Tomorrow, November 1, Cherry Red’s Strike Force Entertainment imprint will release the next title in its series of definitive reissues from Cilla Black’s considerable catalogue. The 2-CD set Especially for You Revisited/Classics and Collectibles brings together a newly remixed version of Cilla’s 1980 album Especially for You with a second disc of rare and previously unreleased tracks.
Especially for You marked a turning point in Black’s career as it was her first recording project after leaving her longtime home of EMI Records. The K-Tel release could have been subtitled Great Songs of the Seventies, for it featured a whopping 16 songs which she referred to as “modern standards” from hitmakers on both sides of the Atlantic. It was recorded in May 1980 at Abbey Road Studios and released later that year. Producer Bruce Welch – a member of Cliff Richard’ band The Shadows and author of several chart-toppers for the group – saw that the arrangements remained largely faithful to the original versions while still allowing Cilla’s distinctive vocals to shine.
Drawing from the realms of pop, country, and R&B, the tunestack is filled with songs which are still instantly familiar today including ballads like Billy Joel’s “Just the Way You Are,” Lionel Richie’s “Still,” Chicago’s Peter Cetera-penned “If You Leave Me Now,” and The Bee Gees’ “How Deep Is Your Love.” Cilla also drew from the songbooks of Neil Diamond and Alan and Marilyn Bergman (the romantic “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers,” an international No. 1 for Neil and Barbra Streisand), Roger Cook and Bobby Wood (“Talking in Your Sleep,” a No. 1 Country hit for Crystal Gayle), Carole Bayer Sager and Albert Hammond’s “When I Need You” (an international No. 1 for Leo Sayer), and Toni Tennille (the sultry “Do That to Me One More Time,” Captain and Tennille’s second chart-topper). She picked up the pace a bit with silky interpretations of tunes from The Three Degrees (Gamble and Huff’s “When Will I See You Again”), ABBA (“Knowing Me, Knowing You”), and Gladys Knight and The Pips (Van McCoy’s disco dancer “Baby Don’t Change Your Mind”). Johnny Mathis’ U.K. Christmas No. 1 “When a Child Is Born” also got a Black makeover as well as Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s vocally challenging Evita aria, “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina.” Naturally, Black pulled it off with aplomb.
SFE’s new edition of the album (previously released on CD in 2006 by the budget Hallmark label) features a completely new remix by Cilla’s longtime associate Ted Carfrae, who honors the feel of the original release while bringing out individual elements with greater clarity. He took more liberty with the bonus “Stripped Down Mix” of Dan Hill and Barry Mann’s sensual “Sometimes When We Touch,” emphasizing the purity of Black’s voice with only spare orchestral elements. The resulting track actually has more of a timeless quality than the original. A bonus interview of Cilla by Peter Powell from 1980 of around three minutes in length is also included.
The second disc, Classics and Collectibles, is a musical potpourri spanning 1976-1993. It leads off with five live tracks, four of which are previously unreleased. The 1976 revue Cilla at the Palace has yielded a Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66-like version of “The Fool on the Hill” as well as a comic take on the 1933 standard “Keep Young and Beautiful,” reportedly a favorite song of Winston Churchill, with Cilla singing in an exaggerated soprano. A concert from 1980 circa the time of Especially for You revisits the artist’s signature songs “Alfie,” “Anyone Who Had a Heart,” and “You’re My World” in fine form. These are all a particular treat as Black never released a live album in her lifetime. (Perhaps this full show could be released by SFE?)
Classics and Collectibles moves onto three tracks from 1985’s Surprisingly Cilla and four from 1993’s Through the Years including all of Cilla’s single A-sides from both albums. From Surprisingly Cilla, “Surprise Surprise” (the theme to Black’s ITV series), the power ballad “There’s a Need in Me” (complete with obligatory ’80s saxophone), and Tim Rice, Benny Andersson, and Bjorn Ulvaeus’ dramatic “I Know Him So Well” from their musical Chess have all been reprised. They’re all worthy inclusions, but one wishes that Surprisingly Cilla would receive a full reissue in this series. Produced by her old friend David Mackay, it featured a further five new songs (including a rendition of Phil Collins’ “One More Night”) and remakes of four sixties hits. As of yet, it hasn’t seen a full CD release.
