"The Ultimate Collection" CD by The Shadows
Apache / Man Of Mystery / The Stranger / FBI / The Frightened City / Kon-Tiki / The Savage / Wonderful Land / Nut Rocker / Guitar Tango / Telstar / Dance On! / Diamonds / Foot Tapper / Atlantis / Shindig / Geronimo / Theme For Young Lovers / The Rise And Fall Of Flingel Bunt / Albatross / Time Is Tight / Chariots Of Fire / Don't Cry For Me Argentina / The Theme From The Deer Hunter / The Third Man / Moonlight Shadow
At the dawn of the Sixties, The Shadows were already a key part of the British music scene as Cliff Richard's backing group: among the many successes were the chart-toppers 'Living Doll' and 'Travellin' Light', both featuring the distinctive lead guitar of Hank Marvin. Rhythm guitarist Bruce Welch co-penned the next No.1 for Cliff, 'Please Don't Tease', but at this point events took a different turn. In August 1960, The Shadows' 'Apache', one of the finest, most enduring and most influential instrumentals ever, took over from Cliff at the top. In the next few years twelve superlative and much imitated guitar-led singles entered the Top Ten, four of them making No. 1: 'Wonderful Land' (like 'Apache', a Lordan composition, and their biggest hit, staying at the top in the face of the fiercest competition imaginable for an amazing eight weeks and in the charts for nineteen), 'Kon-Tiki', 'Dance On!' and 'Foot Tapper', this last living on today as the theme-tune for Brian Matthews' Saturday morning 'Sounds of The Sixties' radio show.
In the course of this same decade, the foundations were laid for their lasting success both as performers and composers. They rapidly became household names, with frequent appearances on radio and TV, in films, pantomimes and variety shows; they were constantly in demand too as a live band and toured extensively, both at home and abroad, building up an enormous fan-base worldwide. There were many notable high points in the 1970s too: the highly regarded compositions of the vocal trio Marvin, Welch and Farrar early on, participation in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1975, a No. 1 album 20 Golden Greats in 1977, memorably followed up with a sell-out '20 Golden Dates' tour, and a taste once more of success in the singles market.
Keyboards/synths were key elements in 1980's music-making. The Shadows had begun to experiment with these as early as 1973, and they figured prominently in their smash album String Of Hits released in 1979 and hitting No. 1 in March 1980 for a stay of three weeks (two of the numbers on it, 'Don't Cry For Me Argentina' and 'Theme From The Deer Hunter', were hit singles and they have both become firm stage favourites). They were in a good position then to align themselves with current trends when they switched labels from EMI to Polydor in 1980: the familiar line-up of two guitars, bass and drums was effectively augmented by Cliff Hall on keyboards, so achieving both on record and on tour a wider and richer soundstage. Over the following decade the group proceeded to demonstrate with this line-up that the guitar-led instrumental was still very much alive and well, maintaining their chart success with no fewer than seven Top Twenty albums. On their No. 12 The Shadows At Their Very Best from 1989 they revisited a string of their major singles from the 60s and beyond, some of which are featured in the present collection.
The group, and particularly core members Hank Marvin, Bruce Welch and drummer Brian Bennett, were so prolific as composers of classic instrumentals that there was barely occasion to record other classics of the genre. When they did so, the results were more than satisfying, as the varied selection here shows: a refined take on the madcap 'Nut Rocker' from B. Bumble & The Stingers (1962); a punchy guitar-led rendition of the short-lived Tornados' massive hit 'Telstar' (1962 again); a crisp version of a further Jerry Lordan composition, 'Diamonds' recorded by two ex-Shadows, Jet Harris and Tony Meehan, in 1963; an affectionate reworking of Peter Green's haunting and evocative 'Albatross', a hit for Fleetwood Mac in 1968 and again in 1973; and an effortlessly flowing account of Booker T and The MGs masterly 'Time Is Tight' from 1969.
Interpretations of two gems from the 1980s, Mike Oldfield's 'Moonlight Shadows' and Vangelis' stirring 'Chariots Of Fire' (both of which elicit a bravura display from Hank Marvin), round off this side of the collection nicely. One further, older, classic invites comment. Anton Karas' haunting zither-led 'The Third Man (Harry Lime) Theme', from the celebrated 1949 movie, seems on the face of it an unlikely candidate for a Shadows' number. But with characteristic ingenuity, it is given a stylistic makeover. With reggae very much in vogue in the early 1980s (Bob Marley and The Wailers, UB40 et al.), this 'Third Man' chugs along breezily, quite comfortable in unaccustomed surroundings. In fact, The Shadows over the decades have recorded music in an astonishingly wide variety of styles, and have always been ready to adapt and move with the times. They have never worked to a repetitive formula, one of the chief reasons undoubtedly for their continuing claim to supergroup status.
MC, January 2005
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