Monday, 13 March 2017

The Searchers: Live/Solo/Compilation Albums Part Two 1990-2014




"Greatest Hits"

(Rhino, October 1990)

Sweets For My Sweet/Love Potion Number Nine/Sugar and Spice/Ain't That Just Like Me?/Needles And Pins/Don't Throw Your Love Away/ Somebody We're Gonna Love Again/When You Walk In The Room/What Have They Done To The Rain?/Goodbye My Love/Bumble Bee/He's Got No Love/When I Get Home/Take Me For What I'm Worth/Each Time/Everybody Come And Clap Your Hands/Have You Ever Loved Somebody?/Second Hand Dealer

"I can feel a glowing sensation taking place"


A simple and straightforward best-of from the Pye era, containing all the band's singles through to 'Take Me For What I'm Worth' in order alongside four impressive album track choices (band favourites 'Ain't That Just Like Me?'  'Bumble Bee' and 'Each Time' are all superb choices, while 'Everybody Come and Clap Your Hands' isn't bad). As you'd expect from re-issue experts Rhino, the set is well-packaged and made with love and care, with a nice alternate shot from the 'Take Me For What I'm Worth' cover shoot (with the band standing this time). Of course there are better Searchers compilations out there and the band's album tracks and B sides are of such a high standard you're frankly better off with a much wider career overview than this simple set, though as single CD sets go this is about as good as you're gonna get. I'm intrigued why Rhino went with the 'downer' ending 'Secondhand Dealer' mind when there are so many stronger later Searchers singles to include (like 'Western Union' or 'Popcorn Double Feature'). 

"Tony Jackson - Watch Your Step! The Complete Recordings 1964-1966"

(Castle, September 2004)

Bye Bye Baby/Watch Your Step/You Beat Me To The Punch/This Little Girl Of Mine/Love Potion no 9/Fortune Teller/Stage Door/That's What I Want/You're My Number One/Let Me Know/Never Leave Your Baby's Side/I'm The One She Really Thinks A Lot Of*/Follow Me*/Walk That Walk*/Is There Anything Else You Want?/Come On and Stop/Just Like Me/Understanding/Shake/He Was A Friend Of Mine/Stage Door (Alternate Version)*/Is There Anything Else You Want? (Alternate Version)*/She Wanted Me (Alternate Version)*/We Can Work It Out*/
* = Previously Unreleased Recording

"Your dreams of fame have all come true - and now I'm just a no one next to you, you can't just look me up like you used to do..."

Sadly Tony didn't live to see his Vibrations and Tony Jackson Group tracks given the proper deluxe treatment, the singer having died a couple of years before (though there was an earlier, shorter and more rushed compilation 'Just Like Me' which came out alongside the first Searchers CDs in the early 1990s. Everything on that set is here). Castle, the company who'd already done The Searchers proud with their series of album re-issues a few years earlier, did the band's first lead singer justice too, collecting all of Tony's solo work (including his last ridiculously hard to find EPs from 1966) and unearthing four previously unheard outtakes as well as adding some nicely hip-yet-retro packaging. The problem, though, is with the music. Little here approaches what Tony once did with The Searchers, with his new organ-grooving backing band less suitable for his voice and even that voice wasn't as strong and powerful as it once was, thanks to that unfortunate decision of Tony's to re-shape his nose. Though you can't fault Tony's commitment and passion, too much of what he recorded here was the 'wrong' choice of material for his voice and after the first couple of singles he sounds like he's desperately trying to jump on whatever bandwagon happened to be rolling through music at the time. Attempts to re-record The Searchers or even The Small Faces (via their best-song-nobody-knows 'Understanding') sound embarrassing, with Tony sounding completely lost in a musical world he doesn't understand.

How you wish he'd have stuck to his guns and done what he wanted The Searchers to do: record full on rip-roaring take-no-prisoners rock and roll in the same gritty sparse manner as the first two Searchers albums and passed on the pop and psychedelia and blues and folk-rock altogether. You see it's those moments that shine the most across this record and there are, thank goodness, more than a few of them - more often than not the B sides of the singles desperately trying to cash in on whatever's marketable and popular: the fun but funky 'This Little Girl Of Mine', a fierce version of 'Fortune Teller' that's a great fit for the man who once made the similar rock-comedy of 'Love Potion no 9'  work so well (sadly less so on the re-recording featured here), the 1963 throwback 'That's What I Want' and the singalong 'Follow Me'. These sounds like the 'real' Tony, freed of his obligations and without any pressure except to rock out. Had Tony waited just another year past his last flop single, in 1967, he might yet have been at the spearhead of bringing music back to its rock roots in 1968 but sadly he quit too soon, giving up music fame to run a golf course and a club in Spain before ending up a furniture salesman.

However there's one other great anomaly here that suggests Tony could have had a future after all and that the jibes that Jackson was too 'detached' and 'expressionless' to sing a song like 'Needles and Pins' were unfounded. 'Stage Door' is a triumph, a Goffin and King cover that's full of pathos and guilt and love and reflection and everything The Searchers had been trying to stuff into a single recording since their formation. As good as any Searchers recording from their artistic 'peak' year of 1965, it's worth buying 'Watch Your Step' just to hear this song and see what Tony could do with a song that suited his voice (though it's also out on the Searchers 'Hearts In Their Eyes' box set if you'd rather). The rest of this set, mind, can be quite a frustrating experience as you keep willing Tony on to find his true calling - and realise he's wasted that golden voice on yet another tired R and B cover that couldn't suit him less. Watch your step with this one, in other words, but at its best this set is also a reminder of how great Tony could be when things came together (as well as how little everything seemed to come together for him). 

