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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.
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on 18 June 2016
VERY GOOD
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on 4 June 2017
what a great group
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VINE VOICEon 2 November 2011
Hot Chocolate's albums are not so much underrated as completely ignored. This isn't surprising given that they were on Mickie Most's RAK label where the Holy Grail was the hit single. With their foremost labelmates being Mud, Suzi Quatro, Smokie and Kenny, it's a fair bet that RAK never released anything seriously regarded as a classic. In HC's case, it's a shame as their output shows they were capable of music of some depth. From 1969, when they had a brief association with Apple, until 1974, however, they only released singles. As with many artists, this collection of their eight albums reveals a band shifting gradually from an intense, studious approach to the so-called pop sell-out.

The first three albums featured have that aforementioned depth, during a period when they augmented many of their tracks with strings which added an epic, atmospheric quality to their music. Songs with a conscience sit alongside love songs that are hot, no milk or sugar. 'Every 1's A Winner' is the album on which they made an obvious switch toward commercial appeal, and contains their no. 1 hit, 'So You Win Again', a song I've never liked. The title track, however, and 'Put Your Love In Me' show that they could combine the best of the old with chart appeal.

After this, they seemed to lose their way a little. 'Going Through The Motions' is in that much reviled musical style, disco pop. HC were actually pretty good at it; a surprising number of the tracks in this collection show a flair for melody alongside the dance grooves. 'Class' is worse and somewhat bizarre, containing horror versions of Police and Elvis Costello standards, while 'Brand New Christmas' isn't what you might think. It's a throwback to their earlier stuff, the message being that we need a new Jesus, while the track is in two distinct styles.

The last two albums are straight pop, the unfeasibly tight production dating them to the early 1980s. They probably won't appeal to longstanding fans, but I didn't take an interest in HC until I heard their 'greatest hits' album around this time and 'Mystery' was the first of their original albums I heard. For me, they're enjoyable on their own terms, but as Errol Brown commented at around that time, the soul of the band had long disappeared.

The two hit collections are still worthwhile even if you buy this. Although it contains a lot of singles, the band continued to release non-album singles during this period, in addition to their pre-'Cicero Park' output. Overall, I think this is a satisfying collection, and very good value for the price.
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on 1 November 2015
fantastic collection, so sad Errol Brown's no longer with us, i'v e been a hot chocolate fan since they first charted in 1970.i still have all their releases on vinyl or cassette from when they were first released and enjoyed all the albums back then, most people may only be familiar with the singles,most of which are on various greatest hits albums.if you liked all their hits i'm sure you'll enjoy the studio albums,some of the tracks in my opinion could've been released as singles. the albums let you hear a wider range of their material. a very under rated band.
there has been a few cd releases with an odd few album tracks on ,but it has taken many years for all the studio albums to finally get a full release.
if you don't fancy this box set collection ,it;s worth buying their cd A's B's & Rarities,this is all their early singles a& b sides 1969 to 1975. a lot of their b sides were NOT on the albums.and are very good.includes their version of give peace a chance which was on the beatles apple label. i think for the first time ever on cd this album has 'blue night' which may've got to about 91 in the top 100 singles in early 1975,with 'you sexy thing' as the b side which then got remixed & release nov 75,and has been their biggest hit worldwide.
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on 9 June 2011
All tracks are only loud and horrible.

When I compare the tracks "You Sexy Thing" and "Every 1's A Winner" with an older EMI Maxi-CD, the tracks on the Maxi-CD sound much better instead of the "2011 demastered" versions on this release.

For me as DJ the tracks have no groove, dynamik and room. And that is made by the well-known Abbey Road Studios? Unbelievable.

I've bought more than 1.500 CD's in the past 2 years and analysed them and I can say that there are only 2-3 people in the world which are "big" in remastering - if required.

Another CD for the 2nd-Hand-Shop.
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on 6 March 2016
I love Hot Chocolate ... But I must add , like others say , This was not what I expected . This picture is very very misleading .. I thought that I would be getting the selection box with the individual cds in it ... Rather than a box cd with this picture on the front of it . Beware everyone ... And this is very very misleading !!!!
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on 5 September 2014
I think this collection is well worth the expenditure. I really liked the first four albums best; they have a distinct American feel to them and I can sense a lot of influence from the likes of Curtis Mayfield - which is alright by me. I found the last four very much of their time in terms of a lot of drum machine type sounds and some of the tracks were a bit long and slightly tiresome.Having said that lets have three cheers for Micky Most R.I.P. who did some fantastic work with these chaps and was astute enough to get them to abreviate their name from The Hot Chocolate Band.
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on 12 April 2011
first time i have ever bought albums by the group apart from there greatist hits.there are a few jems in this box set well pleased.
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on 19 September 2013
Hot Chocolate are the most underappreciated of all UK bands....funk, guitars, strings, social comment, weepy ballads, the whole of human life is there. Errol Brown is one of our finest songwriters and singers. Better than The Beatles!
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