Through the Years, produced by Charlie Skarbek, brought Cilla back to a major label (Columbia) and became her first charting album since 1970’s Sweet Inspiration. Among its highlights were the reflective title track penned by Skarbek and Rick Blaskey as well as three duets, all of which are heard here: Skarbek and Blaskey’s bouncy, infectious “Heart and Soul” with the equally legendary Dusty Springfield; Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager’s anthem “That’s What Friends are For” with Cliff Richard; and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic Carousel showstopper “You’ll Never Walk Alone” with Barry Manilow. As with Surprisingly Cilla, Through the Years deserves a complete, expanded reissue which could append the various remixes issued on CD singles at the time of “Through the Years,” “Heart and Soul,” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” (Do note, however, that Through the Years was originally issued on CD and is therefore available second-hand.)
Mileage will vary on the final six tracks on this disc, all of which are previously unreleased and new-to-CD remixes from the Especially for You multi-tracks. There are three club remixes by Bronski Beat v. Qubiq, Klubkidz, and Club Junkies, as well as three straightforward mixes by Jerry Stevenson that complement Ted Carfrae’s work on Disc One.
As with past titles in this series, Especially for You Revisited/Classics and Collectibles features a colorful booklet. Its 20 pages include a page of notes on each disc, Cilla’s original introduction to Especially for You, and credits with recording information. Ted Carfrae has superbly remastered both discs. Two more titles have been promised for the series: Cilla Sings a Rainbow/Day by Day with Cilla and Sweet Inspiration/Images. In the meantime, this is another stellar release from one of Britain’s most beloved, most missed voices.
It’s available tomorrow, November 1, from Cherry Red/Strike Force Entertainment in the U.K., and one week later in North America.
CD 1: Especially for You Revisited (original versions from K-Tel ONE 1085, 1980)
- Baby Don’t Change Your Mind
- Sometimes When We Touch
- Just the Way You Are
- Talking in Your Sleep
- You Don’t Bring Me Flowers
- How Deep Is Your Love
- Bright Eyes
- Don’t Cry for Me Argentina
- When Will I See You Again
- You Needed Me
- If You Leave Me Now
- When I Need You
- Knowing Me, Knowing You
- When a Child Is Born
- Do That to Me One More Time
- Sometimes When We Touch (Stripped Down Ted Carfrae Mix)
- Interview with Cilla
Tracks 1-17 newly remixed by Ted Carfrae from the original multi-tracks
All tracks previously unreleased in these mixes
CD 2: Classics and Collectibles
- The Fool on the Hill (from Cilla at the Palace)
- Keep Young and Beautiful (from Cilla at the Palace, Mono)
- You’re My World (Live, Mono)
- Anyone Who Had a Heart (Live, Mono)
- Alfie (Live, Mono)
- Surprise! Surprise!
- There’s a Need in Me
- I Know Him So Well
- The Feelings Just Get Stronger (Through the Years)
- Heart and Soul (with Dusty Springfield)
- That’s What Friends are For (with Cliff Richard)
- You’ll Never Walk Alone (with Barry Manilow)
- When Will I See You Again (Bronski Beat v. Qubiq Remix)
- Knowing Me, Knowing You (Klubkidz Remix)
- Baby Don’t Change Your Mind (Club Junkies Disco Mix)
- If You Leave Me Now (Jerry Stevenson Mix)
- When I Need You (Jerry Stevenson Mix)
- Still (Jerry Stevenson Mix)
Tracks 1, 6-8, 16-18 new to CD
Tracks 2-5, 13-15 previously unreleased
Tracks 6-8 from Surprisingly Cilla, Towerbell Records TOWLP14, 1985
Tracks 9-12 from Through the Years, Columbia 474650 2, 1993