"30th Anniversary Collection"

(Pye, '1993')

CD One: Sweets For My Sweet/It's All Been A Dream/Sugar and Spice/Needles And Pins/Saturday Night Out/Don't Throw Your Love Away/I Pretend I'm With You/Somebody We're Gonna Love Again/No One Else Could Love Me/When You Walk In The Room/I'll Be Missing You/What Have They Done To The Rain?/This Feeling Inside/Goodbye My Love/Til' I Met You/He's Got No Love/So Far Away/When I Get Home/I'm Never Coming Back/Take Me For What I'm Worth/Too Many Miles/Take It Or Leave It/Don't Hide It Away/Have You Ever Loved Somebody?/It's Just The Way (Love Comes And Goes)/Popcorn Double Feature/Western Union/I'll Cry Tomorrow/Second Hand Dealer/Crazy Dreams

CD Two: Ain't Gonna Kiss Ya/Love Potion Number Nine/The System/Bumble Bee/Where Have All The Flowers Gone?/Alright/Farmer John/Since You Broke My Heart/Tricky Dicky/Listen To Me/Hungry For Love/Ain't That Just Like Me?/Don't Cha Know?/All My Sorrows/It's In Her Kiss/Sea Of Heartbreak/I Count The Tears/This Empty Space/Can't Help Forgiving You/Sho' Know A Lot About Love/Magic Potion/Til' You Say You'll Be Mine/I Don't Want To Go On Without You/A Tear Fell/If I Could Find Someone/It's Time/I'll Be Doggone/Each Time/You Can't Lie To A Liar/Four Strong Winds

CD Three: Tausend Nadelstiche (Needles and Pins In German)/Sub Ist Ie (Sugar and Spice In German)/Bye Bye Johnnie/I Don't Want To Go On Without You (Alternate Take)/I (Who Have Nothing)/Shame Shame Shame/Someday We're Gonna Love Again/Verzieh My Love (Goodbye My Love In German)/I'll Be Doggone (Alternate Take)/Once Upon A Time/Sweet Little Sixteen (Live)/Blowin' In The Wind (Live)/See See Rider (Live)/Goodbye, So Long (Live)/I'll Be Missing You (Live)/I Don't Believe (Live)/Stage Door/Watch Your Step/Aggravation/Innocent Victim/Good Way To Fall/New Heart/I Don't Want To Be The One/Hollywood

"This is not Hollywood, I understand, run run away, like like like"

A sort of extended plug/sampler for the five Searchers albums coming out on CD for the first time, this three disc set was the best yet for those fans searching for obscure and rare Searchers. Though all the track premiered here have all now come out on the later album re-issues or box set, this is a useful catch-all way of getting all the bonus tracks from those CDs without having to buy all the albums again. It also included the first ever re-issues of obscure solo singles by Tony Jackson and Chris Curtis (with 'Stage Door' and 'Aggravation', respectively, both mini-classics, though Jackson's debut 'Bye Bye Baby' ought to be here too), six or so tracks from the band's obscure 1970s and 1980s releases usually missing from compilations and a mini BBC concert from late on in the band's career around the time of 'Take Me For What I'm Worth' which remained exclusive to this set right up until the bigger 'Hearts In Their Eyes' box set another twenty years' worth of anniversary celebrations later. To be honest The Searchers sound deeply anachronistic on these, playing soft-rock versions of 'Sweet Little Sixteen' 'Blowin' In The Wind' and 'See See Rider' but it's good to have any new Searchers after so long a gap so I'm not complaining too much. The packaging too is rather good, complete with a useful discography and family tree. The one thing this set isn't, though, is a decent career overview with far too many key songs missing. The track listing, too, is bonkers, divided up between a first disc of 'hits' (which also includes fairly obscure B sides), a second disc of album tracks (which also contains the hit songs 'Love Potion no 9' and 'Bumble Bee' and a third disc of 'rarities'. It's all a bit of a mess, but a welcome mess if you have the patience to dig out the interesting nuggets or lacked the patience (and moolah) to buy up each Searchers album in turn when they came out on CD.

Mike Pender's Searchers  "Sweets For My Sweet"

(Pegasus, April 1994, Re-released 2004)

Sweets For My Sweet/Some Day We're Gonna Love Again/What Have They Done To The Rain?/Take Me For What I'm Worth/Broken Hearts/Don't Throw Your Love Away/Goodbye My Love/Red Ferrari/Two Hearts/Needles and Pins/Love Potion no 9/Sugar and Spice/When You Walk In The Room/Take It Or Leave It/Needles and Pins

"I'll never ever let you go!"

For someone who effectively left The Searchers because he didn't want to be stuck as an oldies act, Pender seems to have spent a depressingly large amount of time during his solo career revisiting his band's old hits. In an unfortunate copy of the RCA 'Second Take' album in 1972 Pender booked some session time hoping to make a wholly new album, but his new pay masters were more eager to hear him and his band sing his old hits. Considering that he'd been away from a studio for the best part of a quarter century, Pender wasn't half worked hard in this year, coming up with a total of eighteen recordings during the sessions for Pegasus. Unfortunately some of the more interesting ones were left on the cutting room floor for this album which collects only fourteen of them: eleven re-recordings and three new ones. Sadly most of The Searchers re-treads pale even in comparison to the RCA re-makes of 1972, lacking the soul and energy of thirty years before (never mind the originals), although it is good to hear Mike sing lead on some of the tracks usually associated with Chris or Tony. Some of the tracks are of interest, particularly the rarer unexpected ones like a sweet take on flop single 'Someday We're Gonna Love Again', a fair go at 'Take Me For What I'm Worth' which emphasises the song's heavy stomp and a second cover of the Rolling Stones' 'Take It Or Leave It'. The highlight of the old songs, though, is surely 'Love Potion no 9', sung by Pender rather than Jackson, which has a nice bounce and innocent charm to it The inevitable re-make of 'Needles and Pins' also wins by a nose from the McNally/Allen version, though both fall a million miles short of the original. A reggae-tinged 'Sweets For My Sweet' with Pender's voice almost totally shot and the band still playing on instruments leftover from the 1980s is an embarrassment and 'Don't Throw Your Love Away' is, erm, rather thrown away with a messy performance that should have been re-done.

