Saturday, 17 October 2020

"Bob Stanley Presents: 76 In The Shade" by VARIOUS ARTISTS – Featuring 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976 and 1977 Tracks by Lynsey De Paul, Jefferson Starship, Smokey Robinson, David Ruffin, 10cc, Barclay James Harvest, Liverpool Express, Steve Miller Band, Simon Park, Cliff Richard, Blue Mink, The Emotions, Azimuth, Gilbert O’Sullivan, Hollywood Freeway, Sylvia, Carmen McRae and more (August 2020 UK Ace Records CD Compilation – Nick Robbins Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"...Sugar Shuffle..."

I am not really sure who this compilation is aimed at, but it sure ain't me. 

For the most part, I found it a painful listen - music that hasn't travelled the decades well no matter how smartly you present it (the 20-page Bob Stanley annotated liner notes and booklet are the usual classy affair from British reissue diamonds Ace Records). 

Loosely themed around the hottest summer then on record (1976) which many of a certain age (moi included) remember all too well - this Bob Stanley Presents "76 In The Shade" Various Artists 20-track CD on Ace CDCHD 1580 (Barcode 029667099424) is supposed to bring me back to that hot and sweaty musical maelstrom (release date: 28 August 2020, 74:53 minutes). 

But despite really great NICK ROBBINS Remastered sound - many of the tracks put up here as worthy of rediscovery are that awful middle-of-the-road mid-Seventies Pop cack – unmemorable fluff that made the breath-of-fresh-air Punk and New Wave music so necessary and so welcome. 

Then there are the dates. Many of these songs are from 1973, 1972 and 1975- so don't really fit in either. The only real 1976 gems on here are tracks I already own – the full version of 10cc's utterly brilliant "I'm Mandy Fly Me" from their "How Dare You" album, Steve Miller's beautiful and spacey "Wild Mountain Honey" from "Fly Like An Eagle" and the lovely Charles Stepney/Maurice White sexy Soul of "Flowers" by The Emotions. 

Interesting picks. The Simon Park (of "Eye Level" fame) track from a Music De Wolfe library LP is a clever instrumental choice and Gilbert O’Sullivan’s last album for Mam Records "Southpaw" in 1977 with his simple but lovely "Miss My Love Today" is another forgotten LP that deserves a light shone on it again. The Brazilian Jazz-Funk of Azimuth livens up "Montreal City" and 76 In The Shade finishes with Carmen McRae channelling her inner Amy Winehouse as she covers James Taylor’s "Music" taken from her forgotten 1976 Blue Note album "Can't Hide Love". 

But the David Ruffin song is just so bloody ordinary. Middle of the Road fare too like Liverpool Express' "You Are My Love" and the pseudo cool summer breeze of Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds and their "Fallin' In Love" are truly cringeworthy 1976 lurve tunes that in 2020 might actually make your skin crawl. It also begins on a run that is frankly embarrassing - a Beach Boys harmonies unreleased track from 1973 followed by insipid tunes from the keyboard slinky Lynsey De Paul, a sold-out Jefferson Starship and a running-on-empty Smokey Robinson - none of which make you think 1976 was a year of genius. 

But it's also the omissions. There is no Stephen Bishop and his fabulous "Careless" debut LP from December 1976 with "On And On" and "Little Italy", or how about the sexy Rock-Funk groove of "Hot Stuff" that opened "Black And Blue" by The Rolling Stones, or Scotland's Cado Belle and their great self-titled debut on Anchor ("Stone's Throw From Nowhere") or even say "Boogie Pilgrim" from Elton's second double-album splurge "Blue Moves". 

As I recall also, that hot year was dominated by American bands - Boston's amazing debut, Billy Joel and his "Turnstiles", Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers and their electrifying debut, the Isley Brothers giving us a "Harvest For The World", Hall & Oates and their "Bigger Than Both Of Us", Stevie Wonder doubling-up on "Songs In The Key Of Life". Rock bands and Artists like Thin Lizzy's "Jailbreak", Al Stewart's "Year Of The Cat", Jeff Beck's "Wired", Joni Mitchell's "Hejira", Patti Smith's "Radio Ethiopia" or Graham Parker's "Heat Treatment". None represented. 

I realise that some of these huge acts may have represented a licensing issue for Ace but to be peddled crud like Cliff Richard, Hollywood Freeway and the pap that is "Rock 'N' Roll Star" by Barclay James Harvest as 'smooth' or 'good' is just plain ridiculous. 

"Stay With Me" - Blue Mink pleaded in September 1972 on Regal Zonophone (all my tomorrows, yesterday's sorrows etc) – but in truth I wish that even half of this offering did just that – stay with me. I would advise a listen first before purchase...

PS: there is also a 28 August 2020 VINYL 21-Track 2LP variant on Ace Records XXQLP2 073 (Barcode 029667011914) with One Bonus Track - "Inspiration Information" by Shuggie Otis (Fourth Track, Side 2 of LP1)....

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INDEX - Entries and Artist Posts in Alphabetical Order