Thursday, 27 October 2011

"I Can See Clearly Now" by JOHNNY NASH [feat Bob Marley, Average White Band] (2011 Big Break Records (BBR) 'Expanded Edition' CD Remaster with Two Bonus Tracks) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"…Gone Are The Dark Clouds That Had Me Blind…"

Some confusion surrounds "I Can See Clearly Now" because it has the same name as a 1989 CBS 'Best Of' compilation that naughtily contained some unannounced re-recordings. This 2011 Big Break Records CD is not that compilation - it's a reissue of the original 1972 album with two bonus tracks added on. And the album quietly features both Bob Marley and members of Average White Band. Here are the less foggy details…

UK released 1 August 2011 - "I Can See Clearly Now" by JOHNNY NASH on Big Break Records CDBBR 0064 (Barcode 5013939036420) is an 'Expanded Edition' CD Remaster with Two Bonus Tracks and plays out as follows (42:43 minutes):

1. Stir It Up
2. That’s The Way We Get By
3. Guava Jelly
4. (It Was) So Nice While It Lasted 
5. Ooh Baby You've Been God To Me
6. You Poured Sugar On Me 
7. I Can See Clearly Now [Side 2]
8. Comma Comma
9. We’re All Alike
10. How Good It Is 
11. The Fish And The Alley Of Destruction
12. There Are More Questions Than Answers
Tracks 1 to 12 are the album "I Can See Clearly Now" - originally released July 1972 in the UK on CBS Records S CBS 64840 and on Epic Records KE 31607 in the USA. It peaked at number 39 and 23 on the Pop Charts in the UK and USA. 
[Note: Tracks 1 to 12 are the UK track list - the original US LP replaced "The Fish And The Alley Of Destruction" on Side 2 with "Cream Puff"]

13. Cream Puff - the non-album B-side of "Stir It Up" - originally the first 45 lifted off the album and a track included on the American LP version
14. Stir It Up (Single Mix) - a 2:18 minute remix and edit of the album version - Track 1 at 3:06 minutes

There were 4 x 7" singles issued in the UK and USA off the album at the time - this release will allow you to sequence all of them as follows:
1. Stir It Up [14] b/w Cream Puff [13] - released March 1972 in the UK on CBS Records CBS 7800 and May 1972 in the USA on Epic Records 5-10973
2. I Can See Clearly Now [7] b/w How Good It Is [10] - released 2 June 1972 in the UK on CBS Records CBS S 8113 and July 1972 in the USA on Epic 5-10902
3. There Are More Questions Than Answers [12] b/w Guava Jelly [3] - released September 1972 in the UK on CBS Records CBS S 8351 (unreleased in the USA)
4. Stir It Up [14] b/w Ooh Baby You've Been Good To Me [5] - reissue issued in the USA-only in January 1973 on Epic 5-10949

The 12-page booklet has thoroughly detailed and affectionate liner notes by CHRISTIAN JOHN WIKANNE with pictures of UK, US and European singles. A clever inclusion is the original Marty Pekar liner notes that appeared only on the back of the 'US' LP. Because the UK sleeve had neither credits nor an insert - it didn't highlight the extraordinary musician contributions that lay within - and some of these names went on to become huge (see below). But the very best news is the truly stunning SOUND. Remastered by ALAN WILSON at Western Star Studios from the 1st generation tapes with help from BBR's own WAYNE A. DICKSON - the audio quality is truly gorgeous and hits you straight in the solar-plexus the second the drum-whack of "Stir It Up" exits your speakers. Having had to endure years of lacklustre compilations - this is at last the real deal.

As already mentioned above, the album featured uncredited session-men and lesser-known writers. BOB MARLEY was one of them - he features in no less than five writing credits - "Stir It Up", "Guava Jelly", "Comma Comma", "Cream Puff" and a co-wrote with Nash on "You Poured Sugar On Me". Marley hadn't signed to Island Records just yet and was still being hawked around London by Nash as someone people should notice. In fact insiders and journalists of the time cited Johnny Nash as a major catalyst in Marley's global success that eventually came 3 years later in 1975 with his legendary "Live! At The Lyceum" set. It is also widely accepted that members of the backing band at the album sessions were THE WAILERS and even future members of the AVERAGE WHITE BAND. Marley would feature his own version of "Stir It Up" on his Island Records debut album "Catch A Fire" in April of the next year - 1973. Another contributor was sessionman and keyboardist JOHN 'RABBIT' BUNDRICK (had solo albums on Island in the mid Seventies) who wrote three tracks - "That's The Way We Get By", "We're All Alike" and "The Fish And The Alley Of Destruction". Unfortunately they're the weakest songs on here with "Fish" containing some truly cringing lyrics too.