The new songs fair a little better (though oddly not as well as the songs initially rejected for release): 'Broken Hearts' is a slightly over-wrought passionate ballad in the 'Solitaire' style that would be nice if they'd take that awful synth part away, 'Red Ferrari' a nicely funky rocker co-written by Mike and bass player Barrie Cowell and 'Two Hearts'  is a less memorable synth-heavy ditty, apparently intended for a Pender solo LP from the late 1980s and sounds like it belongs on some forgettable 1980s film soundtrack.  'Two Hearts' a rather forgettable Eurovision wannabe. None of the three are bad - not as bad as the covers anyway - and suggest that a full album of new recordings might have been more interesting; unfortunately, though, Pender was no longer in charge of his own destiny. If you get the choice, though, skip this version of the album sessions in favour of 'Needles, Pins, Potions' which includes all of these tracks and another four.


"Sire Sessions: The Rockfield Recordings "

(June 1997)

Hearts In Her Eyes/Switchboard Susan/Feeling Fine/This Kind Of Love Affair/Lost In Your Eyes/It's Too Late/No Dancing/Coking From The Heart/Don't Hang On/Love's Gonna Be Strong/Back To The War/Love's Melody/Silver/Infatuation/She Made A Fool Of You/Almost Saturday Night/You Are The New Day/Everything But A Heartache/Radio Romance/Murder In My Heart/September Gurls/Another Night/Changing

"Gonna push the clouds away, let music have its way and let it steal my heart!"

A straightforward compilation of The Searchers' mini-return on Sire between 1978 and 1980, gathering together all ten songs from 'The Searchers', all twelve from 'A Play For Today' aka 'Love's Melodies'  and B-side 'Back To The War'. Given how rare both original Sire albums had become after twenty years (and how near-impossible the B-side was to find after a similar length of time) this was a welcome set that saved Searchers fans a lot of money. Unfortunately if you already own the originals you don't get a lot extra: the much-lauded re-mastering actually makes the CDs sound worse than the vinyl to these ears (making the sound 'louder' doesn't necessarily mean it's better and both albums are still in major need of 'fixing', with the vocals and guitars far too low compared to the synths and drums) and the packaging is minimal, with a ghostly-white cover of the band that's hard to see. The original albums too are a little bit sterile for those who mainly know their Searchers from the 1960s and only occasionally approaches the band's best work, with too many soppy ballads in there, even if the band's grasp of the new wave is occasionally impressive (particularly on bouncy Carole King song 'It's Too Late', retro rocker original 'Don't Hang On', poppy single 'Love's Melody' and unexpected Credence Clearwater Revival cover 'Almost Saturday Night'). Still, this important and rare period in Searchers history (their first recordings in seven years - their first full album of new recordings in fourteen) is welcome for it's first appearance in the digital age, even if only as a collection filler and on those grounds alone is a worthy purchase.


"The Pye Anthology 1963-1967"

(Pye/Sequel, April 2000)

CD One: Sweets For My Sweet/It's All Been A Dream/Ain't Gonna Kiss Ya/Alright/Farmer John/Love Potion Number Nine/Where Have All The Flowers Gone?/Since You Broke My Heart/Sugar and Spice/Saints and Searchers/Don't You Know?/Listen To Me/Hungry For Love/All My Sorrows/Needles and Pins/Saturday Night Out/Don't Throw Your Love Away/I Pretend I'm With You/This Empty Place/I Count The Tears/Sho' Know A Lot About Love/Can't Help Forgiving You/Where Have You Been?/Someday We're Gonna Love Again/No One Else Could Love Me/The System/When You Walk In The Room/I'll Be Missing You/What Have They Done To The Rain?/This Feeling Inside/Goodbye My Love/Till I Met You

CD Two: He's Got No Love/So Far Away/Everybody Come And Clap Your Hands/If I Could Find Someone/Magic Potion/I Don't Want To Go On Without You/Till You Say You'll Be Mine/Goodnight Baby/Bumble Bee/When I Get Home/I'm Never Coming Back/Take Me For What I'm Worth/Too Many Miles/Don't You Know Why?/Each Time/Be My Baby/Does She Really Care For Me?/I'm Your Loving Man/Take It Or Leave It/Don't Hide It Away/Have You Ever Loved Somebody?/It's Just The Way (love Will Come And Go)/Popcorn Double Feature/Lovers/Western Union/I'll Cry Tomorrow/Second Hand Dealer/Crazy Dreams

"You're gonna wake up  and find there's a new kind of dawn"

At the time of release the two-disc 'Pye Anthology' was a huge relief. The Searchers catalogue, till now only available on CD via the albums or some short and shoddy compilations, was finally released en masse with two heavily filled and long running CDs given over to a complete overview of the Pye period. Pretty much all the Searchers you'd want from the 1960s is here including all A sides, all B sides (the first time ever you could buy them all as part of a single set) and around half the tracks from each of the band's five albums (it's a shame that Pye didn't just add a third disc so they could have included everything but, well, this was still more Searchers than we'd ever had in one go before now).  Best of all is the chance to find so many of the band's flop singles from 1965-1967 in one place, with the much loved 'Play The System' compilation increasingly hard to find by the year 2000.In fact the 'halfway split' between the two discs doesn't occur until as late as the start of The Searchers' commercial decline, with the set worth buying for that final and overlooked run of final Pye singles alone.

The result is a set that did much to restore The Searchers' reputation as more than just Beatle wannabes and several reviewers were quick to pounce on how many contenders for hit singles were lurking amongst the track listing. The packaging too is nicely done, if not quite up to the standard of the CD album re-issues. Future sets, however, trump this one by including either rarities amongst the track selection ('The 40th Anniversary Collection') or splitting The Searchers whole career across four discs ('Hearts In Their Eyes'). The absence of several key album tracks (no 'Money' 'Ain't That Just Like Me?' 'Shimmy Shimmy' 'Magic Potion' or 'It's Time'?) also lose this set a half-mark.

