Friday, 31 July 2015

"The Last Songs" by LABI SIFFRE (July 2015 Edsel CD Reissue and Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...Sparrow In The Storm..."

Back in June 2006 - EMI launched a 7-CD reissue campaign for Labi Siffre - five albums from 1970 to 1975, a "Best Of" compilation and his latest offering "The Last Songs" – a CD of 14 new tunes recorded Live and Solo that Siffre released on a small independent label in 1998. 

For 2015 Edsel of the UK have picked up on five of those Abbey Road remastered CDs (list below) – including "The Last Songs". It's been deleted since 2006 (and acquired a nasty price tag in some places) - so it's nice to have it back and remains a powerful reminder of his songwriting chops. Even with new material in a live setting...Labi Siffre is extraordinarily moving and pens a powerful song...

Those 2006 Abbey Road CD remasters came in jewel cases with 12-page booklets that were adequate rather than inspiring. 

This UK released 31 July 2015 CD on Edsel EDSA 5043 (Barcode 740155504335) is a straightforward reissue of the 1998 14-track CD album - only this time it comes in a card digipak with an upgraded 28-page booklet. It features lyrics to every song, a two-page note from Siffre about the album, a poem called "From The Poet To The Poet" and some personal philosophy statements called "Fundamentals". Unlike the other CDs in this Edsel reissue series – there is no new interview with Siffre. The tracks were 'sculpted' across five years and recorded Live and Solo in 1998 while on Tour in the UK (it runs to 65:31 minutes):

1. Everything
2. Samaritans
3. Face To Face (A Paper Regret)
4. This Is It
5. Lose Myself In You
6. Clinging To The Ledge
7. The Life I Got
8. The Dead Don't Matter
9. A Kiss In The Mirror
10. Sparrow In The Storm
11. Little Boy Baby Blue
12. Rainbow Moon
13. Why Isn't Love Enough?
14. The Song To Sing

Recorded by TED KENDEL – "The Last Songs" has Siffre on stage alone with a beautiful sounding electrified Acoustic guitar singing about gay love ("The Life I Got"), commuters giving hand outs to people on the street ("Samaritans") and girls having their childhood stolen from them under a blanket at home ("A Kiss In The Mirror"). Siffre is clearly light years away from the soft singer-songwriter melodies of 1970 to 1973 that give us chart favourites like "It Must Be Love", "Crying, Laughing, Loving, Lying" and the sublime "Watch Me" (Madness and Rod Stewart covered those songs). Here he's fiercely political, angry, topical and yet in the truly gorgeous "Sparrow In The Storm" – sincerely moving. This is a man who thinks, whose searching for answers and doesn’t find them in fame or even God. He's always had a way with a melody and when he allies it with words like " these broken bloody times...we need more than TV smiles...behind the eyes the door is tight shut...behind the makeup...just more makeup..." – the impact is huge. "Why Isn't Love Enough?" is warm and honest where he sings with passion "...for thirty years we've been lovers...ain't that enough to prove our love..." A gorgeous contemporary album and one that begs rediscovery and a well-deserved second chance...

Siffre retired for a few years after his Seventies career simply fizzled out - 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. His into-the-light website is fascinating also - packed with poetry, political observations and extremely active fan exchanges etc.

This is a gorgeous reissue and well done to Edsel for making "The Last Songs" available again on CD – and in such sweet style...

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

1. Labi Siffre (1970)
Edsel EDSA 5039 (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 5042 (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...

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