CD Review: Cliff Richard and The Shadows: The Best of The Rock ‘n’ Roll Pioneers (Parlophone)

Cliff Richard and his original backing band, The Shadows, celebrated a landmark sixtieth anniversary during October. On October 17th, 1959, Cliff Richard and The Shadows hit the No. 1 spot in the UK with the single Travellin’ Light, the first single credited to Cliff Richard and The Shadows after the backing band were re-named from The Drifters. The American Drifters had got there first, so a new moniker was required, thus, The Shadows were born, at the suggestion of bassist Jet Harris during a band meeting at the Six Bells pub in Ruislip!

The 2 CD collection Cliff Richard and The Shadows: The Best of The Rock ‘n’ Roll Pioneers focuses, solely on Cliff’s output with The Shadows (or The Drifters for pre-October ’59 releases). As well as featuring seven UK No. 1 singles and a further sixteen Top 10 hits the release also features rare B-Sides, EP and album tracks, a real treasure trove of early Cliff and Shadows material.

Before The Beatles, The Shadows were in fact one of the few British bands to write their own material from early hits such as Bruce Welch’s  I Love You through to later group collaborations, Hank Marvin, Bruce Welch, Brian Bennett and John Rostill’s Don’t Forget To Catch Me and In the Country. The Shads style would of course migrate on to their own instrumental hits, but their presence on early Cliff rockers is always a delight to revisit. Jet Harris rumbling bass on Dynamite and Hank Marvin’s guitar solo’s on Never Mind, Mean Streak and Nine Times Out of Ten, featuring sturdy rhythm from Bruce Welch and prominent drumming by Tony Meehan.

The early Cliff and The Shadows records, meticulously produced by Norrie Paramor (a producer who even outranked George Martin for producing the most number ones for many years) still have a raw rocking energy to them. It was once noted by John Lennon that Move It! Was the first British rock ‘n’ roll record. Lennon was right and the proof is on The Rock N Roll Pioneers along with other Cliff and The Shadows gems including Gee Whiz Its You, D in Love, I’m the Lonely One and On the Beach.

As well as featuring Cliff and The Shadows collaborations from the 50s and 60s there are also notable inclusions from the band’s occasional reunions in 1978 and 2008. Live versions of Elvis’ All Shook Up (sadly missing Hank’s comical beginning) and Hank’s The Day I Met Marie rub shoulders with a rendition of Sea Cruise and a re-recording of We Say Yeah!

Cliff Richard and The Shadows: The Best of The Rock ‘n’ Roll Pioneers is a meticulous collection that not only highlights some of the best moments of Cliff and The Shadows partnership but also why it was so brilliant. Frequently underrated for their contribution to British pop history – this release confirms how British Rock N Roll has never been bettered!