Mike Pender's Searchers "That Was Then, This Is Now"

(Orchard, April 2000)

Needles and Pins/Sugar and Spice/When You Walk In The Room/Sweets For My Sweet/Love Potion Number Nine/Needles and Pins ('2000' Version)/Broken Hearts/Red Ferrari/Blue Mondays/Two Hearts

"Why can't I tell myself I'm wrong , so wrong?"

Though you won't find any mention anywhere on the packaging, this is simply a ten track redaction of the 15 track Mike Pender set 'Sweets For My Sweet' (itself part of an eighteen track series). Alas the five tracks missing are probably the most interesting: new versions of - comparatively - rarer songs 'Someday We're Gonna Love Again', 'What Have They Done To The Rain?' 'Take Me For What I'm Worth' 'Don't Throw Your Love Away' and 'Goodbye My Love'. We do, at least, get the four new songs which are better than you might expect - especially the lovely ballad 'Blue Mondays' which had it been recorded in the 1960s rather than the 1990s might have been rather good. This is, though, a cash-in pure and simple, designed to con fans who'd already bought the first album into buying something new - and sadly these recordings will be recycled for a few more albums to come. If you get the choice I'd stick with the fuller 'Sweets For My Sweets' set though - especially as the title, clever as it is, is borrowed from a Monkees song that doesn't appear here, which is an 'absolute nonsense' as Noel Gallagher would say given how many Searchers titles were still ripe for borrowing ('Mike Pender's Sugar - and Spice!' 'When Mike Pender's Searchers Walk In The Room' 'Mike Pender's Live Potion no 2' 'Don't Throw Mike Pender's Searchers Albums Away' etc).

Mike Pender's Searchers "Needles and Pins"

(Delta, February 2001)

Sugar and Spice/Don't Throw Your Love Away/What Have They Done To The Rain?/Sweets For My Sweets/Needles And Pins/When You Walk In The Room/Goodbye My Love/Broken Hearts/Take Me For What I'm Worth/Someday We're Gonna Love Again/Love Potion Number Nine/Red Ferrari/Blue Mondays/Take It Or Leave It

"And I know that you're not happy anymore, any fool can plainly see, but I can't go on sharing you..."

Here we go again, with the same fourteen of the eighteen tracks Mike Pender's Searchers recorded back in 1994 revived for yet another compilation on yet another record label, this time in a slightly different order and with new packaging. This is really not the way to establish your band as a 'separate' entity while the 'original' Searchers are still going and if you already own one of these albums (and don't feel too down if you don't own any) then you really don't need this one but, well, you have to put food and sugar and spice on the table sometimes somehow I suppose so we can't begrudge Pender too much.

"The Swedish Radio Sessions"

(Castle, '2002')

'Spring' 1964: Farmer John/Money (That's What I Want)/Sweets For My Sweet/Ain't That Just Like Me?/Let The Four Winds Blow/Ain't Gonna Kiss Ya/Some Other Guy/Alright/Needles and Pins/What'd I Say?

December 1964: Red Sails In The Sunset/Memphis Tennessee/Needles and Pins/Hi-Heeled Sneakers/What Have They Done To The Rain?/Glad All Over/Let The Four Winds Blow/When You Walk In The Room/What'd I Say?

May 1967: Have You Ever Loved Somebody?/Take Me For What I'm Worth/Western Union/When You Walk In The Room/Needles and Pins/See See Rider-Jenny Takes A Ride

"Tacki Mucki!"

An unexpected treat, this fortieth anniversary present is the only live Searchers album currently available, not counting the slightly dodgy sound of the Star Club tapes, and it's a revelation. Gone is the slightly awkward air of some of the early one-take made-in-an-hour recordings as The Searchers prove to be at least as great a live band as they were a studio one, with charisma and presence and power. In truth they often don't sound like the same band at all, throwing in quite a few surprises as well as the hit singles including the only recordings we have of live favourites like the countryfied 'Red Sails In The Sunset', a sweet and swinging 'Let The Four Winds Blow' (John McNally's best vocal by far), a rocky 'Memphis Tennessee', a gutsy 'See See Rider' and a blistering rock attack on Ray Charles' 'What'd I Say?' that prove yet again that The Searchers were far more adventurous than anyone ever gave them credit for. There are three gigs here, all taped for radio broadcast in Sweden where The Searchers had always been one of the most popular 'British Invasion' bands and luckily for us they cover three key periods of Searchers history: Spring 1964 (the era just after 'Needles and Pins' with Tony Jackson still very much a part of the band, interestingly, not like the records), December 1964 (the era of 'When You Walk In The Room' when Tony has been replaced by Frank) and May 1967 (when The Searchers are all but forgotten  and at the end of their time with Pye but still turn in impressive versions of current singles 'Western Union' and 'Have You Ever Loved Somebody?') All three are strong gigs, high on charisma and adrenalin and sufficiently different to the albums and singles to be of interest to fans who don't usually bother with live recordings.

More than anywhere else, this is also the place to hear how integral Chris Curtis was to the band as he shines here, making all the cheeky stage announcements (someone's told him 'Tack' is Swedish for thankyou, leading to several variations as he tries to pronounce it in his best Liverpudlian voice), flirting with the audiences, making up tacky jokes and having fun with a heckler in the audience ('When you're walking in the room? What song's that?!') You can sense half the audience falling head over heels in love with him despite the language barrier and being stuck at the back of the stage - never has Curtis' larger than life personality come over better; frustratingly the release was almost too late as this is the last Searchers release Curtis knew about before his untimely death in 2003. He even wishes Frank a surprise 21st birthday, which clearly takes the bassist by surprise (though Pender's with it enough to do an approximation of 'Happy Birthday' on the guitar), a true moment in history (and yes he really did turn 21 at least in that month; it's not like The Kinks who had about ten birthdays each every year and made them up to get tough crowds on 'their' side). Not that this is just the Curtis show: Tony (greeted ominously with the 'Hancock's Half Hour' theme - was Tony being a bit of a grump at the end of his time with the band?), Mike ('The one everyone likes over here in Sweden') and John ('The one who looks like a Swede') make for a great tightknit team on the 1964 recordings and sound like they're having the time of their life. Later on in 1965 Frank Allen too is a fine if nervy compere and has his own line in jokes while the last radio session here from 1965 instantly doubles the only released Searchers recordings featuring second drummer John Blunt (whose wild style is far more at home at stage than it was in the studio). It's also interesting to hear the immediately post-Jackson and post-Curtis bands grappling with the change in their sound: Allen becomes an expert at filling in what the missing members used to do around Mike's lead voice while doing his own thing while some tracks (such as a punkier 'Loved Somebody' and a spikier 'Glad All Over') arguably improve on the originals. All in all, the last in a great trilogy of 'posthumous' Searchers releases every fan should own, alongside the fascinating 'Iron Door Club' sessions tape released the same year and the brilliant rarities set 'Play The System'.

