The Pye Anthology: 1963-1967
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Virtually every significant track the Searchers recorded during the height of their fame is included on this astutely compiled 60-track set, which also boasts informative fold-out notes by Bob Stanley of St Etienne. The Searchers made up for their lack of a writing team to rival the Beatles' Lennon-McCartney in two ways. First, they boasted a sound that was totally unique among the British 1960s beat bands, built around a chiming 12-string guitar and Everly Brothers-styled close harmonies. Secondly, they invariably chose songs that suited their strengths. For the dancers, they could punch out R&B classics like "Farmer John" or "Love Potion No. 9"; for the more romantically inclined, they served up bittersweet ballads such as "Needles and Pins" and "Goodbye My Love." When protest music was in favor, they released the lovely "What Have They Done to the Rain." Through it all, they produced priceless pop artifacts like "When You Walk in the Room" and "Sweets for My Sweet." Much of what gushed out of Liverpool in the wake of the Beatles now sounds banal and dated. Like a fine wine, however, the Searchers have improved with age. --Johnny Black
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It was hard being an American fan of the Searchers. They were so huge in Britain but only made the Top 20 here twice with Needles and Pins at #13 and Don't Throw Your Love Away at #16. Those were great and memorable songs and at least get played frequently on oldies radio. Their sole American Top 10 was Love Potion Number Nine in 1965 ( #3) which was on Meet the Searchers from 1963. I had mixed feelings because although it gave the band a major hit, it was basically a novelty song, and they had done so many better things. John McNally's 12-string guitar playing was a major influence on the Folk-Rock sound in the Summer of '65 (especially as heard on Needles and Pins and When You Walk In the Room) but everyone thought the sound had been entirely made up by the Byrds. To his credit Jim McGuinn acknowledged his debt to the Searchers and to the Byrds and subsequent groups credit they modified the sound with considerable amplification beyond the Searchers template, enough to call it a new sound. Still the Searchers were left behind. After the terrific He's Got No Love with its swooping guitar hook flopped on this side of the Atlantic (at #76) they were never heard from again.
The songs appear in roughly chronological order and are spread rather evenly through their albums. There are 6 songs from Meet the Searchers, 6 from Sugar and Spice, 7 from It's the Searchers, 7 from Sounds Like the Searchers and 5 from Take Me for What I'm Worth. In America, Kapp (their Pye distributor) put out different albums. From these: Hear Hear! (3 songs), This Is Us (7 songs) and The New Searchers LP (7 songs). In addition to this you get 9 songs that were on the 1987 compilation: The Searchers Play The System - Rareties, Oddities and Flip Sides. These include the very rare theme song from the 1964 movie, the System, and all of the A and B sides of their final five Pye singles.through late 1967.
Some of the many highlights include the Everly Brothers styled harmonies on Listen To Me and Hungry For Love; folk songs like Where Have All the Flowers Gone and All My Sorrows and the Ronettes song Be My Baby (the collection does not include their versions of Da Doo Ron Ron or It's In Her Kiss). There's also This Empty Space, a song that sounds a bit like Things We Said Today, a song McCartney offered to the Searchers because he thought it would fit their sound, but which they turned down. I'll Be Missing you, the B-side of When You Walk In the Room has a very Byrds guitar opening months before Mr. Tambourine Man. The Searchers were never trend followers but there is a bit of Baroque Pop to Too Many Miles (and the vocal sounds nothing like the Searchers). Their cover of the Five Americans Western Union is a bit too close to the original; in fact if someone played it for me I would think it was the original but for the instrumental break. But it's still interesting. There is much more and any Searchers fan will love this collection.
Like the Beatles, the Searchers would pay homage to their influences like Buddy Holly ("Listen To Me"), update old standards ("Saints & Searchers," which is actually "When the Saints Go Marching In"--the Beatles, after all, covered "Ain't She Sweet") and develop a social consciousness ("What Have They Done to the Rain" is an anti-nuclear protest song from 1964). The difference is that the Searchers seldom wrote their own material, and when they did they were tucked away on the B-side of singles or released as an album track. So they relied on outside writers for their hits, covering other artists' songs.
"When You Walk in the Room" was penned by Jackie DeShannon, "Love Potion No. 9" was written by Lieber & Stoller, and their last U.K. hit, "Take It or Leave It" from 1966 was a Jagger/Richard song. But the group originals like "Don't You Know," ""No One Else Could Love Me" and "(I'll Be) Missing You" are typical of the Merseybeat sound of the period and hold up well alongside their hits.
If you're a fan of British Invasion-era pop and cherish the couple of songs you might recognize on this collection, I guarantee that you'll enjoy this 60-song set. Just like the excellent job Castle did with the Kinks' reissue series, this anthology contains excellent sound and informative liner notes--although the foldout format is a bit awkward. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
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