on 25 March 2011
This 2-disc set brings together 3 of Peter & Gordon's U.S.A. Capitol Records albums. The duo's success was much more prolonged in the U.S.A., hence 11 albums were released in the U.S.A. versus 4 albums in the UK. The duo(or executives at Capitol) were quite prolific in releasing albums(these 3 albums were released in a space of five months, something that would be unthinkable today!).
The duo's hitmaking days as fairly serious folk-rock & beat group performers was in commercial decline, but they got a boost with several novelty songs from outside writers, often in a twee musical hall vein("Knight in Rusty Armour", "Lady Godiva", "Sunday For Tea") which were quite commercially successful in the U.S.A.(and only slightly less so in the UK). The frantic rush to release albums meant that there were far fewer original songs from Peter & Gordon themselves.
The "Lady Godiva" & "Knights in Rusty Armour" albums were cobbled together by Capitol from various UK single & album tracks, plus tracks that had not been issued in the UK. The "Lady Godiva" album goes in a very uncontemporary middle of the road direction of relying on covers of standards and show tunes, which was a mistake, but a way to quickly fill an album. What you are getting for these two albums are Capitol's compilation masters, which are several generations removed from EMI/UK's original individual song masters, with Capitol's added processing, distortion and,in one case("I Would Buy You Presents", a Uk B-side) Capitol's fake stereo "Duophonic" processing.
While the "Lady Godiva" album got mired in middle of the road material, the "Knight in Rusty Armour" collection was much better, with its' hit title track, and fine cover versions of Phil Ochs' "The Flower Lady", Jimmy Reed's Baby What You Want Me To Do?" & Paul Simon's "Homeward Bound", Del Shannon's rocking "Colour Blue" and two originals.
However, the mediocre sound of Capitol's compilation masters does a disservice to the music. Yes, this is authenticity; making the CD sound exactly like Capitol's 1960's U.S.A. vinyl releases, but I would have much prefered to hear these tunes from the lowest generation existing individual song masters in EMI's UK vaults.
As for the third album in this 2-CD collection, "In London For Tea", it is a much more coherent work, likely because it was conceived as an actual album. and because of its' non-compilation nature, the tapes used have drastically better sound quality versus the other two albums in the set.
Still, two of the 3 albums in this set ("Knight in Rusty Armour" & "In London For Tea") had not appeared on CD before,. This is(for now) an essential addition to your Peter & Gordon CD collection. Still, it seems unreasonable that EMI/UK have, to date, excluded Peter & Gordon from the series of complete works 4-CD box sets that they've compiled for other 1960's beat group artists("Gerry & The Pacemakers", "Manfred Mann", "Herman's Hermits", "The Swinging Blue Jeans" etc.). Such a box set would be a chance to present each song from the best existing individual masters, and search the vaults for rarities.
For the "Lady Godiva" & "Knight is Rusty Armour" albums, you are getting the Peter & Gordon equivalent of The Beatles "The Capitol Albums" boxes, but unlike those Beatles boxes, which had some unique mixdown variations, what you are getting in this presentation of the "Lady Godiva" & "Knight in Rusty Armour" albums is merely the sound-degrading effects of Capitol's equalisation and processing. The BGO label did the best with the tapes they were given, and as I've said, anyone who owns the original vinyl albums will get a verbatim reproduction(sonic flaws and all) of those original vinyl albums. Me, I could do with less authenticity. EMI/UK's best individual song masters would do much more justice to the music.