"40th Anniversary (1963-2003)"

(Sanctuary, April 2003)

CD One: Sweets For My Sweet (Demo Version)/All My Sorrows (Demo Version)/Let's Stomp!/Sick and Tired/Sweet Nuthins/Rosalie/Sweets For My Sweet/Ain't Gonna Kiss Ya/Farmer John/Sugar and Spice/Some Other Guy/Needles and Pins/Saturday Night Out/Ain't That Just Like Me?/Don't Throw Your Love Away/Sea Of Heartbreak/Someday We're Gonna Love Again/When You Walk In The Room/Love Potion Number Nine/What Have They Done To The Rain?/Blowin' In The Wind (Live)/Memphis Tennessee (Live)/The System/Goodbye My Love/Everybody Come And Clap Your Hands/I Don't Want To Go On Without You/Bumble Bee/He's Got No Love/When I Get Home/Take Me For What I'm Worth/Four Strong Winds/Each Time

CD Two: Take It Or Leave It/Have You Ever Loved Somebody?/Popcorn Double Feature/Western Union/Secondhand Dealer/Umbrella Man/Somebody Shot The Lollipop Man/Shoot 'Em Up Baby/Kinky Kathy Abernathy/For What It's Worth/Desdemona/ Vehevala/Solitaire/Spicks and Specks/Hearts In Her Eyes/Love's Melody/Almost Saturday Night/Everything But A Heartbeat/I Don't Want To Be The One/Hollywood/Innocent Victim/Forever In Love/Somebody Told Me You Were Crying/Needles and Pins '88

"Outside my window I can hear the radio and I know that motor wagon is ready to fly!"

Improving on the Searchers 30th birthday present (three discs with almost all the released Pye material included, plus outtakes) seemed an impossible task, but against the odds The Searchers marked their 40th birthday with something even better. 'The 40th Anniversary Collection' may have cut back on the Pye years to barely a disc and a sixth, but they added back lots of fascinating archive pieces unavailable to the previous collection and taken from recent CDs like 'The Iron Door Club Sessions', 'Live At The Star-Club' and 'The Swedish Radio Broadcasts', with largely sensible choices from each. However it's disc two that's the most exciting: the chance to hear all eras of The Searchers in the same place for the first time ever, with choice cuts from the Liberty, RCA, Sire and Coconut years all here. Some of the selections (such as 'Somebody Shot The Lollipop Man' 'Kinky Kathy Abernathy' and the 1980s makeover version of 'Needles and Pins') are admittedly something of an eyebrow-raiser and a reminder that just because something's rare doesn't mean you should actually be able to hear it. However these three lesser moments of Searchers history are more than overshadowed by the better moments: 'Umbrella Man', the first post-Pye single on Liberty that few fans had heard, is an out-and-out classic; the rare 'Vehevela' is a prime sea-faring pick from the RCA period that's more than the equal of the Pye years and perhaps the biggest surprise is the second disc's one actually unreleased (as opposed to 'impossible to find') song, a sweet cover of Buffalo Springfield's 'For What It's Worth' that's amongst the better versions of this much-covered song. Along with four of the best five songs from the Sire period (personally I'd have added B-side 'Back To The War'), both sides of the rare one-off return to Pye in 1982 and a few oddities from the end of the band's recorded run in 1989 (that are even harder to find) and you have the single best introduction to The Searchers around, showing off not just what the band became in the public eye but the almost equally fine band they became when the spotlight had moved on to someone else. The Searchers will try and improve on this set further, with a four disc box set complete with BBC sessions and solo tracks in 2012, but sometimes less is more and if you want more than just a basic hits package but don't want to own everything the band ever did then this is as good a set as any. Well, until the band give us a 60th birthday present and we go through all this again anyway...


"The Definitive Pye Collection"

 (Sanctuary, March  2004)

CD One: Sweets For My Sweet/It's All Been A Dream/Alright/Love Potion no 9/Farmer John/Money/Da Doo Ron Ron/Ain't Gonna Kiss Ya/Since You Broke My Heart/Tricky Dicky/Where Have All The Flowers Gone?/Twist and Shout/Sugar and Spice/Don't Cha Know?/Some Other Guy/Listen To Me/Unhappy Girls/Ain't That Just Like Me?/Oh My Lover/Cherry Stones/All My Sorrows/Hungry For Love/Bye Bye Johnny/Needles and Pins/Saturday Night Out

CD Two: Don't Throw Your Love Away/I Pretend I'm With You/It's In Her Kiss/Sea Of Heartbreak/Where Have You Been?/This Empty Space/I Count The Tears/I Can't Help Forgiving You/Sho' Know A Lot About Love/I (Who Have Nothing)/Someday We're Gonna Love Again/No One Else Could Love Me/When You Walk In The Room/I'll Be Missing You/What Have They Done To The Rain?/This Feeling Inside/The System/Goodbye My Love/Til' I Met You/Everybody Come and Clap Your Hands/If I Could Find Someone/Magic Potion/I Don't Want To Go On Without You/Bumble Bee/Till You Say You'll Be Mine

