The Varese Vintage label is heading back to the days of Merseybeat and the British Invasion for a pair of new releases due on Friday, October 30. Cilla Black’s The Hit Singles and Billy J. Kramer with the Dakotas’ All-Time Greatest Hits both draw on the Parlophone Records catalogue, featuring the Fab songbook of Lennon and McCartney and the production of George Martin.
Liverpool coat check girl-turned-pop superstar Cilla Black OBE had one of Britain’s most enduring and diverse entertainment careers right up until her unexpected and untimely passing at age 72 earlier this year. The former Priscilla White’s musical accomplishments were many. Her big, distinctive voice adorned the U.K.’s biggest selling single by a female artist of the 1960s, Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “Anyone Who Had a Heart.” Her hit résumé included another memorable Bacharach/David song – “Alfie” – not to mention songs by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil (“You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’,” which fared almost as well in the U.K. as the Righteous Brothers’ original to reach a No. 2 peak), Randy Newman (the shattering “I’ve Been Wrong Before”), Rogers Cook and Greenaway (“Something Tells Me (Something’s Gonna Happen Tonight”) and of course, a number of tunes by her friends John and Paul. The Fabs offered Cilla a tunestack including her debut single “Love of the Loved” (No. 35, 1963), the dramatic “It’s for You” (No. 7, 1964), and the utterly groovy “Step Inside Love” (No. 8, 1968).
All of the above can be heard among the eighteen selections on Varese’s The Hit Singles. This new release – a rare American anthology for Cilla – also features her chart-topper “You’re My World” and other U.K. Top 10s like “Love’s Just a Broken Heart” (No. 5, 1966), “Surround Yourself with Sorrow” (No. 3, 1969), and “Conversations” (No. 7, 1969). The collection includes all of Cilla’s charting U.K. singles through 1971, three of which (“You’re My World,” “It’s for You” and “Alfie”) also charted in the United States. The version of “It’s for You” here includes John Lennon’s spoken introduction of Cilla. The Hit Singles has been remastered by Steve Massie and designed in beautiful period fashion by Now Sounds’ Steve Stanley. The full-color booklet includes a biographical essay by Jerry McCulley. Cilla recorded her last album of original material in 2003; Beginnings included eleven new recordings and nine classics, and was titled after a new song by Burt Bacharach and Hal David written for the short-lived Broadway revue The Look of Love. Cilla’s version remains the sole recording of “Beginnings.” The Hit Singles captures the beginnings of her career in high style.
The Hit Singles has been joined by a similar volume for Billy J. Kramer with The Dakotas. All-Time Greatest Hits features 14 tracks from the popular beat group’s discography. Like The Beatles and Cilla Black, the band was part of manager Brian Epstein’s stable of artists. Why “Billy J. Kramer with the Dakotas” rather than “and the Dakotas,” one might wonder? Kramer (born William Howard Ashton in Bootle, Lancashire) was paired by Epstein with the Manchester-based combo The Dakotas for whom he engineered a separate Parlophone contract for their own recordings.
For his debut recording, Epstein offered Kramer the chance to record Lennon and McCartney’s “Do You Want to Know a Secret,” and Kramer finished recording his version just one day before The Beatles’ original reached stores. The record – with a number of differences from the version included on Please Please Me – went all the way to No. 2 in the U.K., only kept from the top spot by (who else?) The Beatles and “From Me to You.” Producer George Martin reached into his Beatle bag to give Kramer and the Dakotas’ recordings a distinct sound, frequently double-tracking the lead vocal and layering the piano to create a harpsichord-esque quality. “Secret” was backed on 45 RPM by “I’ll Be on My Way,” another Lennon/McCartney tune. The Fabs’ patronage helped Kramer carve out a niche on the crowded Merseybeat scene.
Seven of the fourteen tracks on All-Time Greatest Hits are from the pens of Lennon and McCartney including a trio that charted on both sides of the Atlantic: “Bad to Me” (No. 1 U.K./No. 9 U.S.), “I’ll Keep You Satisfied” (No. 4 U.K./No. 30 U.S.) and “From a Window” (No. 10 U.K./No. 23 U.S.). The compilation also includes Mort Shuman and J. Leslie McFarland’s “Little Children” which earned Kramer and the Dakotas a U.K. chart-topper and Top 10 U.S. hit as well as Bacharach and David’s oft-recorded “Trains and Boats and Planes” (No. 12 U.K./No. 47 U.S.). Kramer’s recording of Lennon and McCartney’s “I’m in Love,” a hit for Epstein-managed The Fourmost, was first issued in the U.K. in 2009 and makes its U.S. debut on this release.
Though Billy J. Kramer’s chart career was short-lived – every track on this package hails from the period between 1963 and 1965 – Kramer has continued to tour and periodically record over the years. Like the Cilla Black set, All-Time Greatest Hits features splendid period design by Steve Stanley, remastering by Steve Massie and liner notes by Jerry McCulley. All tracks are in stereo other than “Do You Want to Know a Secret” and “Little Children.”
Both Cilla Black’s The Hit Singles and Billy J. Kramer with the Dakotas’ All-Time Greatest Hits will be available on October 30 from Varese Vintage!
- Love of the Loved
- Anyone Who Had a Heart
- You’re My World
- It’s for You
- You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’
- I’ve Been Wrong Before
- Love’s Just a Broken Heart
- Don’t Answer Me
- A Fool Am I
- What Good Am I
- I Only Live to Love You
- Step Inside Love
- Where is Tomorrow?
- Surround Yourself with Sorrow
- If I Thought You’d Ever Change Your Mind
- Something Tells Me (Something’s Gonna Happen Tonight)
- Do You Want to Know a Secret?
- I’ll Be On My Way
- Little Children
- Bad to Me
- I’ll Keep You Satisfied
- I Know
- I Call Your Name
- Pride (Is Such a Little Word)
- From a Window
- I’m in Love
- It’s Gotta Last Forever
- When You Ask About Love
- Trains and Boats and Planes
- Neon City