For those still old enough to peg the launch of British rock to the evening of February 9, 1964, when four young Liverpudlians appeared, as if from nowhere, on the stage of The Ed Sullivan Show, think of this: last year a different U.K. band celebrated its fiftieth anniversary with a series of sold-out concerts at London’s mammoth O2 Arena. At the height of their success, this band placed an astounding twenty-eight hits atop the British charts, have released over one hundred albums worldwide and their lead singer was knighted by the Queen before Elton John, Tom Jones, Mick Jagger or even Paul McCartney. That singer’s name? Cliff Richard. His band? The Shadows.
Eagle Rock Entertainment’s grand new release, Cliff And The Shadows: The Final Reunion DVD, documents the band’s landmark 2009 O2 Arena performances and constitutes the perfect two-hour primer of and for pre-Beatles British rock. Accordingly, barely a minute into the proceedings and legendary Shadows guitarist Hank B. Marvin claims Cliff’s 1959 chart-topper “Living Doll” as, and I shall quote,”The first real British rock and roll record.” That classic is duly performed herein, along with forty-one! other songs and it’s all in just under 137 minutes. Every song comes fast and furious, short and sweet, and at a near assembly-line pace. All the excitement is captured in sight and especially in sound, which is clean, bright and sharp from the very beginning until the final encore.
The music of Hank, fellow guitarist Bruce Welch and drummer Brian Bennett deserves no less. This is one yester-band that remains in remarkable fighting form; their matching red Fenders sporting all the twang of Buck Owens’ Buckaroos, the whammy of vintage Ventures, and the precision of Les Paul at his 78-RPM finest. Not only that, but those tightly choreographed little dance steps the band often breaks into whilst performing – moves which were once the bane of the Beatles-era pop combos – now seem far more fun and even fashionable!
Yet, lest you fear that these guys simply coast along atop their fancy footwork, a three-song “unplugged set” halfway through the proceedings, wherein Bruce, Hank and Cliff break out acoustic guitars, sounds surprisingly more Eagles than skiffle. In fact, their “All Shook Up” could easily have been arranged by Pete Townshend circa Tommy. I kid you not!
Indeed, while you may be hard-pressed to recognize (m)any of the dozens of hits performed in this package, you will spot traces of their melodic influence – not to mention stinging Marvin guitar licks – scattered throughout the more discriminating reaches of your music collection because, while they may have never made lasting impressions upon the American hit parade (save for Cliff’s “Devil Woman” reaching Billboard # 5 in 1976), the six-string-powered sound of The Shadows has been cited as an indelible influence upon artists as diverse as Randy Bachman, Carlos Santana and even Neil Young.
One evening spent with The Final Reunion, volume cranked all the way of course, will most easily show just why.