CD Three: He's Got No Love/So Far Away/When I Get Home/Take Me For What I'm Worth/Too Many Miles/I'll Be Doggone/Does She Really Care For Me?/It's Time/You Can't Lie To A Liar/Don't You Know Why?/Each Time/Be My Baby/Four Strong Winds/Take It Or Leave It/Don't Hide It Away/Have You Ever Loved Somebody?/It's Just The Way (Love Will Come and Go)/Popcorn Double Feature/Western Union/I'll Cry Tomorrow/Second Hand Dealer/Crazy Dreams/I Don't Want To Be The One/Hollywood/Innocent Victim

"My sins they are many, but there's no one perfect in this universe"

A simple but effective compilation, which simply presents every single recording The Searchers made in release order, with each of the first three Pye albums included in full interrupted by non-album A and B sides and key outtakes and CD bonus tracks (and missing the demos, BBC sessions and live tracks). There are however a few curious omissions towards the end of the band's career that prevent this set from being truly 'definitive' with 'Sounds Like Searchers' and even masterpiece 'Take Me For What I'm Worth' cut to shreds, while the run of singles is frustratingly close to being complete you wonder why they left out the one B-side 'Lovers' (especially given that it's one of the band's best of the period). After all, while the CD running times are fairly full the half dozen or songs missing could easily have fitted on (especially if you take the outtakes away, which don't deserve to be here quite as much as the later material missing such as 'I'm Your Loving Man' 'Everything You Do' or 'Goodnight Baby'). Full marks for including the band's rare single released during their brief time back on Pye/PRT in 1982 though, with 'Hollywood' and it's B-side 'I Don't Want To be The One' gaining their first CD release alongside outtake 'Innocent Victim'. The packaging too is frustratingly minimal, with the most basic of sleevenotes dominated by the same old pictures of the band you'll know far too well even if you're only the most casual of fans. So close to perfection then, just six songs and a bit of packaging short,  but this is arguably the most complete way of getting to know The Searchers' lesser known classics in one go if you only want the band's recordings from their most important period.

Mike Pender's Searchers "Rock Masters: Needles, Pins, Potions"

(Carinco AG, December 2005)

Needles And Pins/Take Me For What I'm Worth/Goodbye My Love/Sugar And Spice/Broken Hearts/Just A Little Rain/Red Ferrari/When You Walk In The Room/Falling Apart At The Seams/Sweets For My Sweet/Blue Mondays/Someday We're Gonna Love Again/Love Potion Number Nine/Don't Throw Your Love Away/Take It Or Leave It/Two Hearts/Needles And Pins ('2000 Version')/It's Over

"Nothing can be like before!"

If you have to get one of the Mike Pender spin-off re-recording CDs - and bear in mind that you don't - then this is the one to get, with the hippest title and the most complete version yet of the track listing that's been doing the rounds since the millennium. The same old caveats apply: 'this' Searchers is a pale shadow of what came before, sounding artificial and stilted compared to the old days while Pender has lost a certain something in his voice. However the new arrangements are, by and large, quite inventive and not the sacrilege they might have been. 'Needles, Potions, Pins' even includes a couple of rarer Searchers tracks ripe for rediscovery such as 'Take Me For What I'm Worth' and 'Take It Or Leave It' and a whole six 'new' songs from the sessions held in 2004 (three more than appeared on 'The Best Of' Mike Pender's Searchers'). Oddly there's also one old cover left over from the 2004 sessions 'Don't Throw Your Love Away' although it's no worse and arguably a little better than the ones that made the 'Sweets For My Sweet' set.
As for the other three 'new' songs, most of them aren't all that new. 'Falling Apart At The Seams' is an obscure Pender original from the mid 1980s (first released on the compilation 'Class Of '64' full of re-recordings by Merseybeat bands) and is a minor return to form with some nice Rickenbacker guitar work and a hummable tune that would have fitted well on the two Searchers LPs for Sire in the 1970s. 'Blue Mondays' is a quirky little original, way too 1980s for its own good but involving some interesting vocal effects and including an intriguing lyric that pushes Pender close to a nervous breakdown as things go wrong for the narrator over and over - very different to his usual happy-go-lucky characters. 'It's Over', meanwhile, is the first CD appearance of a song that Pender did release back in 1986 after he first left his old band and it's a typical 1980s torch ballad, nicely sung (well, apart from the John Travolta style falsetto) but rather similar to 'Solitaire' and a little over-produced. The lyrics, though, are interesting and may well refer to the split in the band as Pender kicks himself for allowing himself to be 'treated so foolishly' and sighs that 'the old love has lost it's thrill and slipped it's way without a trace - it's just a memory now, it's over!' The CD version uses the shorter single version, but there is an extended 12" version from 1986 kicking about if you fancy a few extra 'It's Over!'s. None of these three tracks are worth buying the whole album for unless you're a really committed fan, but they're probably more interesting than the 're-recorded hits' part already heard in full on 'The Best Of'. The track listed as 'Just A Little Rain' isn't some new discovery, by the way, but old-time classic 'What Have They Done To The Rain?' with the wrong title, which rather shows the amount of care and attention put into this project.
"Needles and Pins"

 (Sanctuary, '2006')

Needles And Pins/Ain't Gonna Kiss Ya/Some Other Guy/Listen To Me/Money (That's What I Want)/This Empty Place/It's In Her Kiss/Hungry For Love/A Tear Fell/Ain't That Just Like Me?/Stand By Me/Twist and Shout/Farmer John/Where Have All The Flowers Gone?/Sweets For My Sweet/When You Walk In The Room/He's Got No Love/What Have They Done To The Rain?/I Don't Want To Go On Without You/You Can't Lie To A Liar/Where You Been?/Bumble Bee/I'll Be Doggone/Love Potion Number Nine/Something You Got Baby/Four Strong Winds/Till I Met You/Sho' Know A Lot About Love/Take It Or Leave It/Someday We're Gonna Love Again

"Money don't get everything it's true, but what it don't got I can't use"

