This is one of a series of compilations which chronicle the NME's British Hit Parades from their inception in 1952 up to the latest addition to project, this year's release, 1958. I would guess that the expiration of the fifty year protected period for recorded music in the UK means that these discs can now be offered at such competitive prices, and why each one is released in the year after a fifty year gap has elapsed. That being the case we may well expect to see 1959 early next year and a move into the sixties in subsequent years - I hope so!
The discs build nicely into a collection that will suit fans of fifties pop tunes and also serious music collectors alike and I will treat them as a collection, rather than review each year individually, so I can then add the review to each compilation to link them together. If you're just looking for music from your favourite year, however, I would also recommend checking out the others as well, the quality is consistently very good indeed and, as far as I can tell, it is always the original recording featured.
I will try to explain why the CD sets for some years are more expensive to buy than others, and how the chart developed over time. Starting in 1952 the New Musical Express launched the first British Pop Chart on November 14th. All fifteen titles which were featured that first chart, plus twelve additional titles which represent all the new entries up to the end of 1952, are included on the disc. The actual chart was just twelve positions but there were some tied places making up the fifteen. There is also a fully illustrated booklet included containing all the historical facts regarding the launch and detailed information on all the songs and artists. The first year's chart is contained on just a single CD and is called The First British Hit Parade.
1953 is a 3 CD set comprising every record that entered the UK chart from January 3rd to December 19th in chronological order of the first entry - with the exception of multiple versions of the same song which have been separated for ease of listening, the compilers say, and it makes good sense. This is the same format used in all subsequent years as is the inclusion of a really informative illustrated booklet in each set. The year's set is called 1953 British Hit Parade, subtitled Britain's Greatest Hits Volume 2 - to avoid confusion, 1952 is actually Volume 1; there is no 1953 Volume 1!
1954 is a 4 CD set comprising every record that entered the UK chart from January 9th to December 18th in chronological order of entry, with the same exception of multiple versions as previously. This was the year that saw the first signs of the Rock 'N' Roll revolution! The year's set is called 1954 British Hit Parade, subtitled Britain's Greatest Hits Volume 3.
1955 is expanded to two 3 CD sets because the chart increased to twenty places ,which means that it now takes six compact discs to feature all of that years chart entries. The first 3 CD set comprises every record that entered the UK chart from January 8th to July16th in chronological order of entry. The second 3 CD set comprises every record that entered the UK chart from July 16th to December 24th in chronological order of entry. The two sets are called 1955 British Hit Parade, subtitled Britain's Greatest Hits Volume 4, then each set has a purple corner flash stating either Part 1 or Part 2. I've mentioned this in detail as Amazon's listings for all of these discs in general is not consistent and could be a little confusing - the image shows the exact product.
1956 was the year when the chart was expanded to thirty places and means that it is presented as two separate 4 CD sets. Set one features the first six months and set two the second. It becomes clear that this was the year that Rock `N' Roll really began to make its presence felt! The two sets are called 1956 British Hit Parade, subtitled Britain's Greatest Hits Volume 5, then each set has a green corner flash stating either Part 1 or Part 2.
1957 is another year divided into two 4 CD sets - January 5th to June 29th and July 6th to December 28th. The two sets are called 1957 British Hit Parade, subtitled Britain's Greatest Hits Volume 6, then each set has a blue corner flash stating either Part 1 or Part 2.
All the years so far have been issued by the Acrobat label, the latest addition, 1958, is now released on the Fantastic Voyage label which is a part of Future Noise. This is another two 4 CD set year, January 4th to June 14th and June 21st to December 27th. It is slightly different in presentation to its predecessors and also includes a card slipcase. It is, however, produced by exactly the same team as before and refers back to the earlier releases; the title follows a similar format and is Volume 7 Parts 1 & 2. At the time of writing this review Amazon list both of these sets twice - one available the other not.
All the compilations are produced by names which will be familiar to music collectors, and have been well engineered sound-wise. I am not sure what master sources are available to be used for this type of release, but whatever they are the results are very good. The few tracks which do sound a bit below par are mentioned in the notes and apologies made about the difficulties in sourcing some of the music.
If you grew up in the fifties you will find contained within these discs the music that was on your radio day by day and year by year - and for me, most of my parent's record collection! I never thought I would hear again Eamon Andrews dulcet tones echo the words horned toads of the thorny chaparral! (The Shifting, Whispering Sands, 1956, a double sided disc - both sides thoughtfully included). That and many other delights are contained within this series.
Each disc in the series has around 25 tracks and contains about an hour to 70 minutes of music. Whether you choose just one year or all of them you will find excellent quality and value, and many memories, within these discs. It is also worth checking out Acrobat's and Future Noise's other releases as they offer similar value and quality in music from the same era.