From Mainstream to CCM: Cliff Richards Story; by Philips Mayaab
It's always so enjoyable to write these blogs about mainstream artists that have accepted the Lord as their savior, and went on to record at least some Christian music. Our artist on Vinyl Revival this week is not as well known in the U.S. as he is in his native Great Britain, but in 1982 he released a fantastic album that is, for the most, part a CCM recording. The artist's name is Cliff Richard, and the title of the album we are playing for you this week on VR is Now You See Me, Now Don't.
Now Sir Cliff (that's how I refer to him, after all he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 1995) never achieved vast commercial success in the States, although he does have 9 Billboard Top 40 hits to his credit, however in the U.K., he is a superstar. He has been referred to as the British Elvis Presley, and his chart numbers from across the pond tell the story...14 number hits, 68 top tens, and a whopping 124 top 40 hits in Great Britain, and if that doesn't impress you, I don't know what will. He scored his first U.K. hit all the way back in 1958, and had a hit on the British charts as recently as 2014 - a span of 56 years! To say that Sir Cliff Richard is a treasure in the U.K. is a complete understatement.
One of the amazing facts about Cliff is that he became a born again Christian in the mid 60s, at a time when he was the biggest act in Great Britain. His conversion caused him to rethink his position on some of the songs he had been singing, and at one point he actually considered quitting the music business altogether, since many aspects of it clashed with his faith. Fortunately for him, some friends talked him out of quitting, and he continued releasing hit after hit, making a name and a small fortune for himself along the way. The thing that is so impressive to me is that despite Sir Cliff's public profession of faith, the British fans never held it against him (had he been an American, he would have been ostracized), and they continued to make him one of the most successful solo artists in British music history.
Now that we have a brief history covered, let's talk about the album. Now You See Me is an album that obviously got no mainstream promotion in America (what a shock), and in my case, I would probably still not know about it had I not heard Where Do We Go From Here on our local CCM station in St. Louis. I fell in love with the track, and we actually play it from time to time on CCM Classic. That put Sir Cliff on my radar, and I eventually purchased a copy of the album (believe it or not, they actually sold the album at our local Christian bookstore). Now, 37 years after its initial release, this is still one of my favorites from the early 80s. The music is dated, but who's music from that era isn't? This is still a delightful LP to put on the turntable every once and again, which is the main reason that we are playing it for you this week. Almost every song on this album is safe for airplay on a Christian radio station, the only three exceptions being the title track, First Date and The Water Is Wide, but even the message of those particular songs is something that a Christian fan would embrace. Songs such as Son Of Thunder, Thief In The Night, and Be In My Heart are absolutely, unmistakably Christian. There are certain songs on this album that could be interpreted either way, such as the aforementioned Where Do We Go From Here and The Only Way Out, however in the case of the former, it was written by a young songwriter named Chris Eaton (yep, our Chris Eaton), so you tend to think those are referring to our Heavenly Father.
One track that a lot of our listeners will find intriguing is Cliff's version of Little Town (once again, Chris Eaton), which as we all know is on Amy Grant's first Christmas album. Even though the CCM community will forevermore recognize Amy's version as the definitive recording, Sir Cliff's was released a year prior to hers, and it's actually quite good. This version is a wee bit slower that Amy's, but I think each of you will enjoy it just the same. The balance between slower ballads and upbeat songs is pretty even, and the music is delightfully early 80s, with a little of that British synth driven pop. All in all, I would give this album a solid grade, because it's just that - a solid LP. It is unfortunate to me that more Christian music fans and radio stations did not get behind this album, and support it, because it could've easily put out a minimum of four radio hits. Over in Sir Cliff's home country, this album did manage to turn out three hits singles on the pop chart, The Only Way Out went to number 10, Where Do We Go From Here only got to number 60 (which is unfortunate...it's the best track on the album, in my humble opinion), however when Chris Eaton's Little Town was released at Christmas time in 1982, it climbed all the way to number 2 on the British pop charts, so I have to hand it to our friends in the U.K., they recognized that this was a pretty good album.
It is my sincere hope that each of you will enjoy listening to this album on Vinyl Revival this week. I enjoy playing records like this one, that many folks may have probably never heard before, and put them on your radar. Good music is timeless, and can be enjoyed years after it was first released, and I believe that is the case here. It's only the mediocre artists and music that can be summed up with Now You See Me, Now You Don't...
Side 1 -
1. The Only Way Out (Ray Martinez)
2. First Date (Aleksander John, Nicholas Battle)
3. Thief In The Night (Paul Field)
4. Where Do We Go From Here? (Chris Eaton)
5. Son Of Thunder (Mart Jenner, John Perry)
6. Little Town (Traditional; words and music by Chris Eaton)
Side 2 -
1. It Has To Be You, It Has To Be Me (David Cooke, Paul Field)
2. The Water Is Wide (Traditional; arranged by Cliff Richard and Craig Pruess)
3. Now You See Me, Now You Don't (Aleksander John, Stephen Turner)
4. Be In My Heart (John Perry)
5. Discovering (Chris Eaton)
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