Today’s Pop Rescue from a fate uncertain, is the 1993 fourteenth studio album Through The Years by the late British singer and television host Cilla Black. Will this album be a Lorra Lorra Laffs, or does it lack Heart And Soul? Read on…
This 12 track CD opens with lead single and ballad Through The Years. After a brief intro, Cilla is soon on the mic, delivering her softest and heartfelt yet distinct voice. This is a really sentimental original song, in reflection of Cilla’s long career up to 1993. The song slowly builds with strings, trumpet, and some wonderful lifting backing vocals, which includes the magic from Tessa Niles, all of which allows Cilla to rise up and show off her vocal power and range. We’re off to a great start here. Sadly the single stumbled at #54 in the UK singles chart.
Next up is That’s What Friends Are For a Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager penned track first recorded by Rod Stewart in 1982, and covered by several artists including Dionne Warwick as the ‘Dionne and Friends’ AIDS research fundraising single in 1985. For this version though, Cilla takes this as a duet with her long-time friend and collaborator Cliff Richard. The vocal contrast between the two works perfectly, with Cliff getting plenty of time on the mic alongside his friend, in harmonies and some intermittent backing vocal notes. A saxophone solo hops in the mid-section courtesy of Gary Barnacle which really helps to add a really nice mood to the song, and you’re left feeling warm and fuzzy at the Cilla and Cliff friendship.
That’s followed by Here, There And Everywhere, a cover of Cilla’s old pals The Beatles’ 1966 track. The song opens with some warm synth pads before she’s pitched against a classical guitar. It’s a simple start, and this allows Cilla’s delicate vocals to shine. The song retains this gentle feel, and it fits with the lyrics well, as backing vocals from Tessa swirl like a guiding current behind Cilla.
Heart And Soul bursts open with a real foot-tapper of a beat in this second original song, and this time Cilla has called in Dusty Springfield in for a duet. The sound does echo some kind of up-beat 60’s sound, but it still manages to be a middle of the road 90’s pop song at the same time. The vocal contrast is vast, and it works really quite well, and once again the vocal harmonies and backing vocals work really well, allowing Cilla, Dusty, and Gary Barnacle to jointly erupt in the mid-section, instantly injecting a bit more energy into the song. The track served as the album’s second UK single, but despite having these two musical heavyweights on board, the track flopped at #75.
Next is Anyone Who Had A Heart, which is a song that is synonymous with Cilla Black, and which gave her a #1 hit in 1964. Since then, Cilla has re-recorded the track many times, and even posthumously new versions with Cilla’s vocals have been recorded. This version seems to give more to the bass, and percussion instruments, giving it a slightly neutered 90’s sound to it. The 1964 version is far superior.
Following this is ballad A Dream Come True – an English translated cover of the Netherlands’ 1984 Eurovision Song Contest entry by Maribelle. It’s a plodding song, and perhaps an odd choice of song – in 1984, the track took the Netherlands to 13th out of 19 places. The song is nice enough, but not particularly interesting.
There’s an element of grandiose in the next song You’ll Never Walk Alone, and you can imagine why, given the song’s relationship to the people of Cilla’s native Liverpool. Joining Cilla here is Barry Manilow, and his vocals are another case of a well chosen contrasting voice, and perhaps even slightly reach out to the style of Gerry Marsden (who had a hit with it as part of Gerry and The Pacemakers). Suddenly the song builds up with choir, swooping strings, and dramatic drum fills, lifting both Barry and Cilla higher and higher towards the almost heavenly high notes that could only belong to Cilla. The track was the third and final UK single from the album, but did not chart.
Streets Of London is next – a cover of Ralph McTell’s 1969 hit. This version gives the song a bit more momentum, and the cor anglais adds a nice sound to it. Ralph McTell is actually here too, offering an endorsing dose of acoustic guitar. The song warmly shuffles along with ease, and Cilla’s vocals match its warmth and softness. It’s a nice version.
Next up is a new version of another old hit for Cilla – You’re My World – a song that has also been covered by many artists since. This version pitches Cilla against a really nice set of orchestral instruments before a beat drops in. The soft vocals of Cilla evolve slowly with the song, ensuring that she belts the chorus out perfectly with full Cilla power.
From A Distance is next – a cover of the 1987 Nanci Griffith track (although made widely popular by Bette Midler). The song begins quite faithfully to the Nanci version, with Cilla dropping in on the vocals with her flawless and delicate voice. A pedal steel guitar throws in some notes of interest as Cilla makes her way through this godly plodder.
That’s followed by what is almost a dance version of Will You Love Me Tomorrow? – an upbeat version of the classic Shirelles 1960s hit. I can almost imagine Cilla shimmying to this at a Royal Variety Performance, but alas it wasn’t a single. This version works well, and is a great injection of interest and energy to the album.
The album closes with Through The Years (Reprise), and this returns us to the softer ballad sound again, but this time the reprise is laden with backing vocals and harmonies and a focus on Cilla’s voice. It works really well before it finally breaks for the beat and strings at about the 2 minute mark, and she’s soon joined by bass and trumpet as the song builds back up. It’s a nice song to end the album on, but as a reprise, it’s actually only about 15 seconds shorter than the opening version.
Over all, this album is, as intended, a warm celebration of Cilla’s career – with old Cilla hits reimagined, covers of songs from the same era, and a few original songs thrown in.
Cilla puts in a brilliant performance here with her vocal softness and harmonies, but also her vocal power and range is flawless. Her voice is distinct, and whilst that hasn’t suited everyone, she shines here, and her collaborators – Cliff, Dusty, and Barry all work perfectly alongside her to make a sentimental trip ‘through the years’. When she sings about friendship or dreams, she sounds genuinely invested in that as she sings these often well-trod lyrics.
The titular Through The Years, Heart And Soul, and Will You Love Me Tomorrow? are the highlights here, with only the odd choice of A Dream Come True scraping the barrel. Production is slick here too, although it has dated a little with these early 1990’s sounds.
If you’re good with a few classic 60s and 70s Cilla songs, or just enjoyed her successful TV career, then you’d probably enjoy most of this album too.
- POP RESCUE 2022 ALBUM RATING: 3 / 5
- 1993 UK ALBUM CHART PEAK: #41
- POP RESCUE COST: 60p from a Barnardo’s charity store.