An overlooked talent of the late 1960s and early 1970s - more songwriter than singer - Barbara was never really given the opportunity to fulfill her potential. Up against the likes of Lulu, Sandie Shaw, Cilla Black and many more British girl singers of the time, she was obliged to fit in with pigeon holes that perhaps did not suit her and a good deal of her work became formulaic. This album shows many glimpses of what might have been if she had benefited from more creative management and her work had been given higher production values. Many of her ballads, sad and wistful, have the ability to tug at the heartstrings and are much better than the bouncy stuff. She could have been another Carole King.
Most of the songbook is Barbara's own composition ... Imaginative lyrics, well performed and produced. Some tracks might be a bit 60s-ish which is what you'd expect although some is quite unique and as such ageless. I particularly like Almost, Pawnbroker Pawnbroker, So Long Sam Sam and For The First Time In My Life. Having said that there's not one track I don't like I play the CD in my car ... very therapeutic in traffic jams!
Very few people are likely to recognize the name Barbara Ruskin. She was a singer-songwriter who released a series of singles between 1965 and 1972, none of which charted in Britain and America although she charted in Europe, especially in Germany. As a songwriter, she appears on the credits of records by the Vogues and the Foundations among others. Barbara's most-covered song is Come into my arms again. This compilation focuses primarily on Barbara's recordings for President but also includes three earlier tracks. Barbara's first single was a cover of Halfway to paradise, a song that originally provided Tony Orlando with an American hit, but which became a top three UK hit for Billy Fury. Both of those date from 1961 but Barbara's 1965 version of this Goffin-King song is outstanding. After that debut cover, Barbara focused on recording her own songs. Barbara released four further singles on the Piccadilly label before switching to Parlophone in 1967. She released four singles for them, with two (Euston Station, Come into my arms again) included here. Barbara then switched to President and released seven singles in English. When Germans showed an interest in one of them (Gentlemen please), Barbara recorded a German version of the song. The German version of that song and Hail love are included here instead of the original English recordings. Two other A-sides originally released on President (I wanna be your teddy bear, Beautiful friendship) are missing altogether but the other three President A-sides (Pawnbroker pawnbroker, A little of this and a little of thit, For the first time in my life) are included. Four of the seven UK B-sides are here too, together with some previously unreleased material. Compiled with Barbara's co-operation, this may well be the only compilation ever released of her music. With excellent packaging, this is a real treat for those who enjoy seeking out obscure but brilliant pop singer-songwriters.
Well well well! At last a fantastic album from the lovely Barbara Ruskin. I haven't heard her stuff in years and up to now I have been stuck buying singles off of ebay. I am first on the list for one of these.