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Easy listening covers of British number one hits
on 30 May 2009
Mick Foster and Tony Allen may wish that they'd had even one British number one hit, but they've managed to have a very long and successful career anyway without even coming close. Nevertheless, their albums have always sold reasonably well in Britain and they are very popular in several other countries including, of course, their Irish homeland.
This album is a part-compilation, including as it does 13 tracks recorded between 1986 and 2002, together with 27 tracks recorded especially for this release. Some tracks that qualified for this release, but which appeared on other then-recent compilations have been excluded. For example, the 2003 release Very best of Foster and Allen included a few covers of British number one hits such as The wonder of you, Can't help falling in love, Green green grass of home, One day at a time and Matchstick men and matchstick cats and dogs, all became British number one hits in the sixties or seventies for other artists, but they aren't included here. Similarly, no tracks from the 2004 release Sing the sixties are duplicated here. Wisely, the compilers decided that a significant proportion of people buying this set also bought one or both of these two earlier compilations. Another thing to note is that three of the original number one hits are instrumentals and they are played as such here, so the compilation title isn't entirely accurate, as Foster and Allen only sing on 37 of the 40 tracks.
The track listing tells us when the songs made number one but makes no mention of other versions that charted. Thus the listing for I have a dream (the Abba classic) mentions Westlife but not Abba, the original having spent a month stuck at number two behind Pink Floyd's Another brick in the wall. For those songs that made return visits to number one, each visit is recorded. The opening track on the first CD, Unchained melody, has been number one for four different artists and all are listed, but again no mention is made of other hit versions.
Inevitably, the hits chosen reflect the duo's own tastes, with many of the originals dating back to the fifties, sixties and seventies though some are later. They are clearly huge Elvis fans as they recorded Good luck charm and She's not you for this album, to add to all the other Elvis covers they'd previously recorded and which can be found elsewhere. There are no Beatles covers as such, though John Lennon (Imagine) and Paul McCartney (Mull of Kintyre) are represented. Still, although I'm not short of Beatles covers, I'm disappointed that at least one wasn't included. There are a few country songs here, although two of them (I can't stop loving you, If tomorrow never comes) were British number one hits for non-country artists. Three more (Distant drums, Coward of the county, Lucille) were among the few genuine country recordings to have become British number one hits. As for Annie's song, it depends whether you count John Denver as country or not.
I'm not going to pretend that Foster and Allen's versions are better than the originals, but the covers here are very well made and just hearing these songs together in one package will bring back many memories for older people. I really enjoy hearing this double CD. Sometimes when playing it, I'm reminded that it's time I played one or more of the original versions again.