Sixties Brit pop: Lulu, Searchers, Wynter

By Tom Von Malder | May 11, 2019
Photo by: Edsel Records The cover of the new Lulu collection.

Owls Head — Lulu: Decade 1967-1976 (Edsel, 5 CDs, 5:09:31). Lulu, born Marie McDonald  McLaughlin Lawrie in 1948, was the unofficial queen of British pop in the late 1960s. She is forever known in America for singing "To Sir With Love" in the film of the same name, which starred Sidney Poitier and which she had a role in.  However, the singer, who continues to perform to sold-out audiences, was a much bigger deal in her home country, hosting several series of her own television show, winning the Eurovision Contest, starring in films, recording a James Bond film theme song, performing in numerous stage musicals and receiving the Oder of the British Empire.

This five-CD, book-type box set includes her first four albums -- "Love Loves To Love Lulu," "Lulu's Album" (both on Columbia Records) and the Atco albums, "New Routes" and "Melody Fair" -- plus the eight songs, recorded with Tom Dowd, that would have been her third album, but Atco Records declined to release. The fifth disc contains her first two Chelsea Records albums, "Lulu" and "Heaven and Earth and the Stars." The hardcover book, filled with  many archival photos, also comes with an excellent history/liner notes by Alan Robinson.

The recordings here were produced by Mickie Most, Arif Mardin, Jerry Wexler, Dowd, Giorgio Moroder, Wes Farrell and David Bowie, with arrangements by John Paul Jones (bass on the Herman's Hermits' albums, future Led Zeppelin bassist), Johnny Harris and Peter Knight (worked with Scott Walker, arranged The Moody Blues' "Days of Future Passed" album), among others. The songs themselves include early works by the Bee Gees, Harry Nilsson, Neil Diamond, Randy Newman and Elton John-Bernie Taupin, as well as covers of classics by Bowie, Bob Dylan and John Lennon-Paul McCartney. There are nine foreign language tracks, including four versions of her Eurovision Contest-winning "Boom Bang-A-Bang."

Lulu's initial singles and albums, not included here, were recorded for Decca. Her first album here, "Love Loves To Love Lulu"(1967, producer Most), opens with her most memorable hit, "To Sir With Love," which only was a single b-side in England, but was flipped in the United States and topped the singles chart here. Lulu was only 18 at the time. The album also includes a cover of the Bee Gees' "To Love Somebody," with strings. Lulu would go on to marry Maurice Gibb two years later. The title song sounds very Sixties and other covers include The Beatles' "Day Tripper," pulsating and with horns, Diamond's "The Boat I Row" and Don Black-Mark London's "Best of Both Worlds," which has a very James Bond feel. The latter duo also wrote "To Sir With Love" and Black wrote the lyrics for five James Bond film theme songs.

The first disc has 10 bonus tracks, single a- and b-sides, with four written by London and the uplifting "This Time" from the film "Hot Millions," co-written by Black. There also is a nice cover of Nilsson's "Without Him," featuring a string quartet.

Disc two is the 1969 album, "Lulu's Album," with covers of Spencer Davis' "Gimme Some Lovin'" (a standout), Dylan's "The Mighty Quinn" (a hit for Manfred Mann in 1968) and Joe Tex's "Show Me." London contributes "Where Did You Come From." Great are the Bee Gees' "I Started a Joke" done as a ballad with strings, the string-filled "Why Did I Choose You?," the classic "The Boy Next Door," with big strings, and a cover of "Cry Like a Baby," the Box Tops hit.

Bonus tracks on disc two include the six recordings she made for the Eurovision Contest, with the British public voting for "Boom Bang-A-Bang" to be the entry, which won the contest in a four-way tie with Spain, the Netherlands and France. One of the six songs she recorded as possible entries could have changed history as "I Can't Go On Living Without You" was an early effort by Elton John and Taupin and would have given them much earlier public exposure with a very different sound than what they became famous for. The winning song is also presented in Spanish, French, Italian and German versions here.

Disc three contains two 1970 albums, "New Routes" and "Melody Fair," with Lulu having moved from Columbia Records to Atco. The former includes the Bee Gees' "Marley Port Drive," which is a bit country, yet with New Orleans-style horns. Barry Gibb contributes the ballad "In the Morning." The album was recorded with the Muscle Shoals music crew, and features Duane Allman on guitar on four tracks. Covers include Traffic's "Feelin' Alright," which rocks, and a slower "Mr. Bojangles" by Jerry Jeff Walker. The "Melody Fair" album features backing vocals by The Sweet Inspirations and The Rascals of "Good Lovin'" and "Groovin'" fame, and playing by The Memphis Horns. There is an unusual arrangement of The Beatles' "Good Day Sunshine," driving versions of "After the Feeling Is Gone" and "I Don't Care Anymore" (co-written by Gary U.S. Bonds), Burt Bacharach's "(Don't Go) Please Stay" (written with Bob Hillard) and the title track by the Bee Gees. Bonds also co-wrote, with Jerry Williams, "To the Other Woman (I'm the Other Woman)," while "Vine Street" came from Randy Newman and there is a gospel version of Jerry Leiber-Mike Stoller's "Saved."