If you think the heavyweight contributions would somehow overshadow Nash's own work - the exact opposite is the truth. Some of the best songs on the album are his. There's "(It Was) So Nice While It Lasted" - a bittersweet ballad with a superb vocal from him - "Ooh Baby You've Been Good To Me" - a chipper and fantastic dancer with great backing-group vocals and the Mellotron-laden "How Good It Is" - probably the most Seventies-Reggae sounding track of them all. Then there are the two huge singles - "I Can See Clearly Now" and "There Are More Questions Than Answers". While the Marley cover "Stir It Up" had aroused interest in Nash's new musical direction when it was released in March 1972, "I Can See Clearly Now" took the summer of that year by storm reaching Number 1 in the USA and 5 in the UK (lyrics above). Neither Reggae nor Soul - it was a strange hybrid of both and the public loved it. And I cannot stress enough how good the sound quality is on both of these gems - especially after years of naff compilations. If you have any love for these songs - then you need to hear them on this CD.

To sum up - it's not all genius for sure but this a great reissue of a criminally forgotten and ignored Reggae/Soul LP from the early Seventies and a timely nod to an artist who thoroughly deserves accolades galore. Buy it and enjoy…

PS: Big Break Records (BBR) CD Remasters I’ve reviewed to 2015:
1. Is It Still Good To Ya – ASHFORD and SIMPSON (1978)
2. Stay Free – ASHFORD and SIMPSON (1979)
3. Central Heating – HEATWAVE (1977)
4. Hot Property - HEATWAVE (1979)
5. Candles - HEATWAVE (1980)
6. Turnin' On - HIGH INERGY (1977)
7. Harvest For The World - THE ISLEY BROTHERS (1976)
8. Go For Your Guns - THE ISLEY BROTHERS (1977)
9. In The Heart – KOOL & THE GANG (1983)
10. I Hope We Get To Love On Time - MARILYN McCOO & BILLY DAVIS (1976)
11. I Miss You - HAROLD MELVIN & THE BLUE NOTES (1972) [known as "Harold Melvin The Blue Notes" in the UK]
12. Black & Blue - HAROLD MELVIN & THE BLUE NOTES (1973)
13. Love Is The Message - MFSB (1973)
14. Universal Love – MFSB (1975)
15. All The Faces Of... - BUDDY MILES (1974)
16. For The First Time – STEPHANIE MILLS (1975)
17. I Can See Clearly Now - JOHNNY NASH (1972)
18. In Philadelphia - O'JAYS (1969)
19. Back Stabbers - O'JAYS (1972)
20. Ship Ahoy - O'JAYS (1973)
21. Down To Love Town – THE ORIGINALS (1977)
22. Ebony Woman - BILLY PAUL (1970 and 1973)
23. 360 Degrees Of Billy Paul - BILLY PAUL (1972)
24. War Of The Gods - BILLY PAUL (1973)
25. Platinum Hook – PLATINUM HOOK (1978)
26. Love For What It Is - ANITA POINTER (of The Pointer Sisters) (1987)
27. Live: Stompin’ At The Savoy – RUFUS and CHAKA KHAN (1983)
28. Summernights – SILVER CONVENTION (1977)
29. Smoked Sugar - SMOKED SUGAR (1975)
30. Spinners – SPINNERS (1973)
31. Soul Master – EDWIN STARR (1968)
32. Involved - EDWIN STARR (1971)
33. Switch - SWITCH (1978)
34. Watercolors – THE WATERS (1980)
35. Just As I Am - BILL WITHERS (1971 Debut LP on Sussex/A&M Records)
36. Heartbeats – YARBROUGH & PEOPLES (1983)

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