The Guide differs from other discographical works devoted to The Shadows in offering a comprehensive review of all major CDs issued worldwide between September 1984 and February 1999.
Discographies in general list releases by format in order of appearance, providing basic track-listings and rudimentary details such as month/year of release, label, country of origin and catalogue numbers. This methodology has the advantage of simplicity; what it does not allow is any kind of systematic overview of the material available. The Guide establishes from the start comprehensive points of reference in the form of classified Discographies covering the commercially available recorded output of, respectively, The Shadows, Hank Marvin, and Marvin Welch & Farrar. One reviewer (Tony Stanley in Record Collector) described the Guide as "a fairly easy reference book to follow". And so it is, but only if users are prepared to spend a bit of time familiarizing themselves with these classifications, which provide the basis for setting out clearly and succinctly the content of individual CDs: which WONDERFUL LAND, for example, among the various versions available.
The first of two CD catalogues sets out clearly what CDs were released year by year, in such a way that the proportion of EMI to Polydor output can be seen at a glance.
In the second CD catalogue, a detailed profile is offered for each legitimate release (194 of them in all), taken in alphabetical order. Some CDs are minimalist efforts, some are downright pathetic, but others are of interest for their content, artwork, annotation and/ or general presentation, and these are documented where appropriate.
Pages 124-248, the centerpiece of the book, gives precise track listings (3694 entries) for all titles on CD, using the classifications established in the Discographies mentioned above. I decided at an early stage that if the book were to have any lasting value, then these listings just had to be both precise and complete: they were checked five times before I let them go.
So much for the first part. Part Two starts with a descriptive survey of CD releases worldwide, a kind of extended essay on the high and low spots of this particular sector of the market. One of the questions constantly asked is what was, or might have been, in a compilerís mind in issuing a given CD. I was often left shuddering at the thought of just what goes on behind the scenes in the shadowy world of record marketing.
I cannot pretend that the experience of listening closely to the string of mediocre or worse compilations which inevitably surfaced in the course of my many listening sessions was always a very happy one; all the more reason then to offer the reader some opinions on Best Buys, highlighting the undoubted excellence of a select few.
The five Appendices were added with some hesitation. I have seen enough of Appendices in the number of Higher Degree Dissertations I have had the good (and sometimes bad) fortune to examine over the years. But there were things of interest that arose in the course of the book which I felt needed an airing. The lists of alternative versions (I) in circulation needed a bit of a spring-clean, though the data presented here will get a thorough going-over (if not a bit of a battering) in the forthcoming new edition of this book. Mono versions (II) can be of interest for a variety of reasons: CD collectors might want to know, without hunting around themselves, where to find them, or at any rate where to find those that are on offer to date. As I waded through my mountain of discs, I found myself wondering what were the most popular tracks with compilers (III, Top Tens & Top Twenties). No surprises here amongst the A-sides of course, but some of the other results are interesting. The Appendix (IV) devoted to what I rather euphemistically called "Unofficial Issues" (i.e. unsanctioned tracks put about by people usually, these days, for monetary gain) was intentionally highly selective. The truth is that, although there are some tracks which many reasonable observers would agree deserve to see the light of day, most of this filched stuff, including a lot of the material derived from relatively recent performances, sounds pretty dire. I can think of much better ways of spending my time than accumulating pure dross. The last section of substance (V) sets out to quantify and classify compositions by group members, with formatting which enables one to see at a glance the relative contributions of Marvin Welch and the rest.
An updated, enlarged and illustrated second edition is currently being prepared by Malcolm Campbell and Les Woosey for publication, it is hoped, later in 2003. This second edition will follow the same basic format as the first, but the core of the book, the "Track Listings A-Z", has been radically reshaped to take in extra detail, including background information on many of the titles; the collection of "Alternative Versions" has been systematically overhauled, refined and expanded on the basis of exhaustive listening sessions: some Shadows fans who consider they have all the available variants on CD may be compelled to think again.
In addition, all the Cliff Richard recordings involving The Drifters/ Shadows are now included, with selective locations on CD for each title and further data on composers, personnel, recording dates etc. One further major point of difference will be the incorporation of artwork, in particular front cover shots of most of the CDs catalogued; it is also hoped to include exclusive on-stage shots from the two distinguished Shads photographers who contributed to The Shadows At Polydor. There will be further differences in presentation and emphasis, but as these are ongoing and in some cases not fully resolved by the two authors, they will be reported on this website as they evolve.
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