Disc four includes the unreleased album's tracks, with include the Bee Gees' "Bury Me Down By the River" and "Back Home, " John-Taupin's "Come Down in Time" (a very forgettable song) and a cover of Lesley Duncan's "Love Song." The Dixie Flyers perform on "Goodbye My Love, Goodbye." The disc also includes four songs from singles, including "Everybody's Got to Clap" by husband Maurice Gibb and brother Billy Lawrie; four alternate versions, including "Povera Me (Oh Me Oh My)," sung in Italian. The disc concludes with four songs in German that she recorded in Berlin with producer Moroder. Moroder co-wrote all four songs with Michael Kunze, who also produced one track. In a few years, Moroder would go on to huge success producing and writing for Donna Summer.

The final disc includes the albums "Lulu" (1973) and "Heaven and Earth and the Stars" (1976), both released on Chelsea Records. Highlights of "Lulu" include covers of The Rascals' "Groovin'" and "A Boy Like You," Alan O'Day's "Easy Evil" (also recorded by Sarah Vaughn, Dusty Springfield and Gary Glitter), Willie Nelson's "Funny How Time Slips Away," and the slow-burning torch song "Could It Be Forever?" The final album is a less consistent affair as it includes two successful outside projects: her recording of the James Bond theme, "The Man With the Golden Gun": and the Bowie-produced covers of his "The Man Who Sold the World" (excellent) and "Watch That Man." Of the rest, five were written by Kenny Nolan with a slight dip into the then burgeoning disco style. The album also features Lulu recording one of her own songs, "Baby I Don't Care" (co-written by brother Billy), for the first time.

Fans of Lulu will love this collection, which shows the diversity of her recordings. The booklet is excellent with its outstanding essay and wonderful photos and memorabilia. Some editions came with a photo, autographed by Lulu. Grade: A

The Searchers: When You Walk in the Room, The Complete Pye Recordings 1963-67 (Grapefruit, 6 CDs, 6:45:51). It has only been two months since The Searchers announced their retirement. John McNally, a founding member, was still a member, as was Frank Allen, who joined the band in 1964. The band was part of the Merseybeat sound, along with The Beatles, The Hollies and Gerry and the Pacemakers, among others. The band, co-founded by Mike Pender and hailing from Liverpool, had hits almost immediately.

This collection features five full albums, in both stereo and mono versions, plus bonus tracks and a sixth disc of non-album singles and EP tracks. The band and its management felt that if people had bought their singles, they should not have to buy the songs again on their albums. Chris Curtis joined the band in 1960 and bass player Tony Jackson was an earlier recruit.

Some of the band's most famous recordings came on the first album, "Meet The Searchers" (1963). They include a revamped version of The Drifters' "Sweets For My Sweet," which topped the British singles chart, and "Love Potion Number Nine," one of three Jerry Leiber-Mike Stoller songs on the album. These were quickly followed by hits with "Sugar and Spice," written by producer Tony Hatch and appearing on their second album, and distinctive covers of Jackie DeShannon's "Needles and Pins" and "When You Walk in the Room," both 1964.

The first album, recorded in a day, was basically a version of the band's live act. It is exuberant fun and also includes Leiber-Stoller's "Stand By Me," a very strong "Money (That's What I Want)" -- originally recorded by Barrett Strong and also covered by The Beatles -- and "Twist and Shout," another song The Beatles also covered. The band would include a folk song in each of the early albums; here it is a nice cover of Pete Seeger's protest song, "Where Have All the Flowers Gone." The very fast "Farmer John" also is included in a German version, as is "Leibe (Money (That's What I Want))." The third bonus track is a French version of the non-LP "It's All Been a Dream."

Album two is "Sugar and Spice"  (also 1963). In addition to the title hit, the album includes the nice mid-tempo ballad "Listen To Me," the fun "Cherry Stones" and covers of The Coasters'  "Ain't That Just Like Me" and Buddy Holly's "Listen To Me." The folk cover is Glenn Yarbrough's "All My Sorrows." The six bonus tracks include two songs in French, one in German and a cover of Chuck Berry's "Bye Bye Johnny."

The year 1964 saw the third album, "It's The Searchers," highlighted by the hit "Needles and Pins." It was the group's third album in nine months and the debut album had stayed on the British album charts for 44 weeks, hitting the Number 2 spot. "Needles and Pins," by the way, was co-written by Sonny Bono, soon to hook up with Cher and find fame. Both "Needles and Pins" and "Don't Throw Your Love Away" feature lead vocals by Pender, who had a more radio-friendly voice than did Jackson, the lead vocalist on the first two albums. After the album came out, Jackson soon left the band, with Pender and Curtis then handling the lead vocals. The third album also includes a nice cover of Betty Everett's "It's In Her Kiss" and the slightly rockabilly "Gonna Send You Back to Georgia." There are four bonus tracks, including one each in French and German, and the rockabillyish "Shame, Shame, Shame."

