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"...Looking Back Over The Years...Never Wishing To Hide The Tears..."
on 20 February 2012
*** THIS REVIEW IS FOR THE 2012 REMASTERED REISSUE ***
"Back To Front" is the 2nd release in a full-on reissue campaign for Irish singer-songwriter Raymond Gilbert O'Sullivan (his debut album "Himself" was relaunched in November 2011 and is reviewed separately). With fantastic new sound, three bonus tracks, quality packaging and a none-too steep price - legions of his fans worldwide will be thrilled to see that his MAM Records catalogue is finally receiving a thorough going-over (and it's artist-approved too).
Here are the finite details - UK released Monday 20 February 2012 (21 Feb 2012 USA) Salvo SALVOXCD002 breaks down as follows (45:01 minutes):
Tracks 1 to 14 are his second studio album "Back To Front" - released October 1972 in the UK on Mam Records MAM-SS 502 and December 1972 on Mam Records MAM 5 in the USA. It peaked at Number 48 in America - but hit the coveted Number 1 spot in England.
Tracks 15 and 16 are "Alone Again (Naturally)" and "Save It" - the A&B sides of a 7" single released February 1972 in the UK on Mam Records MAM 66 and June 1972 in the USA on Mam Records 3619 (both were non-album tracks at the time). It peaked at Number 3 in the UK - but spent 15 weeks on the American charts - six of which were at Number 1. Also - outside of a very rare Japanese CD albums box set issued in the early Nineties with a 3" CD single of both tracks as a bonus - it's the first time the rare B-side "Save It" has been on CD anywhere else.
Track 17 is "Ooh-Wakka-Doo-Wakka-Day" - the A-side of a 7" single released May 1972 in the UK on Mam Records MAM 78 (again a non-album track in the UK at the time of release - it's B-side is the album cut "But I'm Not").
Other 7" singles - "Clair" and "What Could Be Nicer" were issued as the A&B-side of a 45 in the UK in October 1972 on Mam Records MAM 84 (it reached Number 1) and "Out Of The Question" was also issued as an A-side 45, but in the USA-only on Mam 3628 in April 1973. This CD will allow fans to sequence all the above.
The original UK LP had a matt single sleeve with two gatefold inserts - a black and white poster of Gilbert (now placed across the inside of the CD digipak) and a gatefold lyric sheet (also fully replicated in the second half of booklet). There's a 'Gilbert O'Sullivan - A Singer And His Songs' logo sticker on the front of the card digipak which will undoubtedly accompany all of these expanded reissues. The 20-page booklet is gorgeous - tastefully laid out lyrics to all the songs (including the bonuses), photos from his own archives, trade adverts and a detailed paragraph on each song with reminiscences from Gilbert on the album's creation. There's glossy photos in here I've never seen. Even the CD is a pictured one and the card digipak matches the same matt feel of the original vinyl album sleeve - a nice touch and great attention to detail. But the really big news for fans is the SOUND...
Remastered from original master tapes - the sound quality is a vast improvement on what went before (compilations and expensive Japanese imports). While "Himself" from 1971 is a little hissy in places - "Back To Front" from 1972 is incredibly clean and there's superlative clarity on all the instruments. You can now hear Big Jim Sullivan's wonderfully expressive acoustic guitar work on "Alone Again (Naturally)" and his rocking slide on the lesser-heard Side 2 opener "I'm In Love With You".
Four decades ago I was busy discovering girls in Dublin and Gilbert's "Can I Go With You" (a phrase teenagers used at the time) was a key track (what great memories). I'd also forgotten how snappy the brass work on "In My Hole" is (very Burt Bacharach) - while the almost vaudeville "But I'm Not" sounds like a really good late Sixties Beatles ditty. There's treated vocals on the clever lyrics of "The Golden Rule" and "Ooh-Wakka-Doo-Wakka-Day" may have a silly title (for which he was derided) - but it's a cracking single and a genuine bonus on here (chap in Bradford and all).
But somehow this release belongs to 'that' 1972 song - "Alone Again (Naturally)". Now February 2012 - it's beautiful melody and poignant words are 40 years old - yet it still touches a soul willing to listen (lyrics from it title this review). In fact what strikes you most relistening to this entire CD - is the endurance of the songs.
This is a lovely reissue - and Salvo are to be praised for handling it so well.
PS: His 3rd album "I'm A Writer, Not A Fighter" (considered by some to be his best) is due in April 2012.