Hearts In Their Eyes
Sanctuary Records Group Ltd / Universal
Autumn 2011 – I am about to meet The Searchers after a fantastic rarities and hits-packed live show. “It’s good that members of The Byrds and Buffalo Springfield acknowledge the impact of the sound you created’ I say to co-lead guitarist John McNally. ‘A pause. He leans forward. ‘WELL….they do NOW…’ Point made. McNally then graciously signs my prized retrospective double CD ‘The PYE Antholgy’ and passes it to bassist Frank Allen. He was original bassist Tony Jackson’s replacement in very early personnel changes and now carries the group’s stage announcements, dedications and most of the stories in their live shows. With the occasional knowing aside from John, of course. The show had been like a rich meal, everything played with real spirit, utterly tuneful, pacy, varied and with splendid guitar-triggered orchestral tones from their current six-stringer. Absorbing and entertaining, The Searchers give their audience a living and melodic history lesson but best of all they seem glad to be doing it all.
And now this four ( FOUR!!!) CD book /box set puts that double CD in the shade. For here are 110 tracks of bliss for any fans doubling as a thorough education for latecomers or youngsters discovering this terrific act. For fans, may I just mention that the compilers have included the rare original demo’s, the ultra-scarce Tony Jackson contemporary tracks AND alternate takes and radio interview extracts ? Yes that’s right – get yer money out! You simply HAVE to own this set, it’s the equivalent of Tom Petty’s ‘Playback’ box.
The Searchers were always special. They could really play their instruments, they came up with the electric twelve-string guitar sounds and heady vocal harmonies that begat my beloved West Coast sounds and era. They wrote songs but better still they could choose great songs. Who could better their definitive version of Jackie de Shannon’s ‘When you Walk In the Room’ ? their reading of sad song with redemption hopes ‘All My Sorrows’ ?
‘Needles & Pins’ ? well if you hear Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty do this, it is The Searchers template they adopt .That song was written by Sonny Bono who died crashing into a pinetree on a ski-slope..needles indeed !
‘Sweets For My Sweet’, ‘ ‘Sugar & Spice’, ‘Love Potion No 9’, ‘He’s Got No Love’ ( now a Mitt Romney tribute ?) they’re all here and sounding fine. But for every huge hit there’s a contemporary gem to be savoured. Ever heard them play “Sea of Heartbreak’ ? or ‘This Boy’s In Love’ ? a live cut of ‘Hey Joe’ ? well, you can here…..
The booklet part of the package is quite stunning and maybe the best since the Santana ‘Serpent’ set for colour and interest. Record cover photos, group shots in the togs of the time especially interesting for the era when they recorded at Rockfield and revived their reputation with solid playing and yet more compositions and apt song choices when on Sire in the late 70’s early 80’s. Frank Allen’s recall of those times is a fine read in itself.
Disc Four might surprise you if you don’t know this epoch – the splayed chords of ‘Desdemona’, the tuneful acoustic chug and mentholated piano of ‘Love Is Everywhere’ is as toe-tapping as anything Stealers Wheel put out, the best take ever of ‘Solitaire’ bar none, the psych-stomp of ‘Spicks & Specks’ where they sound a little like early Move ?, the Petty-soaked ‘Hearts In Their Eyes’, the booming ‘Love’s Melody’ where you half expect Debbie Harry to start singing ( really, have a listen!)……the eerie rocker ‘Another Night’ being the cherry on the cake and a McNally song, to boot. Driving, fuzz guitars seeping through and those majestic harmonies..what a gem
The hell with it – this is a PACKAGE full of gems. A total success on all fronts for this follower
Pete Sargeant www.fairhearing.co.uk