"54 Guitar Greats" 3CD Set by The Shadows
This set is reviewed by Alan Taylor in Pipeline Issue 66 (2005) p.46.
CD1 'Classic Hits' Apache / Shadoogie ’83 / Man Of Mystery / Wonderful Land / Kon-Tiki / Geronimo / Guitar Tango / Shindig / The Frightened City / The Rise And Fall Of Flingel Bunt / The Stranger / Atlantis / The Savage / Foot Tapper / Theme For Young Lovers / Dance On! / Genie With The Light Brown Lamp / FBI
By mid-1960, The Shadows (Hank Marvin on lead guitar, Bruce Welch on rhythm, Jet Harris on bass, Tony Meehan on drums) were already very much in the public eye as Cliff Richard’s backing group, with three chart-toppers to their credit, ‘Living Doll’, ‘Travellin’ Light’ and ‘Please Don’t Tease’. There was a momentous role-reversal in July of that year with the release of a Shadows’ instrumental which featured Cliff playing a Chinese drum. The haunting ‘Apache’ was destined not only to make The Shadows superstars in their own right, but also to encourage a whole generation of aspiring musicians to take up guitar and drums (with the Marvin Fender Stratocaster very much to the fore) and form groups of their own.
The Shadows very rapidly proved themselves supreme in their field, both as performers and as composers, and became household names, with work of every description flooding in: radio, TV, films, variety shows and pantomime; concert tours both at home and abroad and highly successful studio recordings, with and without Cliff. They did not work to a repetitive formula. ‘Apache’ was just the first of a whole string of stylistically diverse best-selling instrumental singles which have all stood the test of time. There were four further Number Ones, the majestic ‘Wonderful Land’ (their biggest ever hit), the vibrant ‘Kon-Tiki’, the jaunty ‘Dance On!’, and last but not least ‘Foot Tapper’, which can be heard every Saturday morning as the theme music for Radio 2’s ‘Sound Of The Sixties’ show.
In 1989 the group, who had moved from EMI to Polydor in 1980, issued a neat set of stereo re-recordings of their most successful 60’s hits, seventeen of which are included here on CD1; the remaining track is a reworking of The Shadows’ own striking version (released on their best-selling debut album of 1961), colourfully renamed, of the standard ‘Guitar Boogie’ routine.
CD2 'Classic Covers' This Ole House / Moonlight Shadow / Careless Whisper / The Lady In red / Right Here Waiting / You Win Again / Just The Way You Are / I Want To Know What Love Is / When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going / Sailing / Hey Jude / Walk Of Life / Imagine : Woman / Heaven Is A Place On Earth / Three Times A Lady / Every Breath You Take / You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me / Dancing In The Dark
One reason for The Shadows’ continuing success over four decades and more was their readiness to move with the times. When they came to Polydor in 1980, the familiar band line-up of two guitars, bass and drums was augmented, in the recording studio and on tour, by Cliff Hall on synthesiser/ keyboards. The enhanced and enriched soundstage thus stood them in good stead for the numerous instrumental covers of 80’s chart material (many of them big-production pieces).
There has always been a ready audience for music of this kind, and The Shadows proved to be uniquely qualified to occupy this niche of the market. Between 1981 and 1990 a series of albums in this vein made the Top Twenty: Hits Right Up Your Street (No. 15), Moonlight Shadows (No. 6), Simply Shadows (No. 11), Steppin’ To The Shadows (No. 11), Reflection (No. 5). Some of the covers were of old songs recently revived (as ‘This Ole House’, given a thorough rockabilly makeover and a hit for Shakin’ Stevens), but most were drawn from the store of fresh vocal compositions that a thriving pop industry demands.
The selection on CD2 gives a good indication of the wide variety of styles, as we move from the exhilarating ‘Moonlight Shadow’ (Mike Oldfield) to the exquisite beauty of ‘Right Here Waiting’ (Richard Marx), or from the powerhouse ‘You Win Again’ (The Bee Gees) to the captivating love-song ‘Three Times A Lady’ (The Commodores), or from the exuberant ‘When The Going Gets Tough ...’ (Billy Ocean) to the emotional intensity of ‘You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me’ (Dusty Springfield).
CD3 'Classic Themes' Take My Breath Away / The Theme From Missing / Memory / Flashdance ... What A Feeling / All I Ask Of You / Chariots Of Fire / Albatross / Chi Mai / Crockett’s Theme / Don’t Cry For Me Argentina / Up Where We Belong / The Third Man / Against All Odds / Love Changes Everything / Theme From The Deer Hunter / I Know Him So Well / The Music Of The Night / Equinoxe (Part V)
With CD3 we come to a Shadows speciality since the early days: theme music. This is more often than not instrumental, much of it uplifting and ideally suited to that ringing Fender sound: take Vangelis’ stirring ‘Chariots Of Fire’, as Hank’s guitar explodes on to the scene to dazzling effect in the wake of a majestic piano intro from Cliff Hall, or the powerful reworking of Jan Hammer’s ‘Crockett’s Theme’, or the blistering account of Jean-Michel Jarre’s ‘Equinoxe (Part V)’, which not surprisingly became a firm stage favourite.
Equally, their music had always had a mellower side, well represented here by a number of distinguished pieces which they have managed to make their own: Vangelis’ riveting theme music for the 1982 political thriller ‘Missing’, Ennio Morricone’s elegant ‘Chi Mai’ for the 1981 BBC TV series on David Lloyd George, and the clutch of Andrew Lloyd Webber compositions, the evocative ‘Memory’ from ‘Cats’ and the rest.
We may conclude this brief survey by considering the opening track as an example of Shadows’ artistry. In 1986 ‘Take My Breath Away’ was a USA/ UK Number One for Los Angeles trio Berlin; an Academy Award-winner from the soundtrack of the movie ‘Top Gun’, it was a big-production number in the distinctive style of co-composer Giorgio Moroder. Such grand creations sometimes make small-scale imitations sound shrunken and lifeless, but here the group, as so often, rise to the occasion, and produce yet another fine example of Shadowmusic at its best.
MC, August 2004
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