Album Reviews

Chad & Jeremy: Yesterday’s Gone: The Complete Ember & World Artists Recordings (RPM/Cherry Red)

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Chad & Jeremy
Yesterday’s Gone: The Complete Ember & World Artists Recordings
RPM/Cherry Red

The British vocal duo of Chad & Jeremy—consisting of Chad Stuart and Jeremy Clark—are an anomaly in the history of the music of the Sixties. Lumped in with the British Invasion, they really aren’t a British Invasion band, as their music isn’t really rock and roll, their sound was distinctively American, and they were shunned in their native England. Yesterday’s Gone: The Complete Ember And World Artists Recordings is a deluxe compilation of the duo’s earliest sides for independent labels Ember (UK) and World Artists (US), and documents the high quality music they recorded during a relatively short tim.

It was their friendship with burgeoning producer John Barry that gave the duo’s earnest music the extra spark that made it truly special. During the recording of their debut single, Barry suggested that they lower and soften their voices when singing, advice that helped make their sound truly unique. He was right, and the jaunty “Yesterday’s Gone” would become their first hit single. Case in point: listen to the live version of “Yesterday’s Gone,” with the duo singing in a regular voice; while not bad, the live version lacks the beguiling charm of the studio version.  However quaint their sound may have been, it didn’t resonate in their home country, and “Yesterday’s Gone” would prove to be their only charting UK single.

America, though, was a different story. Enthralled with the British Invasion, and with easy listening still proving to be a viable musical genre, Chad & Jeremy’s fortunes were soon to be found. Their third single, “A Summer Song,’” would become a top ten hit, thanks in part to its lush arrangement and harmonies. Their debut album, Yesterday’s Gone, would appear in the summer of 1964, and would prove to be an interesting mix of easy listening, folk songs, and show tunes. “September In The Rain” and “Willow Weep For Me” seem positively anachronistic to the era, while their take on Ewan MacColl’s “Dirty Old Town” is quite lovely.

With America being their primary source for commercial success, it’s absolutely unsurprising that the duo embarked there for their next album, the equally pleasant Chad & Jeremy Sing For You, The lushly arranged album came courtesy of composer and producer Jimmie Haskell, and their song selection was quite far removed from their British Invasion contemporaries. The album once again focused on popular song and easy listening, with a hint of jazz to boot. Ranging from a take on a recent Barbra Streisand single (“My Coloring Book”), a contemporary folk standard (“Four Strong Winds”). and the gorgeous jazz number “The Girl From Ipanema,” it’s easy to understand why their music might not resonate with the cooler-than-thou types back home. Not to completely ignore the trends of the era, they even performed an obscure (and lesser) Lennon & McCartney song, “From A Window.”   

Yesterday’s Gone contains a second disc that rounds up all of their singles, including non-album released B-sides that include gorgeous takes on “Lemon Tree” and “It Was A Very Good Year,” as well as a handful of previously unheard alternate version, and one or two unreleased numbers, including a hilarious piss-take of “The Nearness of You.” While there’s some repetition in material, it doesn’t matter much, because the quality of the music makes you forget about it. It’s also interesting to hear them experiment with arrangements, as heard on “A Summer Song” and “From A Window.”

Although their career was off to a promising start, it soon became clear to the duo that their labels were not offering them the support and promotion they deserved, especially in England. Enter notorious rock and roll manager Allen Klein. He sensed this as well, and his involvement would soon lead to a new record deal with Columbia. Though the hits weren’t as forthcoming as they were in these early years, their sound matured as they explored more contemporary material and started to write their own work, cumulating in three gorgeous albums of sunshine/baroque pop: 1966’s Distant Shore, 1967’s Of Cabbages & Kings, and their masterpiece, 1968’s The Ark. They would go their separate ways shortly before the end of the decade, but have occasionally regrouped over the years to perform live or to record again, which is nice; Yesterday’s Gone shows that they were a masterful, unique duo, one who rightfully earned a place in the legacy of Sixties rock music, even if they didn’t sound terribly rock and roll.

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