Sunday, April 20, 2014

Hear! Hear! - The Searchers

Hear! Hear!
The Searchers
Mercury MG 20914

The second best group to emerge from Liverpool in the 1960s recorded a live album at the Star Club in Hamburg, Germany just like the Beatles.  It was recorded and released in England in 1963 and released in the U.S. the following year.  The Beatles' "Live! At the Star-Club in Hamburg, Germany; 1962" was a rip-off released long after the Beatles had broken up although an interesting artifact for Beatlemaniacs.  The Searchers' album is actually a pretty good record.  It sounds a lot better than the Fabs' record mostly because it was recorded when the Star Club was closed with more professional equipment.  The audience noise that appears between tracks was added later.  So I guess you could argue it is not really a live album in the conventional sense.  The songs are mostly rock and roll oldies.  There are a pair of Buddy Holly songs, "Listen to Me" and "Learning the Game" (weirdly listed as "Led in the Game" in the liner notes.  The Searchers also tackled Fats Domino's "Rosalie," Bo Diddley's "I Can Tell," Chris Kenner's "Sick and Tired," The Drifters' "Sweets For My Sweets," Ray Charles' "What'd I Say" and The Coasters' "Ain't That Just Like Me"  The liner notes incorrectly credit the song to Claude Demetrius and Fleecie Moore presumably someone mixed it up with their song "Ain't That Just Like a Woman."  The song was actually written by Billy Guy and Earl Carroll (of "Speedo" fame.)  For the most part the group did not stray too far from the original versions in their covers, but they are poppier.  The group's crisp sound and polished vocals make many of the songs sound smoother and more removed from their rhythm and blues origin.  There are a few instances where the Searchers changed the songs more radically.  For the band's cover of James Brown's "(Do the) Mashed Potatoes" (released by Brown under the pseudonym Nat Kendrick and the Swans), they gave the song a Merseybeat transformation speeding up the tempo, riffing with jangly guitars and singing a repeated refrain of "yeah" that makes the song barely recognizable.  The Olympics' "Hully Gully" received a similar makeover being taken at a breakneck pace with ringing guitars and a soaring vocal from Tony Jackson.  They also transformed Boudleaux Bryant's "Hey Joe" (which was a hit for Carl Smith as well as Frankie Laine) with a full on rocked up attack with great results.  The one new song on the record is "I Sure Know a Lot About Love."  The song has no writing credit but it has the classic Searchers' sound with a reverb laden joint vocal and a twangy guitar riff.  It reminds me of their hit cover of "Love Potion No. 9."  It is my favorite track on the album and I would prefer more tracks like it rather than all the oldies although I presume that was what the band played in their Hamburg shows just as the Beatles did.  I don't approve of the lack of originality on the album, but I still enjoy it consistently.  The Searchers performed with a lot of enthusiasm and energy and I've always dug their distinctive sound.  Their choice of covers is excellent as well.  The dubbed applause is very annoying though, I wish they had recorded an actual show instead.  Recommended to people who prefer "Love Potion No. 9" over "Needles and Pins."

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