Customer Review

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great value but frustrating, 14 Oct. 2013
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This review is from: Rarities (Audio CD)
This is a fabulous value double CD, 59 tracks for under £6, and excellent sound quality. Absolutely no gripes on that front. Frank was a prolific recording artist in the 60s and unlike many singers there was clear distinction between his singles and his albums. Very few of his singles were included on subsequent albums other than those that were clearly [hit] compilations. Therefore this issue contains no hits. The majority of the tracks are country songs sung with Frank's distinctive vocal often produced by the legendary Norrie Paramor, a very easy on the ear easy listening experience that has stood the test of time. I loved listening to it.

So why have I docked one star? I have done so because the compilation is frankly [sorry!] an unstructured muddle. It is called a 'rarities' album and by and large the tracks are rare but not in all cases. Let me illustrate the point by reference to Frank's first UK album after he hit the big time with 'I remember you'. The album was called 'I'll remember you' and comprised 14 tracks. 5 were included in the 'Remembering the 60s' package over a decade ago, 6 are here but, of the 6, 4 were in the 60s package so between the 2 offerings just 7 tracks have been included. I know the earlier set came out years ago but I guess Frank's fanbase then and now is not much changed. This overlapping of songs applies throughout this latest set. [For purists, I must concede I am only looking at titles and not differentiating between mono, stereo or alternate versions]. Secondly there is no obvious logic in the track order. Songs from individual albums are not gathered together but scattered around amidst unreleased material.

I am sure that there is sufficient further material from his EMI albums to compile a 'Rarities, volume 2' set to ensure that all his album tracks get eventual CD release but it is a great frustration for me to find such a great value set compiled with so little apparent logic as to content and running order. I hope if EMI see fit to do another set that greater care is taken to ensure completeness rather than duplication. But still buy this one!
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 30 Oct 2013 10:38:21 GMT
P. HAZELL says:
Just had to respond to this!

I am delighted that "Sad CD Collector" considers the album to be great value and I totally respect his/her right to be disappointed that some tracks were omitted. I also appreciate that in exercising their right to criticise they have used the word "apparent" when referring to their perceived "lack of care" in compiling the album. They have been constructive in their comments - hence I would like to respond.

Frank and I put this one together - this is referred to in the booklet - neither of us is an employee of EMI. Far from lacking time or care, we spent many hours canvassing the fans, looking at past CD releases from around the world, searching for stereo masters, etc. One person's "rarity" is another person's "disappointment" (we heard often the words "I've had that on CD for years" in reference to tracks that others said "it won't be complete unless you put that one on"!) - what we had to do was examine what the majority of fans were saying to us, bearing in mind the degree of availability of a number of tracks over recent years.

The original LPs contained a mix of jazz, country, blues and big band numbers. However the market being what it is today, the best sales come from compilations and whilst EMI were happy to support the release, they wanted assurance of its commercial viability. A "greatest hits" was not viable as the hits are already available on other releases and all Frank's A & B sides for Columbia are out there on another set. So a theme was needed.

The greatest amount of radio coverage and other exposure that Frank receives these days is via the country music media and venues. There have been many Ifield country albums through the years but there has never been a CD compilation of his country-flavoured recordings from the EMI years. So we proposed to EMI Gold (now Warner/Parlophone) that this would make a good theme for the album.

Secondly, we wanted to avoid repeating tracks that were already easily available. This is not so obvious - some tracks have been readily available as MP3 downloads but very scarce on CD. Others have been readily available overseas but not in the UK, the primary market for the release. Still others had been out on CD in mono but not in stereo. The ardent collectors tend to have all releases so their view of what is rare is very different to the other 99% of buyers! We did listen carefully however to what people were telling us, then looked at what could potentially be included. That enabled us to whittle down the list of tracks. But there were still more than could be included in 2CDs (there is a physical limit to what can be crammed in).

There were some tracks that are truly outstanding examples of Frank's country vocals but which are never heard these days as they have not been available on CD for years. Frank wanted tracks like "San Antonio Rose" and "Lonesome Whistle" included as the original CD has been deleted for years. There were other examples of excellence from other albums too. Then there were three tracks that only ever saw release in Australia on LP and never on CD - and so on. Frank's early, pre-UK Australian mono tracks have largely all been released recently on CD so we resolved to make this an all-stereo album. Some tracks were also on the "Remembering the 60s" album but that was only available for a short time on CD and many people were saying that they cannot / do not use downloads.

The only track that needed some imagination to make it fit with the "country" theme was "Nottingham Fair", which stood out as the one track from the "Babes In The Wood" LP that was most in demand. We found that it actually fitted quite well! It is after all a kind of British folk-country song.

So in terms of which tracks to use, after much consultation and hours and hours (and a few bottles of wine) of deliberation, we finally got to the point where we had 59 tracks that could be fitted into 2 CDs (it was almost 58 but we found after agreeing the scheme of play that by changing some titles around, we could get one more track on).

Having agreed the list of songs, the playing order had to be sorted. As our friend who wrote the review said, there were various approaches one can use. He is right there but could not have been more wrong in assuming that it was done in haste, without loving care. Anyone who knows Mr Ifield will be only too aware that he is a perfectionist where his music is concerned! We considered date order, or grouping tracks within their original album titles. However, as a compiler of many albums I know that listeners experience the music in a different way when tracks are compiled in different sequences. Frank agreed and wanted to take time and trouble over the sequencing. He returned to Australia with the job in his mind - the release date had to be delayed while he studied the matter.

Frank and I had several telephone conversations over the ensuing week. He wanted to apply the principles he used to apply when planning his stage shows. Changes in tempo, theme and backing would make the set more interesting and entertaining than having tracks grouped together for more academic reasons. This set was not just for the collectors or the historians - it was for the mass audience out there who would know many of the songs and be familiar with Frank's name but would almost certainly not have heard these recordings (because by their standards ALL the tracks were rare!). Frank wanted to take the tracks and organise them into an entertaining sequence to appeal to the vast majority of potential buyers.

Eventually - after many changes including the reshuffle that allowed us to accommodate the extra track - the final listing was agreed.

So in summary Mr/Ms "Sad CD Collector", it was put together not without thought and logic but with much deliberation, lots of love but different logic to what you expected. Whilst you may not fully approve of the end result, it was Frank and I who chose the tracks - albeit in conjunction with many fans - and Frank himself who worked out the sequence - it really isn't an "unstructured muddle". We have to take the blame, not EMI (now Warner Parlophone). Please don't be "sad" any more! Thank you for the good rating and for taking the time to share your view.

I hope this will enable you and other buyers to gain extra insight into how this release came to be what it is!
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Location: Berkshire, England

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