Thursday, 30 July 2015

"For The Children" by LABI SIFFRE (2015 Edsel Expanded CD Reissue – Phil Kinrade Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"…If You Have Faith…Then That's All You Need…"

Labi Siffre's 4th album "For The Children" was released in the UK on the Pye International label in late 1973. 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" didn't - it had no hit singles amongst its 10 quality tracks so failed to dent the Top 50. In fact “For The Children” has been difficult to find on vinyl for decades.

This UK released Friday 31 July 2015 Edsel CD reissue on EDSA 5042 (Barcode 740155504236) is essentially a re-run of the June 2006 EMI CD remaster that’s been deleted for years now. It even has the same lone bonus track – the then Previously Unreleased “So What” - and runs to exactly the same playing time of 53:08 minutes. What is upgraded is the 12-page booklet of old into a new 24-page version inside a rather lovely digipak – there are full lyrics (including the bonus track), a colour photo of Siffre playing live and a new ALAN ROBINSON interview with Siffre in 2015. Here are the finite details…

1. Somesay
2. Children Of Children
3. Entertainment Value
4. Odds And Ends
5. Prayer
6. Let's Pretend [Side 2]
7. Someday
8. If You Have Faith
9. For The Children
10. Give Love
Tracks 1 to 10 are his 4th album "For The Children" - released 1973 in the UK on Pye Records NSPL 28182 (no USA issue).

11. So What – first appeared on the June 2006 CD reissue – it’s a 4-act song that runs to 6:48 minutes

The original gatefold sleeve artwork makes up the first and last page on the booklet with the family snapshots collage that was the inside of the gatefold reproduced as the centre pages in the digipak. The CD itself is light blue in colour to reflect the original UK Pye Record label - a nice touch. There’s a photo of EMI Tape Boxes on Page 2 - while the interview from Pages 17 to 23 goes into some depth with the singer-songwriter about the album’s ruminations on the State Of The World in 1973. Personally I’ve always thought this album his lost masterpiece containing a level of song sophistication that even surpassed his more popular and well-known LP “Crying Laughing Loving Lying” from 1972.

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 Labi, Acoustic Guitar and his high falsetto voice. He's often lumped in with the Easy Listening genre here in the UK that frankly does his superb song-writing talents a huge disservice. And like Gilbert O'Sullivan – Siffre 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.

PHIL KINRADE at Alchemy Mastering has transferred the fabulous Audio remastering done by EMI in 2006 and the results are stupendous – each track beautifully clear, muscular and a real revelation.

Two 45s were issued around the "For The Children" LP and using the “Labi Siffre” and “Crying Laughing Loving Lying” Edsel CD reissues – fans can sequence them as follows:

1. Give Love [10] b/w Last Night Tonight
UK released January 1973 on Pye International 7N.25602 (no US release)
The non-album B-side is available as a bonus track on the “Labi Siffre” CD

2. If You Have Faith [8] b/w Oh Me Oh My Mr. City Goodbye
UK released October 1973 on Pye International 7N.25629 (no US issue)
The non-album B-side is available as a bonus track on the “Crying Laughing Loving Lying” CD

All songs on "For The Children" are written by Siffre (including the extra track) and are uniformly excellent. Standouts would number the funky guitar strummer “Odds And Ends” (bass and pedal steel sound amazing). Side One ends with the gut-string acoustic ditty “Prayer” which lasts only two minutes but is truly lovely. Side 2 opens with the epic “Let’s Pretend” - nine and half minutes of building 12-string guitars - and it’s properly gorgeous. As the hopeful words float by - he sings of religious leaders dropping their rules - “…Let’s Pretend there’s a God of love…that he wants us to be…all of the good things we can be…let’s pretend…” It’s emotional stuff - passes the love test. The keyboard strut of the superb “For The Children” sounds amazing - full of punch and clever stereo tricks. But the album’s real masterpiece is the beautiful “If You Have Faith” - as lovely a song as the Seventies produced. Sure its sappy and maybe it’s even a tad naive in its beliefs - but it moves me to tears and more importantly has that rarest of qualities - it fills me with hope. The 4-act bonus track “So What” seems to be two songs run into one near seven-minute tune. “So What” comes first and feels like a recent recording - then about 2:27 minutes in - a separate “London Town” keyboard tune emerges (very 1975) - all of it keyboards. It’s very good.

Increasingly his songs are being name-checked and used by R'n'B soul boys of the last few years who have realised 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..." track on the "Remember My Song" LP from 1975. 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.

So there you have it. I can’t help but feel that songs like the inspirational and moving "If You Have Faith”, the Hey Jude epic quality of "Let's Pretend" and the Piano-Funk of “For The Children” have languished in obscurity for far too long. I've treasured this Labi Siffre album (along with his others) for years on vinyl - and to finally hear it given this kind of sound quality is a joy. A 70s gem that’s ripe for rediscovery methinks.

Well done to Edsel for getting these reissues out there once again and in such classy presentation too...

The 31 July 2015 EDSEL Expanded CD Remasters for Labi Siffre are:

1. Labi Siffre (1970)
Edsel EDSA 5041 (Barcode 740155503932) with 6 Bonus Tracks
2. The Singer And The Song (1971)
Edsel EDSA 5040 (Barcode 740155504038) with 8 Bonus Tracks
3. Crying Laughing Loving Lying (1972)
Edsel EDSA 5041 (Barcode 740155504137) with 8 Bonus Tracks
4. For The Children (1973)
Edsel EDSA 5041 (Barcode 740155504236) with 1 Bonus Track
5. The Last Songs (1998)
Edsel EDSA 5043 (Barcode 740155504335) no bonus tracks

His 5th album "Remember My Song" from March 1975 on EMI was reissued on CD in 2006 but for some undisclosed reason is not included in this 2015 reissue campaign.

There was one last album in the Seventies for EMI called "Happy?" released in November 1975 and its 10-tracks are available on CD albeit in a round about way. The EMI CD compilation called "The Music Of Labi Siffre" contains all but one song of the "Remember My Song" album and the full "Happy?" album (see separate review) – so you acquire that budget-priced CD to get the guts of both albums at a reasonable cost.

The 14 new tunes of “The Last Songs” was recorded live on Tour in 1998 and released on CD that year. It was reissued in 2006 and is once again in this 2015 Edsel campaign (no bonus tracks). It’s beautifully recorded and songs like "Sparrow In The Storm" and "Why Isn't Love Enough?" show Siffre has lost none of his singer-songwriter magic...

This review is part of my SOUNDS GOOD Music Books Series. E-Books giving advice on "Exceptional CD Remasters" in different genres. Check out SOUNDS GOOD: Classic 1970s Rock...available to buy on Amazon and many other download sites...

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