Labi's 3rd album was released in the UK on the Pye Label in October of 1972 (NSPL 28163). The gatefold sleeve complete with its lyric insert is reproduced on this EMI June 2006 CD reissue. Tracks 1-12 make up the original album, while the remaining tracks (13 to 18) are bonus unreleased material (b-sides of 7" singles and albums outtakes). All songs (including the bonus material) are written by Labi. I've bought all 5 of his Pye Label albums in this reissue series and the remastered sound is truly superb on all - amazingly clear - none of the hiss and muddiness that went with previous budget label issues.
Born in London in 1945 to a Belgian/Barbadian mum and Nigerian father, Labi had his demos sent to a music publisher in late 1969 which resulted in a publishing contract and the recording and release of his first album on Pye Records early in 1970 (Pye Records at that time was home to The Kinks and Status Quo). His style for the first 5 albums he did on Pye is more singer-songwriter than soulster, though the tracks themselves are often very soulful in their nature - sort of a Bill Withers meets Gilbert O'Sullivan vibe. Many were just him and his acoustic guitar and his high falsetto voice. He's often lumped in with easy-listening here in the UK, which does his superb song-writing talents a huge disservice - and like Gilbert O'Sullivan, he is another 'soft' songwriter of the Seventies not given nearly enough credit for his brilliance in penning a truly touching tune, but beloved still by fans and those who like their singers to be on the side of Gordon Lightfoot and James Taylor.
Increasingly his songs are being name-checked and used by R'n'B soul boys of the last few years who have realized that Labi's songs offer a wealth of good source material - KAYNE WEST sampled "My Song" from "Crying Laughing Loving Lying" on his "I Wonder" track from 2007's "Graduation", while both JAY-Z and EMINEM have famously sampled the stunning bass break that happens half way through "I Got The..." (deliberately spelt that way) on "Remember My Song" from 1975.
The liner notes though are a little strange - each issue repeats the same notes from Siffre himself instead of say, an ongoing interview. I don't want the same notes 5 times! There is, however, a few extra notes on the album in hand and the nature of the bonus tracks. And the artwork inserts for all albums are as per the original LP - tasteful. One real quibble with the "Crying..." issue is the EXCLUSION of his fabulous 7"-only "Watch Me" from July of that year - which is available ONLY on the "Best Of" compilation that preceded these releases. Bit of a bummer that - there was plenty of room on the disc. Still, it's only a quibble.
Tracks like the lovely "Fool Me A Goodnight" (lyrics above), "Hotel Room Song" and "My Song" have languished in obscurity for far too long. But what most fans, however, will thrill too - is the fabulous remastering sound job EMI has done on each release (doesn't say who did what). Beautifully clear - muscular, but never too hissy. I've treasured this album for years on vinyl, and to finally hear it given this kind of sound quality is a joy. "It Must Be Love" and the beautiful title track "Crying, Laughing, Loving, Lying" have never sounded this good. An album that's ripe for rediscovery. Each title is mid price too and can be picked up for next to nothing online.
Return to these forgotten Seventies albums, you'll be glad you did...
PS: The other original Seventies albums in this series are:
1. Labi Siffre (1970 debut LP)
2. The Singer & The Song (1971, his second album)
3. For The Children (1973, his 4th album) (see SEPARATE REVIEW)
4. Remember My Song (March 1975, his fifth album)
("Remember My Song" contains the funky track "I Got The..." sampled by EMINEM on his "My Name Is" chart hit)
There was one last album in the Seventies for EMI called "Happy?" released in November 1975 - it's 10-tracks are available on CD, but under another name. The EMI compilation that they’re on is called "The World Of..." and it also contains part of the "Remember My Song" album. Siffre retired for a few years, but then returned in 1987 with "(Something Inside) So Strong" on China Records, a magnificent Anti-Apartheid anthem and as moving a song as you're ever likely to hear.
In this re-issue campaign, there's also "The Last Songs" CD. It was recorded and released quietly in 1998, it's a live set of NEW songs and is also re-released as a Remaster - and along with the "Best Of" set that preceded the whole campaign, all 7 CDs were released in 2006.
PPS: His website is fascinating also - packed with poetry, political observations, extremely active fan exchanges etc... Check it out on www.intothelight.info