In 1963, just as Beatlemania was beginning, Beatles manager Brian Epstein signed a management deal with a young woman by the name of Cilla White. She was a friend, having gotten to know the boys from her job the coat-check girl at the Cavern Club. Epstein insisted on changing her last name to Black, graced her with an unreleased Lennon-McCartney song, “Love Of The Loved,” which launched her career. She quickly became England’s sweetheart, with a long and storied career that lasted until her sudden death in 2015. This year, her estate launched an extensive reissue campaign, and in this first batch of reissues comes a collection of her final two releases, both from 2009, and both with their own set of issues.
Of course, when dealing with any career legacy musician, certain releases are problematic, and this collection offers up two of them in one go: the remix album and the rerecord album. Two projects, both released in 2009, would prove to be Black’s final releases. The first, Cilla: All Mixed Up was a collection of remixes of both her classic songs and some newer recordings. Remixes are often mixed bag affairs, and this album is no different. Because the nature music changes so rapidly, sounds that might have been ”hip” at the time can easily sound dated. While some of the material found here isn’t bad per se—the Almighty radio edits of her signature number ”Step Inside Love” and “Baby We Can’t Go Wrong” do what a good remix should do, keeping the elements that made a song so rewarding while deftly filtering in a contemporary flare. But turning John Lennon’s classic ”Imagine” into a Hi-NRG stomper is a bit much, while remixer Pookadelic should be embarrassed for his abomination of a take on Elton John’s “Your Song,” which can only be described with one-word: stupid. Cilla: All Mixed Up was an unfortunate curiosity that is probably best forgotten.
The other release of the year, Beginnings: Revisited, is much more compelling. In 2003, she released a retrospective collection that included handful of her hits, a few new rerecords of some of her old recordings, and a handful of newly recorded material. While the compilation was a success, she felt the new material had been strong enough to comprise its own album. With the help of producer Ted Carfrae—who had produced the sessions for the new material on Beginnings–a new album was compiled, with fresh mixes and a handful of remixes to boot. Overall, it is enjoyable affair, with her taking on such classics as Exile’s rousing hit ”Kiss You All Over,” Gordon Lightfoot’s “If You Could Read My Mind,” and Faith Hill’s “This Kiss.” But it is her take on the works of her friends and benefactors that satisfies. She takes on “imagine” with the help of Cliff Richard, while the remix an rearranged version of George Harrison and Ringo Starr’s hit “Photograph” vastly improved what was initially an unflattering arrangement. Furthermore, the acoustic version and orchestral version of “Imagine” give added dimension to an already excellent performance, and make up forwarding weaknesses found elsewhere in this collection.
For the record, even though Cilla: All Mixed Up is an inessential record, its poor quality has absolutely nothing to do with Ms. Black’s talents and ability. If anything, these two albums do show how sometimes a stellar career can wrap up on a less than stellar note. In a way, I can appreciate the series getting its lowest point out of the way, as on her own volition, her discography was almost flawless