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“When You Walk In The Room: Complete Pye Recordings 1963-1967” • The Searchers (review)

When You Walk In The Room:
Complete Pye Recordings 1963-1967
The Searchers
Grapefruit/Cherry Red Records

 

Emerging during the Merseybeat boom in 1963, Liverpool’s The Searchers never came close to matching The Beatles’ long-lasting success but they certainly gave it their best shot.

Even with an armful of memorable – and influential – hits, the band is now sorely overlooked when conversations turn to ‘60s Pop combos.

In hindsight, the band’s legacy has been tainted by two things: a line-up change in the midst of their hitmaking years and the band’s short supply of original material.

Merseybeat bands came out swinging with their revved-up, joy-filled versions of Rock ‘n’ Roll classics but when The Beatles started filling their albums with originals, everything changed…

Most of the Fab Four’s Liverpool contemporaries like Gerry & The Pacemakers and Freddie & The Dreamers began to rely on outside songwriters to help craft hits while still relying on cover versions to fill up their albums. In contrast, The Searchers’ first two big hits – “Sweets for My Sweet” in the UK and “Love Potion No. 9” in the U.S. – were already well-known hits for The Drifters and The Clovers, respectively. The chaps in The Searchers quickly discovered that reimagining existing songs in their own distinct style worked well on a commercial level. Despite their tendency to rely on outside material, The Searchers did have a unique sound that incorporated jangling guitars, solid vocal harmonies, and their own brand of Pop charm. It was certainly the recipe for success. For the record, that recipe became the musical blueprint for a genre that is now known as Power Pop.

Signed to Pye Records, the band recorded a plethora of material, all of which is collected on a six CD set entitled WHEN YOU WALK IN THE ROOM: COMPLETE PYE RECORDINGS 1963-1967. Not only does this set contain mono and stereo versions of their five albums for the label – MEET THE SEARCHERS (1963), SUGAR AND SPICE (1963), IT’S THE SEARCHERS (1964), SOUNDS LIKE SEARCHERS (1965), and TAKE ME FOR WHAT I’M WORTH (1965) – complete with bonus tracks, it also includes a sixth CD – TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT – containing non-album single and EP tracks. There have been many Pye-era Searchers compilations over the years but this is the first one that is both complete and essential.

When listening to the first five albums, the differences between the mono and stereo mixes are quite remarkable.

The mono mixes are crunchy, punchy and powerful while the stereo mixes reveal more nuances in the recordings. Regardless of how you first heard this material (AM radio or stereo hi-fi), this set offers up the best of both worlds. The band’s first two albums feature the two previously mentioned hits as well as “Sugar and Spice” and loads of great Merseybeat magic.

However, a year into their skyrocketing career, the band’s original lead vocalist and bassist Tony Jackson left the band after guitarist Mike Pender and drummer Chris Curtis started assuming the majority of lead vocals on The Searchers’ studio recordings. The band continued with bassist/vocalist Frank Allen and then entered into the second phase of their hitmaking career with “When You Walk in The Room” (a Jackie DeShannon cover) and “Needles and Pins” (co-written by none other than Sony Bono).

The band’s next three albums expanded upon the Merseybeat sound, adding more textures which are most notable on the stereo mixes. By the time they recorded their fifth album, the hits were not charting as high although the album tracks were revealing more depth and experimentation. The jangle Pop crunch was still there but the R&B and early Rock ‘n’ Roll influences were far more subtle. Sadly, by the time of their fifth album, The Beatles were putting out artistic statements like RUBBER SOUL and REVOLVER and The Searchers’ Pop platters were often overlooked by kids looking for something more serious and ‘substantial’.

In 1967, the band and Pye Records parted company and The Searchers didn’t record a lot of new material for almost a decade. However, their back catalog deserves reappraisal and WHEN YOU WALK IN THE ROOM: COMPLETE PYE RECORDINGS 1963-1967 is where you need to start and end. This is a truly astounding box set that offers up more than enough key album tracks that are just as good as – if not better – than The Searchers’ best-known hits. It is time to get your Merseybeat on!

 

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