CD Review: Cilla Black - Cilla (1965) / In My Life (1974) (Expanded Edition, SFE Records)
Cilla Black was one of the leading female British vocalists of the 1960s, emerging from Brian Epstein’s Liverpool stable of stars, which also included The Beatles and Gerry & The Pacemakers. Following her initial single release, John Lennon & Paul McCartney’s Love of the Loved, Cilla shot to the top of the UK charts in 1964 with her renditions of Anyone Who Had a Heart and You’re My World.
Some years back, a television drama on Cilla’s early career starring Sheridan Smith, reignited an interest in Cilla’s music as did Greatest Hits packages and a stage musical produced by Cilla’s son, Robert Willis.
Its therefore fitting that several original albums from Cilla’s back-catalogue have now been reissued and expanded to add further to the much-missed stars memory. These two-disc releases, comprise an album on each disc from both the 1960s and the 1970s and are presented alongside original album artwork, detailed track-listings, bonus tracks but also lavishly illustrated booklets with archive interview insights from Cilla herself.
Cilla’s eponymous 1965 debut album released together with 1974’s In My Life make up one such release displaying two different sides to Cilla’s musical magic.
Cilla, was produced by George Martin and recorded over several sessions in late 1964, in between appearing in the variety show, Startime at The London Palladium.
A mixed collection of contemporary songs and standards, Cilla crosses the soul rhythm and blues of Going Out of My Head and Every Little Bit Hurts with the jazz of Love Letters and You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To, all with the polished support of George Martin’s production.
Combining powerhouse brassy vocal energy on tracks like Whatcha Gonna Do About It? and Heatwave with the power ballad ease of You’re My World (complete here with a live orchestra tune-up in the intro), this debut album maintains a live rawness about it.
I particularly enjoyed listening to Cilla’s rendition of A Shot of Rhythm N Blues, a track which no doubt recalled her early appearances in Liverpool’s dark, sweaty Cavern Club with verve and energy.
Cilla is supplemented with several original mono takes, lovingly acknowledging the mixes of how the album was originally intended to be heard, and maintain, to my ear, a strong balance of Cilla’s vocal and orchestral backing. Baby Its You particularly stands out as a perfect pop production.
In My Life (1974)
1974’s In My Life borrows its lead title from her old mates, The Beatles, album track from Rubber Soul.
By the mid-1970s, Cilla’s appeal as a television star was undisputed with her own regular Saturday night series featuring musical guests. Unlike her TV shows of the time, Cilla’s albums didn’t take the stance of duetting with the likes of Cliff Richard on Walk on By or Marc Bolan on Life’s A Gas. They did, however, capture some favourite contemporary classics including her own hit, the memorable, Baby We Can’t Go Wrong (treat to two further remixes here).
Cilla’s brassier vocal energy was dispatched in favour of a gentler style, even on the more upbeat numbers such as the opener, Flashback (which you almost expect should have a more Tamla-Motown edge to it).
Tracks such as Daydreamer and Let Him In have an emphasis on sunnier musical arrangements while The Air That I Breathe has a guitar driven soft-rock style akin to Cliff’s Power To all Our Friends of the same era.
Beatles fans will welcome the inclusion of a bonus track, Cilla’s tender rendition of ‘I’ll Still Love You (When Every Song Is Sung)’ penned by her friend George Harrison.
Cilla/ In My Life, make up two very different but enjoyable sides to Cilla’s back catalogue and are lovingly restored in a CD set which any fan of classic pop will enjoy.
Cilla/In My Life is available as a 2-Disc CD set on SFE Records via cherryred.co.uk