I know what it's like, dear readers - The Conservative Government have just axed yet another benefit and added another tax, Neil Young's just released his tenth album of the year and there's a pricey box set coming out you cannot afford to miss. Sometimes a compilation is all you can afford of a band - and a cheap one at that, just to dip your toe in the water and see  if it's worth adding yet another band to your list of bands you just have to collect in full. If you're on a low budget then a) bless you for buying this book, unless you didn't and you're reading an illegal copy in which case make sure you buy the next one when you have a bit of spare money (who needs to eat when you can listen to/read about music, right?) and b) this is the Searchers compilation for you. Sixteen tracks cover all the stuff you'd expect to be there (though, oddly, not 'Sugar and Spice') and space for a few surprises too, such as B-side 'Til' I Met You' and late period classics 'Bumble Bee' and 'I'll Be Doggone' (great choices) and album odditys 'Sho Know A Lot About Love' 'You Can't Lie To A Liar' and 'I Don't Want To Go On Without You' (all three of which seem to have been picked at random - in truth they're in the Searchers bottom ten). The packaging is minimal and the running order is scatterbrained, but this is a decent go at summing up all periods of The Searchers (well, 1960s Searchers anyway) and for the price is enough of a bargain to make your knees go all pins and needley.

"The Very Best Of The Searchers"

(Universal, May 2008)

Sweets For My Sweet/Sugar And Spice/Needles and Pins/Don't Throw Your Love Away/Someday We're Gonna Love Again/When You Walk In The Room/What Have They Done To The Rain?/Goodbye My Love/He's Got No Love/Til' I Met You/Take Me For What I'm Worth/Take It Or Leave It/Solitaire/Have You Ever Loved Somebody?/Saturday Night Out/Hearts In Her Eyes/Sea Of Heartbreak/Twist And Shout/Where Have All The Flowers Gone?/Love Potion Number Nine/Ain't Gonna Kiss Ya/Farmer John/Money (That's What I Want)/Four Strong Winds/Hungry For Love

"The lights in the harbour don't shine for me, I'm like a lost ship adrift on the sea"

Can a compilation ever claim to be the 'very best' of someone, especially a band with as many neglected classics as The Searchers? Well, this one tries and to be fair it tries hard with a generous running time and a determination to look beyond not only the band's hit singles but beyond their Pye years too, with one track from the RCA years ('Solitaire') and one from the Sire era ('Hearts In Her Eyes') in there alongside the usual stuff. Both are solid selections and it's hard to argue with the run of unbroken classic singles that takes up eleven of the first twelve songs on the compilation. After that, though, things get a bit wobblier with all sorts of B sides, album tracks and flop A sides from all eras thrown in at random and some of those choices are questionable indeed: The Searchers' 'weak-kneed cover of 'Twist and Shout', made under protest because 'The Beatles had done it' and the rather sparse cover of 'Where Have All The Flowers Gone?' wouldn't make most fans' top 100. As per usual the end of the Pye years isn't really catered for, with no songs from fourth album 'Sounds Like Searchers and only one from the fifth 'Take Me For What I'm Worth' and there's none of the last gasp of classic Pye singles here either ('Popcorn Double Feature' 'Western Union' 'Secondhand Dealer'). Ending the compilation with the false ending on 'Hungry For Love' also seems a bit of a mistake, as if the end of the song is missing (to be honest it didn't work when The Searchers tried that on the 'Sugar and Spice' album either). Not as bad as some other Searchers sets out there on the market, then, as at least this one has all the hits in something approaching the right order, but together with the tacky packaging (a black and white Searchers poster re-imagined as a flowery pop art digital monstrosity - this from a band who all but disappeared during the flower power era) this is far from being a very best-of anything. Har-rumph!

"Hearts In Their Eyes" (Box Set)

(Sanctuary, January 2012)

CD One: Sweets For My Sweet ('Iron Door')/Rosalie ('Iron Door')/Sho' Know A Lot About Love ('Iron Door')/Let's Stomp ('Iron Door')/Sweet Nuthins ('Star Club')/Learning The Game ('Star Club')/Hey Joe ('Star Club')/Sweet Little Sixteen ('Star Club')/ Sweets For My Sweet/It's All Been A Dream/Alright/Love Potion Number Nine/Farmer John/Money (That's What I Want)/Ain't Gonna Kiss Ya/Since You Broke My Heart/Tricky Dicky/Where Have All The Flowers Gone?/Sugar and Spice/Saints And Searchers/Don't Cha Know?/Some Other Guy/Listen To Me/Unhappy Girls/Ain't That Just Like Me?/Cherry Stones/All My Sorrows/Hungry For Love/Once Upon A Time/Needles and Pins/Saturday Night Out/Don't Throw Your Love Away/I Pretend I'm With You

CD Two: This Empty Place/Where Have You Been?/It's In Her Kiss/Sea Of Heartbreak/I Count The Tears/Hi-Heel Sneakers/I Can't Help Forgiving You/I (Who Have Nothing)/Someday We're Gonna Love Again/No One Else Could Love Me/Someday We're Gonna Love Again (Alternate Take)/Bye Bye Baby/Watch Your Step/When You Walk In The Room/I'll Be Missing You/ What Have They Done To The Rain?/This Feeling Inside/You Beat Me To The Punch/The System/Love Potion Number Nine/Fortune Teller/Chris Curtis BBC Interview/Goodbye My Love/Till I Met You/Everybody Come And Clap Your Hands/If I Could Find Someone/Magic Potion/Bumble Bee/Till You Say You'll Be Mine/I Don't Want To Go On Without You (Alternate Take)/I'll Be Doggone (Alternate Take)/Stage Door

CD Three: He's Got No Love/So Far Away/Chris Curtis BBC Interview/When I Get Home/I'm Never Coming Back/Take Me For What I'm Worth/Too Many Miles/Does She Really Care For Me?/It's Time/You Can't Lie To A Liar/Don't You Know Why?/Each Time/Four Strong Winds/Mike Pender BBC Interview/Take It Or Leave It/Don't Hide It Away/Aggravation!/Have I Done Something Wrong?/Have You Ever Loved Somebody?/It's Just The Way (Love Will Come And Go)/Frank Allen BBC Interview/Popcorn Double Feature/I'll Be Loving You (BBC)/Western Union/I'll Cry Tomorrow/Secondhand Dealer/Crazy Dreams/Umbrella Man/Over The Weekend/Pussy Willow Dream/Shoot 'Em Up Baby/Suzanna

CD Four: Desdemona/Love Is Everywhere/Sing Singer Sing/Vehevala/Solitaire/Spicks And Specks/Don't Shut Me Out/Hearts In Her Eyes/Switchboard Susan/It's Too Late/Love's Gonna Be Strong/Love's Melody/Changing/Everything But A Heartbeat/Radio Romance/Another Night/I Don't Want To Be The One/In The Heat Of The Night/Somebody Told Me You Were Crying/This Boy's In Love/Every River/Seven Nights To Rock/I Don't Want To Be The One/Hollywood/Innocent Victim

"I tell you something gonna be, I'm gonna be in their number when the Searchers go marching in!"

