Top positive review
26 people found this helpful
on 25 February 2011
Amazingly Hot Chocolate released no albums until 1974, so this collection does not represent a complete chronology of the band's releases. A string of hit singles were released between 1970 and 1973 featuring classic tracks such as `Love is life', `I believe (in love)', `You'll always be a friend', `Brother Louie' and the original recording of `You could have been a Lady'. All of these and their associated B sides can be found on the `As, Bs and rarities' compilation. Incidentally not all later singles featured on albums either, so we sadly don't get `No doubt about it' and `I'll put you together again'.
Albums kicked off in 1974 with the release of `Cicero Park' which featured the classic Hot Chocolate sound until winding up in 1983 with the very 80s sounding `Love Shot' which was hardly recognisable as the same band save for Errol's distinctive voice. Of these original eight releases only four charted in the UK and none penetrated the top20, whereas the compilations were huge sellers. Here's my batting order of the eight albums included in this set (all released on RAK Records and all produced by the late Mickie Most).
1. Cicero Park (DNC) - The first album and for me the very best. Right from the opening notes of the opening title track we're treated to the distinctive Hot Chocolate sound of beautifully arranged strings arranged by John Cameron (throughout all subsequent tracks until replaced by synthesisers in the late 70s). The album is packed with memorable tracks including the perennial `Emma' (surely the best Hot Chocolate track ever?). `Changing World' is a wonderful ballad with great guitar licks from Harvey Hinsley. The song is mistakenly listed in the booklet as being an unreleased single - it was released, and it's edited and it's quite easy to purchase on the internet. `Disco Queen' another hit single with wicked guitar bursts and finally a big and brassy sound on `Funky Rock n' Roll'.
2. Hot Chocolate (no. 34)- The eponymous second album features a number of hits and classic album tracks. Listen again to `You sexy thing' and marvel at those strings subtlety arranged and inserted by John Cameron (and never mind the 80s remix!). `A Child's Prayer' is another wonderful single well known and again, string-laden. More obscure album tracks like the brooding `The Street' , `Dollar Sign' (about the lure of money) and `A warm smile' (a track penned by band members other than Errol Brown & Tony Wilson) where Harvey Hinsley is given room to stretch out his guitar playing in an extended instrumental break are high quality.
3. Man to Man (no 32) - The third album (you get the picture?). The title track should have been a big hit but stalled just outside the top 10. A classic lyric from Errol and some quietly spoken lines plus those long held chords. Other big hits adorn this album in the bassy ` Don't stop it now', `Heaven is in the back seat of my Cadillac' and the re-recorded version of `You could have been a lady'. Highlights less well known are the album closer `Seventeen years of age' and `Sex appeal'.
4. Every 1's a winner (no 30) - The fourth album. Wonderful riff on the extended version of the title track needs no introduction here - you've all heard it, but it does benefit from the longer cut here rather than the shorter single version. `So you win again' was the band's only chart topper and was penned by the prolific Russ Ballard. Another great sounding guitar and string arrangement that you never get tired of hearing. `Put your love in me' is five minutes of bliss with a very mysterious instrumental track. Other less known highlights are `Confetti Day' and `Sometimes it hurts to be a friend'.
5. Class (DNC) - Album number six. By now we're into the 80s and this is not as classy as the previous four by any stretch. There are however some memorable tracks; `Are you getting enough of what makes you happy' has an intro and guitar riff to die for. Fantastic sound. `Losing you' is Russ Ballard's `So you win again part 2' released as a single which amazingly failed to chart. A creditable cover of `Walking on the moon' finds the Hot Chocolate sound in tune with this sparse Police track and Errol's voice well suited. `Children of Spaceman' is quite unlike anything else; tucked away as a B side it's a great track. Finally `Love me to sleep' is a moving ballad.
6. Mystery (no 24) - We're well into the 80s at the time of this release and it's a patchy album apart from `Girl crazy' which is acceptable pop, `Chances' a nice ballad and the best two tracks on the album' It started with a kiss' and (surprisingly) another longer version of `Are you getting enough happiness'. Elsewhere `Emotion explosion' is quite awful and sounds like Earth, Wind and Fire and `You'll never be so wrong' (written by Ricky and Kim Wilde) is one of the worst single releases by the band.
7. Love Shot (DNC) - 1983 and getting worse. Few redeeming tracks are on here. `I'm sorry' co-written by label mate Adrian Gurvitz and `I gave you my heart (didn't I)'. Otherwise it's really not my cup of tea at all.
8. Going through the motions (DNC) - Errol Brown has admitted to having writers block around the time of this release (1979). The album features eight monotonous tracks. A near nine minute version of `Mindless Boogie' is just too much to bear. The title track is only partially saved by it being the last HC track with John Cameron's string arrangements. The album really is what it says though, and I won't be playing it very much!
Finally, the package itself. Excellent value for money although the eight page booklet included is very sparse and features some typos and mistakes. There are some notes included, but they amount to two sentences on the back of the CD! EMI could have given us a much more detailed booklet with full size photos of the album sleeves perhaps. The running orders from the albums have had to be slightly re-jigged in places for timing reasons e.g. `'Dollar sign' from `Hot Chocolate' is put out of sequence at the start of disc 2 before `Man to man' begins.