CD Review: Cilla Black – Sher-oo! (1968) / Modern Priscilla (1978) (Expanded Edition, SFE Records)

Cherry Red continue their reissue of Cilla Black’s classic albums with the pairing of two releases recorded ten years apart, Sher-oo! and Modern Priscilla.

1968’s Sher-oo! Arrived at a major turning point in Cilla’s music career. Cilla had already undertaken the recording of several tracks when she learned of the death of her manager, The Beatles Svengali, Brian Epstein. Prior to his death, Brian had begun negotiations for a deal with BBC Television for Cilla’s first regular TV series, of which several tracks on Sher-oo! would feature including the theme tune, the Lennon/McCartney composition, Step Inside Love.

Back in the 1970s, Sher-oo! was one of the first Cilla Black albums I ever listened to, via a budget reissue retitled Step Inside Love. Here, Cherry Red have stripped the LP back to its original format with artwork, detailed sleeve notes and archive interviews with Cilla herself discussing the album as well as bonus CD tracks, all lovingly curated by Cilla’s son, Robert Willis.

From the beautiful opener of Bacharach and David’s What the World Needs Now Is Love, Sher-oo! features a colourful palette of Cilla classics and for my money, remains one of her finest offerings.  

The pure pop of Suddenly You Love Me, the Northern Soul vibe of the much-overlooked Yo-Yo, the jazzy echoes of the haunting Follow the Path to the Stars and the exotic orchestral arrangement of Misty Roses draw the listener in with every play.

Sher-oo! also boasts a wealth of bonus tracks including all 4 tracks from Cilla’s 1967 EP, Time for Cilla, several alternate versions Step Inside Love including a demo version recorded with Paul McCartney and a beautiful rendition of All My Love (a big hit for Cliff Richard in 1967).

Disc two contains an album from 1978, “Modern Priscilla” from 1978; her tenth studio album and her last for EMI, featuring an eye-catching sleeve inspired by the work of Czech Art Nouveau painter and decorative artist Alphonse Mucha.

Produced by Mike Hurst of The Springfields, the album saw Cilla projected well and truly into the disco-era with tracks like Silly Boy and Keep Your Mind on Love while gentler moments feature Me and The Elephant and Love Lines.

Modern Priscilla features a lot of original material, although the influence of other artists from the era is also very evident (I really want to hear Elton John burst in on the vocals with Cilla on Platform Rocker-what a duet that would have made!).

Like most albums from the late 1970s, I always feel a good remaster benefits an album well and Modern Priscilla certainly stands up strong here, making the album a real grower for those of us less familiar with Cilla’s 1970s output.

Representing Cilla Black over two decades Sher-oo! and Modern Priscilla capture the artist with two of her finest albums – repeated retro listening guaranteed!