Thursday, 21 August 2008

"A's B's & Rarities" by HOT CHOCOLATE (2004 EMI Gold CD Compilation of UK 7" Singles Between 1969 and 1975) - A Review by Mark Barry...


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"A's, B's & Rarities" by HOT CHOCOLATE pretty much does what it says on the tin. This December 2004 EMI Gold CD compilation (out of the UK) contains 20 tracks from the first six years of Hot Chocolate's extraordinary 30-year long chart career.

Covering 1969 to 1975 - most of the songs on here were released on Mickie Most's hugely successful RAK Records label in the UK. Many of these tunes are non-album and 10 make their CD debut on this release. Here are the non-fattening details...

UK released December 2004 – "A's, B's & Rarities" by HOT CHOCOLATE on EMI Gold 560 2172 (Barcode 724356021723) is a 20-track CD compilation of Remasters and plays out as follows (75:16 minutes):

1. Give Peace A Chance
2. Living With Tomorrow
3. Love Is Life
4. Pretty Girls
5. You Could've Been A Lady (Original Single Version)
6. Everybody's Laughing
7. I Believe In Love (Previously Unreleased Stereo Mix)
8. Caveman Billy
9. Mary-Anne
10. Ruth
11. You'll Always Be A Friend
12. Go Go Girl
13. Brother Louie
14. I Want To Be Free
15. Rumours
16. A Man Needs A Woman
17. Emma
18. Makin' Music
19. Blue Night
20. You Sexy Thing (Original Version)

Tracks 1 and 2 are the A&B-sides of their debut UK 7" single on Apple Records APPLE 18 issued Oct 1969
Tracks 3 and 4 are the A&B of Rak Records RAK 103 issued August 1970
Tracks 5 and 6 are the A&B of Rak Records RAK 110 issued February 1971
Tracks 7 and 8 are the A&B of Rak Records RAK 118 issued August 1971
Tracks 9 and 10 are the A&B of Rak Records RAK 127 issued March 1972
Tracks 11 and 12 are the A&B of Rak Records RAK 139 issued October 1972
Tracks 13 and 14 are the A&B of Rak Records RAK 149 issued April 1973
Tracks 15 and 16 are the A&B of Rak Records RAK 157 issued August 1973
Tracks 17 and 18 are the A&B of Rak Records RAK 168 issued March 1974
Tracks 19 and 20 are the A&B of Rak Records RAK 199 issued April 1975
(Tracks 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 16, 18 and 20 are first time on CD)

Their 1st UK 7" single (credited as HOT CHOCOLATE BAND) is an awful reggae version of John Lennon's "Give Peace A Chance" coupled with a slightly better original Tony Wilson/Errol Brown song on the B. As you can see it's on the highly collectable Beatles label APPLE and is a £60+ rarity. The remaining 18 songs were all issued on RAK and as you scan down the names - many of the huge hits will be familiar.

However there are a few things worth noting. "I Believe (In Love)" is a previously unreleased stereo mix, while "Mary-Anne" and its B-side "Ruth" is one of the only times that the soulful Hot Chocolate ventured into bubble-gum pop! Horrifying for a soul group I know but both tracks are actually pretty good.

In the undiscovered gem corner is "Go Go Girl". With its Kinks-style opening guitar riff and rough 'n' ready production, this completely forgotten non-album B-side has recently been played in some London clubs as a 6T's dancer and beat tune (check it out on iTunes). And the ‘honky' talking lines at the end of "Brother Louie" is spoken by Alexis Korner - with John Cameron doing the superb string arrangements - both from the much-loved and revered C.C.S. of “Tap Turns On The Water” fame (another Rak Records label act).

The last curio is Track 20 - the mid 1975 original version of "You Sexy Thing" (RAK 199) and absolutely not the version hot-wired into your wedding dance routines. It was initially put out as a B-side to "Blue Night" - one of Mickie Most's rare mistakes. But as luck would have it – an American DJ flipped the 45 and immediately realised what a funky cracker “You Sexy Thing" was. On the strength of this radio play and public-driven demand - Hot Chocolate then re-recorded the song and released it as the familiar chart hit we all know and love in October of that year (RAK 221). It's been their signature tune ever since. The original version here is excellent - but you can't help feel they made the right choice with the re-released re-recording. And that is of course a bit of an obvious poo-poo here – the version we all love and want is AWOL. Looking at the playing time – it could have been squeezed in – but alas...

Still - the 12-page booklet has superb and detailed liner notes by PHIL HENDRICKS and the sound quality is up there with all EMI releases - clear, warm and punchy.

It's not all Picasso of course and it may be too lightweight-soul for some - but rehearing "Emma", "Brother Louie" and "You Could Have Been A Lady" and so many others in this superb sound quality has been a blast.

So - at under a fiver including P&P - you have to be asking yourself - am I getting enough of what makes me happy - is there Heaven in the back seat of Errol's Cadillac... did it start with a kiss...will I have a Honky in my house... oh stop it.

Recommended...

PS:
Other 70's acts in the "A's B's & Rarities" series are:
THE ARROWS, C.C.S. (see REVIEW), MUD, PILOT and SUZI QUATRO
(All of these artists were on the RAK label except Pilot who were on EMI)

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