Labi Siffre's 4th album "For The Children" was released in the UK on the Pye Label in 1973 (NSPL 28182). Its predecessor "Crying Laughing Loving Lying" contained the two huge hits "It Must Be Love" and the album title track "Crying Laughing Loving Lying", so the LP charted reasonably well. "For The Children" was the follow-up album but it had no hit singles in its 10 tracks, so failed to dent even the Top 50. It is - and has been for years - difficult to find on vinyl. This is its first proper release ever on CD anywhere in the world and I consider it to be a bit of a lost classic.
The original gatefold sleeve artwork makes up the first and last page on the booklet of this June 2006 EMI CD Remaster - with the family snapshots collage that was the inside of the gatefold reproduced as the centre pages in the booklet - a nice touch. The lyric insert that came with original copies is also reproduced.
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.
Tracks 1-10 make up the original album with Track 11 "So What!" being the sole bonus track (previously unreleased on CD, it hails from 1975). All songs are written by Siffre (included the extra track) and are uniformly excellent. I've bought all 5 of his Pye Label albums in this re-issue series and the REMASTERED SOUND QUALITY IS SUPERB ON ALL - amazingly clear - none of the hiss and muddiness that went with previous budget label issues.
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 track/tracks.
Songs like the inspirational and moving "If You Have Faith" (lyrics above) and the Hey Jude feel of the nine-minute epic "Let's Pretend" 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. Beautifully clear – muscular – this CD is a revelation. I've treasured this album along with his others for years on vinyl, and to finally hear it given this kind of sound quality is a joy. "Odds & Ends" and the short but oh so sweet "Prayer" have never sounded this good. An album that is ripe for rediscovery I reckon.
Each title is mid price too and can be picked up for next to nothing online. Highly recommended!
PS: The other original Seventies albums in this series are:
1. Labi Siffre (1970 debut)
2. The Singer & The Song (1971, his second album)
3. Crying Laughing Loving Lying (1972, his 3rd album) (SEE 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