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from the R&B side of 1960s British girl-pop
on June 24, 2016
1st half of CD (the Liverpudlian's teenage years, 1963-66): five stars
2nd half of CD (late-'70s/early-'80s and latter period, 2007-2011): two stars
Although she went nearly hitless outside of her home town of Liverpool, Beryl Marsden (née Hogg) was a dynamic teen vocalist on the local Merseybeat scene, who made a string of terrific singles over a three-year period when she was 16-19 years of age (1963-66). She was clearly on the R&B side of the girl-pop ledger and did some very credible covers of U.S. pop/R&B artists: "I Know (You Don't Love Me No More)" [Barbara George], her début single; "When the Lovelight Starts Shining Thru His Eyes" (The Supremes), "Everybody Loves a Lover" (inspired by the Shirelles' version; from a live various artists LP recorded at The Cavern); "Music Talk" (Stevie Wonder); and "Break-A-Way" (Irma Thomas).
The one week she spent on one national British chart was with the strong, soulfully sung original ballad "Who You Gonna Hurt?" from 1965. But, IMO, her best chance for a breakthrough hit (if her excellent cover of "I Know" couldn't do it in the UK) could have been its
pulsating and energetic flipside, a should-have-been girl-pop U.S.-import classic titled "Gonna Make Him My Baby." April Young's original 1965 version may have been a bit too late to have caught the girl-group wave (a problem for Beryl Marsden in the UK also), as it only reached #129 in Cash Box, despite being designated in Billboard as a "breakout hit" in Philadelphia. This is a dynamic, right-on-the-money example of the genre that fans of this style need to hear.
From 1966, we get a single by the short-lived R&B ensemble The Shotgun Express, featuring both Beryl Marsden and Rod Stewart. Oddly, this orchestral pop-soul hybrid, "I Could Feel the Whole World Turn Around," was atypical of what the group normally did, only serving to alienate fans and squelch any momentum they might have been building.
When Beryl re-emerged in a later era, production values on records had drastically changed; and gritty, organically-produced R&B/soul was nowhere to be found. Synthetic music now ruled the pop scene. The less said about her three pop sides included here from 1979 and 1981 the better.
The eight latter-day tracks (2007-2011) show her to be in great voice, and her co-write "Too Late" is a very good '60s-throwback, girl-group-influenced song. Also vocally impressive are her covers of the Shirelles' (obviously an inspirational group for her from the beginning) "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" and "Baby, It's You." It's just a bit difficult for fans of records from the 1960s and the way they were produced back then to sit still for the rather annoying, artificially created musical backings relied upon here.
I have been listening to the first twelve tracks repeatedly, and they seem to fly by; but I just can't make myself slog through the rest again.
Still, a fine job by RPM putting together this first-ever Beryl Marsden comprehensive collection. The 16-page accompanying booklet is impressive, with photos and twelve pages of well-written, detailed liner notes by John Reed (with the participation of Beryl Marsden).