Many thanks to Theo for sending the following superb report. This landmark new double-CD release is a magnificent personal achievement:-
“Believe it or not, this CD has actually been in the making for over two years. I loved all the Columbia material, but was disappointed with the way the singles had been re-issued in the past. Always in stereo, and in some cases this meant the original 45rpm version had been forgotten. Reach For The Stars was a number one hit, yet the version that has always appeared on CD is rather different to the one on the single. I tried writing to EMI Gold – I’ve still had no response from that letter. I got in touch directly with the person who had been behind previous Shirley re-issues. He was completely unwilling to release anything more – his attitude was ‘Shirley doesn’t sell’. A few months later I got in touch with an independent record company, RPM. They readily agreed to my proposal, but we had to wait for clearance from EMI. Since they weren’t doing anything with the material, surely they wouldn’t object to someone else using it? We waited about six months for an answer from EMI, and then the answer was no. Rather disappointing after all that time.
Around this time, in March 2005, a friend of mine had been working on a Ruby Murray boxset at EMI. It was to be released under their ‘Nostalgia’ banner. Now, perhaps whoever is in charge will be more willing to release some Shirley. She’d probably sell better than most other ‘easy listening’ acts from the 50s, 60s etc. I got in touch with the man in charge and sent him an email. He readily agreed to do it. This was good news, although the downside was that they apparently had a very busy schedule for the rest of the year, so it would have to wait. I checked back every few months, and finally, in January this year, the project got off the ground.
What the project was always intended to be was all the Columbia ‘a’ and ‘b’ sides in their original mono versions. ‘Why mono?!’ I hear some stereo enthusiasts cry. Well, as mentioned above, certain tracks were only recorded in mono. What shall we do, split the channels and add echo like they did in the early 70s? They were never released in stereo way back when (apart from the odd album track lifted for single release), and I thought it would be nice to hear the songs as they were heard upon release. Without the crackle, of course. EMI have gone back to the original single masters for the tracks on this release, although they were missing six tracks in their vaults. I provided mint vinyl copies of these singles, and I believe their remastering of those songs is excellent.
I also wanted to include other rarities from the period that didn’t make it to any of her LPs. So you also have the Showboat tracks, and the complete, original mono EPs Till and In Other Words. The other elusive track that seemed unlikely to be re-issued elsewhere was My Liquidator. EMI didn’t have this in their vaults, perhaps since it was recorded in America. I later found out that the original tapes in America were lost anyway. Thanks to our good friend DavidB, EMI were able to remaster it from a mint vinyl pressing. Again, it sounds excellent.
Technically, the entire contents of the compilation is ‘new to CD’, as apart from Goldfinger, they have never been issued on CD in their original mono versions. My Liquidator was only ever released in stereo, so that is the one exception.
There are seven tracks that have never made it to CD before, in any shape or form:
Where Shall I Find Him
How Can You Tell
And of course, the original version of Reach For The Stars. The sound quality on this release is excellent throughout. Better than anything before. Considering it’s in mono, the remastering is amazing. Very faithful to the original releases.
Of course, you don’t need me to tell you that the material is wonderful. I know many fans prefer her 1970s period at United Artists, but the Columbia years were commercially her most successful. Certainly in the UK charts, where nearly everything on this set entered the hit parade. When you have classics like As Long As He Needs Me, What Now My Love, I (Who Have Nothing) and the almighty Goldfinger, you can’t really go wrong. We all have our favourites, but in my opinion these are her best-known by the public.
I had no control over the artwork, but I needn’t have worried – the front cover is beautiful, and in fact the whole booklet’s design is very classy.
I wrote the sleevenote, which is a track-by-track commentary. I hope you like it – this is my sleevenote debut! I also feel the use of memorabilia, ie. sheet music and records, is very appropriate and new fans who don’t have huge collections will appreciate it.
Inside there is also information for each track on the producer, recording date, orchestral accompaniment and original catalogue numbers. The track titles also appear exactly as they were on the original releases.
To dedicate the CD to Norman Newell OBE seemed only appropriate. He died while this CD was first being planned all those months ago, and every Shirley fan will surely know the contribution he made to her career. Aside from masterminding this very successful period of her career, he went on to write some of her most well-loved songs into the 1980s. So while you’re listening, spare a thought for Norman and hopefully realise what a genius he was.
EMI have confirmed that further exciting projects from other parts of their huge back-catalogue may follow should this one prove successful. We need to prove to the Marketing people that Shirley does sell. By supporting this release you are encouraging future releases.
Anyway, I hope this CD gives you many hours of listening pleasure. Enjoy!”
To find out how to buy the double album (£6.99 from Amazon) please visit www.livingtree.co.uk or see blogs dated 22nd April and 1st May. Buy it! You’ll love this masterpiece of early Shirley.