Thursday, 10 November 2011

"Himself" by GILBERT O’SULLIVAN (2011 Salvo Records 'Expanded Edition' CD Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry of his 1971 Debut LP on Mam Records...

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"…Allow Me To Present Myself To You…"

Dubliners and Irish people of a certain age (as well as admirers from many other countries) will look at the sleeve of this early Seventies album by Waterford born singer-songwriter Raymond Gilbert O'Sullivan with huge affection – the music and lyrics having wedged themselves into their hearts. And at last – in 2011 - we finally get to see Gilbert's MAM Records catalogue receive a decent reissue campaign – and it’s artist-approved too. Here are the pudding bowl details...

UK released Monday 7 November 2011 (15 Nov 2011 in the USA) – "Himself" by GILBERT O’SULLIVAN on Salvo SALVOXCD1001 (Barcode 698458050120) is an 'Expanded Edition' CD Remaster and plays out as follows (63:19 minutes):

1. Intro
2. January Git
3. Bye-Bye
4. Permissive Twit
5. Matrimony
6. Independent Air
7. Nothing Rhymed
8. Too Much Attention [Side 2]
9. Susan Van Heusen
10. If I Don’t Get You (Back Again)
11. Thunder And Lightning
12. Houdini Said
13. Doing The Best That I Can
14. Outro
Tracks 1 to 14 are his 'UK' debut album "Himself" – released August 1971 on Mam Records MAM-SS 501. The American LP variant "Gilbert O’Sullivan Himself" on Mam/London MAM-4 was released a year later with a different cover and track list on Side 2. "Susan Van Heusen" and "Doing The Best I Can" from the UK LP were replaced with two hits singles - "Alone Again (Naturally)" and "We Will". Famously "Alone Again (Naturally)" went to Number 1 in the USA and stayed there for 6 weeks in July 1972. The "Himself" album itself reached Number 5 and 9 on the UK and US LP charts respectively.

15. Disappear
16. What Can I Do – Tracks 15 and 16 are Previously Unreleased 'Original Demo' versions of his first 2 singles on CBS Records from 1967 and 1968 (credited as GILBERT)
17. Mr. Moody's Garden – the non-album B-side to the UK 7" single "I Wish I Could Cry" – released August 1971 on Columbia Records DB 8779
18. Everybody Knows – the non-album B-side to the UK 7" single "Nothing Rhymed" – released October 1970 on Mam Records MAM 3 (his 1st 45 on the label)
19. Underneath The Blanket Go – a non-album track issued as a UK 7" single A-Side on Mam Records MAM 13 in February 1971 with the "Himself" album track "Doing The Best I Can" as its B-side
20. We Will
21. I Didn’t Know What To Do – Tracks 20 and 21 are the A&B-sides of a non-album UK 7" single released July 1971 on Mam Records MAM 30
22. No Matter How I Try – a non-album UK 7" single released November 1971 on Mam Records MAM 53. Its B-side was the "Himself" album track "If I Don't Get You (Back Again)"

The original UK LP had a laminated gatefold sleeve with an inner lyric bag – both it and the 'car collage' inner gatefold shot are faithfully reproduced in high quality on the card digipak. There's a 'Gilbert O'Sullivan – A Singer And His Songs' logo sticker on the front which will undoubtedly accompany all of these expanded reissues. The 20-page booklet is gorgeous - tastefully laid out lyrics to all the songs (including the bonuses), photos from his own archives, trade adverts and a detailed paragraph on each single with reminiscences from Gilbert on the album's creation. There's glossy photos in here I’ve never seen. Even the CD is a pictured one. But the really big news for fans is the SOUND…

Remastered from original master tapes – the sound quality is a vast improvement on what went before (compilations and expensive Japanese imports). The album it has to be said is 'hissy' in many places and that's been accentuated a bit – but then so has the clarity of all the instruments. The sound quality for instance on the 2 singles "We Will" and the joyful "No Matter How I Try" is superlative (and without hiss). The "Intro" snippet (lyrics above) leads into the witty "January Git" and the sound improvement is very obvious. The jaunty "Matrimony" and "Houdini Said" are firm fan favourites and the Drum and flute combo in "Too Much Attention" has even been used by Dance DJs for a few years now. I also love the lesser-heard "Independent Air" track with its slinky beginning and big brassy finish.

But the album belongs to the song that made him – a tune that made the public sit up and take notice. "Nothing Rhymed" is an extraordinary melody. Even now – more than 4 decades after the event – the lyrics are sung back to him word-for-word at concerts by the audience – and unfortunately their poignant message is still relevant too "…will I glance at my screen and see real human beings…starve to death in front of my eyes…"

This is a lovely reissue really – and properly well done. He would of course wisely move on from the terrible 'pudding bowl' image of 1970 and 1971 to the success of his 2nd album "Back To Front" and the wonderful "Along Again (Naturally)" in 1972 (the next reissue in this series). But this is where his songwriting career started and Salvo are to be praised for handling it so well...

PS: Salvo of the UK continued their reissue campaign with his 2nd LP "Back To Front" from 1972, his 3rd album "I'm A Writer, Not A Fighter" from 1973 and his 4th Mam Records LP “A Stranger In My Own Back Yard” from 1974. They also went beyond into the CBS years of the 80ts. All are ‘Expanded’ Edition CD Remasters with Bonus Tracks and Repro Packaging (see my detailed online reviews for his 2nd, 3rd and 4th LPs).

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