"Sounds Like Searchers" (1965) has an upbeat opener in "Everybody Come and Clap Your Hands," a cover of Bacharach-David's "Magic Potion" with a bop beat and a Merseybeat style cover of "Let the Good Times Roll." They have success with yet another DeShannon song, "Till You Say You'll Be Mine," and Curtis contributes three originals, as the band was starting to run out of material. The one bonus track is a German version of "When You Walk in the Room."

Also released in 1965 was "Take Me For What I'm Worth," the title track being a rocking folk cover of a P.F. Sloan song (he had recently wrote "Eve of Destruction" for Barry Maguire). This was their best album since their debut and features a strong version of Marvin Gaye's "I'll Be Doggone," as folk rock meets Motown, and fine covers of DeShannon's rocking "Each Time," Ian Tyson's folk "Four Strong Winds" and Phil Spector's "Be My Baby." There is a fine, delicate lead vocal on the ballad "Does She Really Care For Me" (originally done by Ruby  & The Romantics), a bit Baroque-sounding "Too Many Miles" and "It's Time," a nice turn-the-tables song. Bonuses are two alternate versions, with one in German.

On the singles and EP tracks collection, one gets the hits, "When You Walk in the Room" (its jangling guitar influenced The Byrds), "Goodbye My Love," the Merseybeat "Saturday Night Out," "The System" with its Beatles-style backing vocals (from the film of the same name) and the pretty original, "Don't Hide It Away." Another highlight is "Popcorn, Double Feature," while "Crazy Dreams" is psychedelic pop.

Just as the band's songwriting was getting stronger, things fell apart due to the lack of chart success and the loss of their manager. Their contract was sold to another label, Liberty, without their knowledge. After a rough patch, though, the band came back strong when they signed with Sire Records in the late 1970s. The set, housed in a clamshell box, comes with a 36-page booklet and another excellent essay, this one by David Wells. Grade: A

Mark Wynter: Venus in Blue Jeans -- The Pop Years 1959-1974 (RPM/Cherry Red, 3 CDs, 3:47:29). During the period 1959-1974, Wynter, who was born Terence Sidney Lewis in 1943, was a pop star in Great Britain, more in the Bobby Darin mode. He had four Top 20 singles, including "Venus in Blue Jeans" and "Go Away Little Girl," and was a teen idol, with most of his recordings dealing with the joys and sorrows of love. However, he then transitioned into being an actor in films, musicals and plays, which he continues to do today. This set collects 95 of his recordings, 18 of which see their first release ever. Most of the selections are the a- and b-sides of singles he made for Decca and then Pye Records, especially on the first two discs.

One of those unreleased tracks opens the collection. It is the raucous "I Go Ape," written by Neil Sedaka and performed Chuck Berry style. By the next track, the ballad "Image of a Girl," we are in vintage Wynter love territory. Other highlights on the first disc include "Glory of Love," the upbeat "Exclusively Yours" with its bright female backing vocals, the nice b-side "Warm and Willing" ballad with strings, Gerry Goffin-Carole King's "Go Away Little Girl" and, of course, "Venus in Blue Jeans." The unreleased "No More Broken Hearts" is upbeat and recalls Frank Sinatra's style. Wynter penned three of the songs, the b-sides "Because of You" and "Don't Cry," and the EP track "I'm a Lucky Guy."

A highlight of the second disc is the sweet album track, "Cinnamon Sinner." It is upbeat and swinging, with fun lyrics. There are lots of mid-tempo ballads, such as "Answer Me" and "I Wish You Everything," while the single, "Love Hurts," shows off Wynter's voice. One of the b-sides is a slow, smooth version of The Beatles' "And I Love Her." The upbeat "In My Imagination" sounds like a song by a teen idol, being upbeat and with female backing vocals. There are three unreleased tracks, including "I'll Always Love You" by Wynter. The next-to-the-last track is a cover of "We'll Sing in the Sunshine."

The final disc has the most unreleased tracks, including four strong performances from a 1961 Australian TV special, "Exclusively Yours." They include "A Hundred Pounds of Clay" with an orchestra and a duet with Patsy Ann Noble on "Walk Right Back." There are three unreleased tracks from a 1966 TV special, "A Tale of Two Rivers," including The Beatles' "Things We Said Today" and "All My Loving," both half sung in French. The third is "Moon River," which was a huge hit for Andy Williams. Also seeing first release is his cover of Roy Orbison's "Goodnight" from 1965. Other disc three highlights are the uplifting single, "You Made Me What I Am"; the bold b-side, "One Girl";  the smooth single, "Please Love Me Forever"; and the upbeat "The Best Thing in My Life is You," which Wynter wrote. There also is the obscure Bacharach-David song, "Another Tear Falls" and, in a good change of pace, the more serious "You Turn Me On (For the Peace of All Mankind)."

The set comes with a 24-page booklet, with an introduction by Wynter, vintage photos and disc sleeves, and liner notes/history by Graham Hunter. Grade: B+

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