CHINA CRISIS • FENDER • JOHNNY DUNCAN • THE HOLLIES CHINA CRISIS • Ultimate Crisis (EMI/Music Club Deluxe MCDLX 152)
VARIOUS • Fender - The Golden Age 1950–1970 (Ace CDCHD 1315)
A somewhat underrated Liverpool band, China Crisis put out some
excellent material throughout the Eighties but racked up just four Top 20 hits. This new 34-song double disc set rounds up much of the best stuff, including the wistfully melancholic Christian, which was their 1983 breakthrough hit. It’s mystifying though, why that succeeded when material of equal merit – African And White, Tragedy And Mystery and Working With Fire And Steel spring to mind – fell short of the Top 40. All are included here, as are the magnificent Black Man Ray and King In A Catholic Style – their only back-to-back Top 20 hits, which were produced by the estimable Walter Becker of Steely Dan, who seemed to sharpen their melodic senses without adversely affecting their sensitive side.
Released to tie-in with Martin Kelly’s book of the same title, this exceptional
CD’s subtitle – “inspirational guitar music that defined the sound of rock‘n’roll” – proves to be justified, with a heady mix of 1950s and 1960s recordings celebrating the distinctive and glorious sound of the best players of the finest Fender guitars. The guitar of choice of musicians from many disciplines, it therefore follows that this compilation is similarly diverse, with high-profile country twanging (Bob Wills’ Boot HeelDrag), pop picking (The Shadows’ Wonderful Land), R&B riffing (Booker T& The MGs’ Green Onions) and art-rock strumming (Velvet Underground’s Beginning To See The Light). These, and other enjoyably illustrative works by The Beach Boys, Johnny Cash and The
Yardbirds are interspersed with Fender jingles recorded in Nashville by the likes of Faron Young and Barbara Mandrell.
JOHNNY DUNCAN • Thinkin’ Of A Rendezvous - Columbia Country Hits 1969-1980 (T-Bird Americana TBIRDAM 036)
Most of the releases in T-Bird’s burgeoning Americana series
(40 albums in less than a year) consist of straight runs of country hits but there’s a necessary element of cherry-picking for this Johnny Duncan compilation, as the singer – who was possessed of a pleasing baritone – racked up no fewer than 39 hits on Billboard’s country chart and this album has room for only 23. His recordings produced by the legendary Billy Sherrill – who also oversaw Charlie Rich and Tammy Wynette – Duncan hit a purple patch in the latter half
of the seventies with a succession of big and memorable hits. Among the finest was Stranger – a Kris Kristofferson song which Duncan slowed down and re-cast as a duet, with soulful interjections from Janie Fricke. The two were to share vocals on several more of Duncan’shits, including Come A Little Bit Closer but his solo recordings from the time – She Can Put Her Shoes Under My Bed (Any Time), Slow Dancing et al – are excellent too, and it is hard to understand why he remained a huge country star without ever going mainstream.
THE HOLLIES • Radio Fun (EMI 5099944077020)
One of the most successful harmony vocal groups of all- time, The Hollies
were consummate professionals equally at home in the recording studio and on the live circuit. Falling somewhere between the
two, BBC sessions were a unique but potentially difficult opportunity to impress, with time and money always at a premium, making it hard to completely replicate the sound of studio recordings. The Hollies were frequent visitors to the BBC studios, taping numerous recordings for TV and radio, and from thatcache EMI has selected no fewer than 32 previously unreleased recordings made between 1964 and 1971 for Radio Fun. For the most part, they are excellent,with The Hollies injecting raw energy into covers like Ride Your Pony, Lawdy Miss Clawdy and Little Bitty Pretty One and performing faultless recreations of their own songs, including Bus Stop, Jennifer Eccles and the deliciously delicate Wings. Overall, an excellent and important compilation for fans, who will doubtless also appreciate the liner notes penned by the band’s drummer Bobby Elliott.