes Singers, the then regular sound engineer Peter Vince, and of course Norrie Paramor producing. Interestingly, it was held during a soundtrack session for Finders Keepers and, although recording technology had changed from two to four to eight track, it seemed the pattern for recording remained the same – laying down three or four songs in one three hour session. Beside Time, which eventually ended up on the original issue of this album, and the two tracks for Finders Keepers, another non-movie song It’s All Over was also recorded that September. To this day it remains unreleased, even though a re-recording of the same track one month later was Cliff’s first single for the following year, in March 1967.

Certainly that appears to have been the pattern for collecting the material together for this album. But, if you consider that in the same period Cliff had recorded almost 250 new, ‘live’, and foreign language songs, that would during the next few years be spread over several releases, it was perhaps not an unusual way for an artist to work in the Sixties. Elvis Presley had worked in much the same way. In the early Seventies, in sessions spread over one year, he had recorded more than 80 new songs, which are still being released to this day, including one of the songs featured on this album, Take Good Care Of Her. Unlike Cliff, Elvis chose to release his version on a single in 1974 as the B-side to I Got A Thing About You Baby. Long before that of course the original version had already been a UK hit for Adam Wade in June 1961.

As if to prove the point, another five tracks were laid down in the same way, this time with the Mike Leander Orchestra, at another session in July 1968 at Chappell Studios, just over a month after a performance from Cliff’s run at London’s Talk of the Town had been recorded for album release on EMI’s Regal label two years later (during which bass player John Rostill had collapsed and had to be temporarily replaced by Brian ‘Licorice’ Locking). Again the session turned out a mixture of material for more than just one specifically recorded project – Sincerely, Tracks ‘n’ Grooves, Established 1958, and Marianne, which turned out to be Cliff’s single offering for September 1968.

The procedure was not unfamiliar to Cliff. He had always relied on Norrie Paramor to organise his recordings. After choosing the songs with Norrie and discussing possible musical arrangements, Cliff would go into the studio to put down his vocals, usually between three and six in a day or evening. That’s probably how these songs and sessions were put together, but there were some changes evident for Cliff during this period – none more so than the record company and music publishing practices that appeared to have been ushered in by The Beatles. No longer was Cliff approaching his career with the attitudes of the Fifties, when singles mattered and albums didn’t, and singers weren’t expected to write or even choose their own material.

For the first time in his career, Cliff was using studios other than Abbey Road. As far as the Sincerely tracks were concerned, in addition to those already mentioned, these included IBC and Advision. Although still turning out extremely well crafted and performed pop songs, Cliff had all but disappeared from the NME annual points list of best-selling singles, had announced that he would be making no personal appearances during 1967, and was now, post Cliff & The Shadows, finding a new freedom working with such groups as the folk-rock-gospel-orientated Settlers. He had toyed with songwriting in the past, usually with Shadows frontmen Bruce Welch and Hank Marvin, but he was now taking it more seriously, kicking off with the title track for the Billy Graham film Two A Penny in which he starred…