In the US, Lulu was pretty much a one-hit wonder. For five weeks she topped the American charts with the grandiose “To Sir with Love”, one of the most sympathetic mainstream hits of 1967 (and one of the best orchestrated pop records of its era, right at the top with the Temptations “Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me) ”and Bobbie Gentry’s“ Ode to Billie Joe ”). Three of her other singles made small dips in the top 40 in 1968, 1970 and 1981, but they rarely air today.
On the other side of the pond, however, the story is very different. There, “To Sir with Love” was just a B-side, not a hit, which explains why it’s not even among the songs mentioned on a sticker on the wrapper from Gold, a new UK anthology that is available States as an import. However, the Scottish singer has made a lot more career in England than in the USA. In addition to several popular television series, she has made more than two dozen forays into the singles charts, scoring eight top 10 and big hits in every decade since the 1960s to 2000s. All of these singles as well as “To Sir with Love” and much more can be found on the 3-CD Gold, which includes 60 recordings from 1964 to 2015.
Lulu’s material is mostly excellent and certainly varied. She covers pop numbers from the likes of Gerry Goffin and Carole King, producer Bert Berns and Neil Diamond, then turns around and records songs by Bob Seger, the Rolling Stones and even David Bowie. She also plays half a dozen originals and three numbers from the Bee Gees (not surprising since Lulu was married to Maurice Gibb of that group for about four years).
Her versatility is impressive – she can sound like Dionne Warwick one minute and like a garage rock singer the next – but in general, she’s best when she sticks with pop. Her vocals shine on Bern’s “Here Comes the Night”, the Van Morrison / Them number and Tim Rose’s “Morning Dew”, but a cover of Bowie’s “Watch That Man” is pretty terrible.
Such a definitive cross-career retrospective should have been accompanied by a booklet containing detailed biographical and track information, but this publication does not contain any notes and in fact contains only one black and white photo that appears twice. Well It’s the music that matters most and this set has everything you need for the full Lulu experience.
PS to fans of Susanna Hoffs from the Bangles and / or “To Sir with Love”: Check out the excellent cover of this song on Hoffs’ 1996 album of the same name.
Also worth mentioning
Shannon McNally, The Waylon Sessions. Singer Shannon McNally conveys the late Waylon Jennings ‘outlaw country attitude and adds a feminine perspective to the spirited The Waylon Sessions, in which guests like Buddy Miller, Rodney Crowell, Jennings’ widow Jessi Colter, and Lukas Nelson (who sounds creepy here like his father Willie).
The 13-track program includes well-known Waylon compositions such as “I’ve Always Been Crazy”, “This Time” and “You Asked Me To” (the latter co-written by Billy Joe Shaver) as well as a variety of other songs that Jennings covered, including Shaver’s “Black Rose”, Ray Pennington’s “I’m a Ramblin ‘Man”, Ivy Bryant’s “Only Daddy That’ll Walk the Line” and Crowell’s “I Ain’t Living Long Like This”.
Beth Whitney, In the ground. When some albums shout their messages from a mountain top, this one whispers its messages from a peaceful valley. Though more generously produced than Nick Drake’s LPs, Whitney’s record is just as muted.
The lyrics are introspective. (She explains the title of the album and says: “On” [my last album] I looked outward at the world around me. Do I look into the ground on the new album? Soil is complex and so are we. ”The songs – with acoustic guitar, bass, piano and properly used cello, ukulele, banjo and percussion – express different joy and sadness; but all radiate calm, gentleness and acceptance.
Whitney – who hails from Washington state and has released albums since 2007 – composed 10 of the 11 folk-based numbers, one of them with a co-writer; the only cover is “Shelter from the Storm,” the song from Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks that best fits the mood here. (You can’t imagine Whitney tackling any of the more venomous tracks on this record – like “Idiot Wind”.) The Dylan number stands out, but so do such cute, lively originals like “Moonlight”, “Huckleberry” and “In Another” life. “
Ben Brown, Sayonara Sorrow. Ben Brown – longtime singer / guitarist for Austin, Texas rock band No Show Ponies – serves 10 cans of radio-grade pop rock on the small group-backed Sayonara Sorrow solo to the Jefferson. of No Show Ponies heard of Brown (Ben’s brother) on bass; Tim Cappello, who played with Tina Turner in the 1980s, on the ubiquitous saxophone; and Mick Flowers, who produced, on drums.
Brown’s website compares the “icy, cool restraint” of his singing and rhythmic, often hypnotizing music to the British rock of the 1970s and 1980s by David Bowie and Roxy Music, both of which appear to be good reference points.