Tuesday, 11 January 2011

“Bish” by STEPHEN BISHOP (December 2006 Hip-O Select CD Reissue in Mini LP Hard Card Gatefold Repro Artwork - Numbered Limited Edition of 5000) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"…What Should I Do…I'm Losing Myself In You…" 

Following on from his hugely popular debut album "Careless" (released December 1976 on ABC Records in the both the States and UK) – 1978’s "Bish" was a classy follow-through – an audiophile-sounding vinyl LP featuring a glittering array of top West Coast session players that is beloved by Stephen Bishop fans to this day.

On CD - there's been budget issues of some of its tracks here in the UK on MCA/Half Moon and in the US on the excellent Rhino "Best Of" remaster in 1988 - but this is the first proper sonic doing of the entire album and the result I'm happy to say is just beautiful. The audio quality here is breathtaking - clarity that fans will absolutely delight in - pretty much the same as "Careless" (see separate review in “SOUNDS GOOD: Sixties & Seventies Volume 1”).

1. If I Only Had A Brain
2. Losing Myself In You
3. Looking For The Right One
4. Everybody Needs Love
5. A Fool At Heart
6. What Can Love Do
7. Vagabond From Heaven [Side 2]
8. Bish’s Hideaway
9. Only The Heart Within You
10. Recognized
11. I’ve Never Known A Nite Like This
12. When I Was In Love

Released December 2006 in the USA-only – "Bish" by STEPHEN BISHOP on Hip-O Select/Geffen B000298402 (Barcode 008811837921) is a straightforward CD reissue (in gatefold repro artwork) of his 2nd studio LP released August 1978 in the USA on ABC Records AA-1082 and in the UK on ABC Records ABCL 5252 (44:30 minutes total playing time).

It’s a NUMBERED LIMITED EDITION of 5000 issued in an oversized 5" gatefold repro hard-card sleeve (numbered on the rear in gold). There's also a see-through sepia-printed inner sleeve giving re-issue details. The card sleeve has the words LIMITED EDITION boxed in gold on the rear and the detail even stretches to a pasted-on inner gatefold sleeve like US albums of the time. It's a shame though that there is no history to the album, no proper liner note contributed by the man himself, not even an original release date of the LP or singles or photos from the sessions - still, that all pales against the real deal - the stunning sound...

Universal uses several top engineers (Erick Labson, Ellen Fitton, Suha Gur and Kevin Reeves are among the names I've reviewed before) and GAVIN LURSSEN is one of them. His work here is a sensation (as it was on the 2005 Hip-O Select "Careless" CD). The album "Bish" was beautifully produced by Bishop in the first place - but here all that work comes shining through. The mastering is 'so' sweet - it's like a Mobile Fidelity CD - you feel care was taken with it and the result is a genuine thrill.

Like its predecessor, the tracks are top-heavy with contributions from `superstars of the day' - "Losing Myself In You" features David Foster on Piano with brilliantly complimentary Michael McDonald Backing Vocals (lyrics above), "Everybody Needs Love" features Ray Parker on Guitar, "A Fool At Heart" features Bill Payne of Little Feat on Keyboards with Natalie Cole and Chaka Khan on Backing Vocals. The opening double track on Side 2 is called "Prelude/Vagabond From Heaven" and it features a lovely keyboard lead-in by Steve Porcaro of Toto on "Prelude" which is in turn followed by more spine-tingling duet vocals from Michael McDonald on "Vagabond From Heaven". The beautiful and plaintive "Only The Heart Within You" has Art Garfunkel on very subtle Backing Vocals towards the end, while Porcaro turns again on "I've Never Known A Night Like This" but this time with Tom Scott on Saxophone.  Even the opening instrumental cover version of "The Wizard Of Oz" classic "If I Only Had A Brain" is pretty - setting up a sort of whimsical feel to certain tracks on the album. It's a very nice album indeed...

As a US import, the Hip-O Select label isn't cheap (it received no UK release), but like Ace, Bear Family, Rhino and Raven - their issues are the best. For lovers of the album this a no-brainer - it's a must have purchase. This reissue of "Bish" is a superlative job done - and recommended big time.

PS: Lurssen's top-notch mastering work is also featured on the 2CD “Gold" anthology by THE CRUSADERS, another Hip-O Select release via Universal (see my separate review in the download book “SOUNDS GOOD: Soul, Funk and Jazz Fusion”)

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