I wasn’t aware of Shirley during the time when she recorded for Philips. Certainly from 1957 I was old enough and I was ‘into’ music. Music was constantly being played in the house as my parents were big music fans. I also had 4 older siblings who bought records and listened to the radio a lot. Shirley had hits before she left Philips including ‘As I Love You’ and ‘Kiss Me Honey, Honey’ which were really big hits for her and so must have been played on the radio and appeared on TV. It was 1960 and the song ‘As Long As He Needs Me’ that brought her to my attention. My mother bought the single but it was me that constantly played it. I hate to think how many times it got played and what condition it must be in but it’s that original copy that is in my record collection.
Being a schoolboy I didn’t have a lot of money so I had to save up to be able to buy records and there were loads of other things more important to me at that time that needless to say I bought very few. It was a few years before I got around to buying some of her Philips material and several songs I’d never heard or managed to get a copy of them until the early 1970’s. I have to be perfectly honest and say that I wasn’t really impressed by them and in fact very rarely played them. I tended to ignore them for quite a considerable time. I then started to play them and realised that I had actually been missing something. They were in fact very good when you listened to them carefully. Once cassettes came in I bought them on that format so at least I could listen to them without crackles and the fear of scratching the albums. The quality wasn’t brilliant but better than nothing.
With the advent of CDs I was hoping we would get all her Philips recordings in good quality. This has not been the case really. We’ve had several releases and recently Stage Door Records released a CD with her ‘Cafe De Paris’ recording and other Philips material. This indeed was very welcome for her fans but had been transferred from vinyl. Still we were all grateful for it being released at long last. I savoured the fact that I could listen to these tracks but I wanted more. I really longed for Shirley’s very first album ‘Born To Sing The Blues’ on CD. We’d got some of the tracks already available but not all of them. I wanted the album on CD in good quality
A few weeks ago I was scouring the net which I do regularly for different Shirley CDs when I spotted a 3CD set on a site. No information was given apart from the fact it was a 3CD set and called ‘The Legend Begins Plus’. I had no idea what was on it or what the sleeve was like but as I collect every CD I can find from anywhere around the world I had to have it. I asked my very good friend Andre in Holland if he could get it for me as it appeared to be a Dutch release. Andre, like Ed and myself, collects all Shirley’s CDs also. He was able to get it and sent it to me.
When it arrived it was packaged in a card slip case and the photo was one of Shirley from the 1980’s. It looked quite nice and the three CDs themselves were each in a jewel case with the same photo on the card insert. No write up about Shirley and just the songs listed. Two of the CDs were Philips recordings and the third CD ‘Plus’ was the UA ‘Never, Never, Never’ album. Both CDs with the Philips recordings have 13 tracks each. The first one a mixture including ‘Tra La La’, ‘After The Lights Go Down Low’ and ‘Tonight My Heart She Is Crying’…
The other CD is the 5 tracks from ‘Cafe De Paris’ and the complete 8 tracks from the ‘Born To Sing The Blues’ album. I just had to play it and really couldn’t believe my ears. The quality is the best I’ve heard of any of the Philips tracks. I was in heaven!! Here is ‘Careless Love Blues’…
I was really delighted with it but it had to pass one ultra test. Ed is so critical regarding the sound quality of CDs so I had to see what he thought. I told him it was good but made the excuse that I was slightly deaf so he’d have to judge for himself. It passed the test! He also said it was the best he’s ever heard of these recordings. It’s also a fairly cheap set. It’s on the Golden Stars label Cat No GSS 5600 and comes from Portugal. It costs around 10 Euros. I’ve even seen it on eBay and Amazon.com now. If you love the Philips recordings it really is worth getting. The one track I want on CD in good quality now is ‘The Wall’. I just cannot understand why this track is so neglected. In my mind it’s one of the best she did for Philips. I’m keeping my fingers crossed. The ‘Never’ album is quite good too but not up to the BGO standard.