July 15, 2024

Between Cult and Kitsch: The Cliff Richards Orchestra Album

Between Cult and Kitsch: The Cliff Richards Orchestra Album

After 65 years in the music business, Cliff Richard still can’t get enough. Whoever thought that his “80th Grand Tour” was a farewell on stage was wrong. In November, 83-year-old Sir Cliff will tour the UK again. Shortly before that, the diligent singer with a soft voice released a new album containing old songs, in which he was accompanied by an orchestra. Richard calls it an “emotional journey” into the past.

The new record “Cliff With Strings – My Kinda Life,” which will be released on November 3rd, does not extend beyond his career. The repertoire is largely limited to the first half of Sir Cliff’s long and successful career.

“Cliff with Strings – My Kinda Life” album cover. Photo: Warner Music International/DPA

The setlist includes catchy tunes from the ’50s and ’60s (“Living Doll”, “The Young Ones”), pop hits from the ’70s and ’80s (“We Don’t Talk Anymore”, “Wired For Sound”) and his more upbeat songs. From the late 80s and early 90s (“My Best”, “Peace in Our Time”).

New band and orchestral arrangements

Sir Cliff didn’t re-sing the songs, so who can blame him at 83? The high notes of “We Don’t Talk Anymore” or “Carrie” may no longer reach the veteran musician as easily as they did 40 or more years ago. Instead, the original vocal tracks for “Cliff With Strings – My Kinda Life” were used and combined with new band and orchestral arrangements. British rocker Def Leppard recently did something similar.

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Old rock and roll songs like “Living Doll” or “Summer Holiday” became great numbers in the new arrangement. How fitting, because Sir Cliff has always been a singer – closer to Bobby Darin than Tony Bennett. On “We Don’t Talk Anymore” the synthesizers gave way to orchestral accompaniment. Atmospheric strings give the dance-pop song a touch of Burt Bacharach.

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On “Marmaduke,” the only song on the new set that wasn’t a single, Cliff Richard surprised in 1989 with a beefy rock sound, with pulsating drums and powerful electric guitars. On the other hand, the newly arranged version is greatly reduced and does not have the huge orchestral sound. It is a mixture of blues, country and bluegrass with harmonica, fiddle and slide guitar.

The former rock singer has had a bit of kitsch since the 1970s at the latest, and sometimes a little more than that. “Cliff With Strings – My Kinda Life” is no exception. His version of Bryan Adams’ megahit “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You” is so thick that it sounds like the musical version of the sunset Internet meme posted on Facebook on your wedding day. By the way, the songs come from Sir Cliff’s Millennium concert in 1999.

Entertaining musical delight

The remake of “Suddenly,” the duet with Olivia Newton-John, who died in 2022, from the trashy 1980 movie “Xanadu,” isn’t necessarily less comical, but it’s still very pretty. The soundtrack from the time was not used for this, but live – a recording from 2015 on the occasion of Richard’s 75th birthday.

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“I am always amazed at how good our voices sound together and at the clear elegance Olivia always radiates,” Sir Cliff says in the accompanying text. “I’m happy to be able to highlight this great performance again.”

Since 1958, Cliff Richard has released nearly 50 albums and over 200 singles – an impressive record. In comparison, his new album is almost a bit short and contains only twelve songs. For example, a classic song like “Lucky Lips,” which was a top hit in Germany and many other countries, is missing – which is unfortunate. But other than that, “Cliff With Strings – My Kinda Life” is an entertaining musical delight.