By the time of their fiftieth anniversary The Searchers were long overdue for a box set. After all, they'd recorded what I would consider a perfect amount for a four-disc retrospective: eight albums and multiple A and B sides is about right for reducing to a four CD length set without too much filler or too many key absentees. It's also a sad truth that anything that wasn't on a Searchers album or on the front of a single is sadly somewhat hard to get hold of, with any chance to hear a Searchers song that doesn't involve sweets, sugar or needles and pins a welcome opportunity. Better yet Sanctuary continue their long association with the excellent CD re-issues by including a few genuine rarities here:including many of the 'bonus' tracks from the album re-issues (themselves reather hard to find by this period) and a rare re-issue for some of Tony's and Chris' solo singles which had never appeared alongside their parent band's work before. If nothing else 'Hearts In Their Eyes' was successful in explaining what The Searchers were all about, how their sound progressed and surprised many reviewers who didn't really know the band with just how extremely good they were. It's also a welcome chance to hear all periods from all four record labels in the same place for the first time (though '40th Anniversary' at least had three of them), with the balance between them (three discs of Pye, one for the rest) about right.

Long-term fans who already knew how great the band were felt slightly more underwhelmed, however. Some of the track selection seems peculiar: though the first three albums are covered quite well (with ten tracks or so each per album), why such short shrift for albums four and five? Why include the wretched 'Sing Singer Sing' from the RCA years and not  'And A Button'? Why room for so many tracks from the Sire sessions and not charming outtake 'For What It's Worth'? There's actually less of rarity value here than there had been on the two disc 'The 40th Anniversary Collection' ten years earlier, while the release of the full 'Iron Door Club Sessions' and 'Star Club Tapes' in the meantime makes the first disc far less exciting than it would have been a few years earlier. Though a large amount of the songs that deserve to be here are, it's a shame that room couldn't be found for a few more of them - especially the Liberty and RCA period so often overlooked by smaller compilations but which really ought to be here. The decision to replace so many studio recordings with inferior BBC sessions is also a difficult one - though it's great to hear something totally 'new', these tracks would be better off on a standalone release and the amount of chat rather interrupts the music (though Curtis is, as always, a fun interviewee).  More interesting, though, is a single lone unreleased recording alternate take of 'Someday We're Gonna Love Again' with messier harmonies, which suggests that there's still more in the vaults of interest than the handful of recordings that made it out on the album re-issues. This is, after all, quite a costly set (it's about twenty times the price of the 'Needles and Pins' best-of released around the same time and five times more than the five album re-issues individually, which contained more tracks between them), without that much extra for your money if you know all those already. A few more songs like 'Someday' and a complete selection of solo tracks rather than just a few, alongside a few less re-recordings, and 'Hearts In Their Eyes' could have been a true five-star classic. As it is, the set still gets a decent four, if only for providing so many hard-to-find songs in one place and not messing things up as badly as some other AAA box sets.

Mike Pender's Searchers "All Time Greatest Hits"

(Purple Pyramid, January 2013)

Sweets For My Sweet/Sugar And Spice/Don't Throw Your Love Away/Love Potion Number Nine/Broken Hearts/Goodbye My Love/Needles And Pins/Take It Or Leave It/Take Me For What I'm Worth/Red Ferrari/Blue Mondays/What Have They Done To The Rain?/Someday We're Gonna Love Again/When You Walk In The Room

"Just a little rain falling all around, the grass lifts it's head to the heavenly sound"

Though this record is technically billed to 'The Searchers', it's actually another album by Mike Pender's version of the band with yet another version of the seemingly endless variation of his 1994 recording sessions of old hits and a few newbies on yet another new budget label (none of the tracks here are originals, a fact only revealed in very small print on the back of the CD). This one is the shoddiest yet: a quite hideous cover even gets the location wrong (with a London bus and Big Ben - if you have to get all anglicised then the Liver building and Albert Docks would have been far more appropriate!), while the fourteen songs here are more generous than some without coming close to the full eighteen tracks recorded at the session and none of them are new. This is a cheap and nasty way of making money by ripping off an innocent public that can only hurt The Searchers' reputation and I'm surprised the lawyers weren't called over the billing. Save your money.

Mike Pender's Searchers "Red Ferrari"

(Zenith Blue Records, February 2014)

Don't Throw Your Love Away/Needles and Pins/Someday We're Gonna Love Again/Take It Or Leave It/When You Walk In The Room/Goodbye My Love/Red Ferrari/Sweets For My Sweet/What Have They Done To The Rain?/Broken Hearts/Sugar and Spice/Love Potion no 9/Take Me For What I'm Worth/Blue Mondays

"Just take it or leave it, it's just my life"

Yet another variation of the same 1994 sessions, re-released for their twentieth anniversary. As per usual not all of the songs are featured and 'Needles, Pins, Potions' is still the most thorough way of getting this material - not that you really need it. At least two of the better 'new' (well, ten years old now, but compared to the rest they're new) songs are here, though, with all the Searchers 'covers' present this time and the packaging goes back to listing this as the 'Mike Pender' version of the band, so at least it's an improvement on 'All Time Greatest Hits'. 

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