sjf readers of a certain vintage will know all about HELEN SHAPIRO. They’ll tell you that East London born Helen was an early 60s “pop sensation”! She scored her first hit aged just 14 and went on to enjoy plenty more including two consecutive no. 1 hits and she even headlined a nationwide package tour that featured way down the bill a band called the Beatles. All Helens’ early hits (things like ‘Walkin’ Back To Happiness’) are easily available; there’s any number of retrospective collections of her EMI/Columbia (her fist label) hits recordings out there.
But after those hits dried up (blame those damn Beatles), Ms Shapiro continued to record. She moved away from EMI, going on to work for five different labels, and, with various producers, she tried to evolve a more contemporary sound. Ultimately, the move was unsuccessful. Maybe the UK punters always saw her as a teen pop star and found it hard to accept her more mature approach. Whatever; she remained musically active till the late 80s and now Ace Records have pulled together all the singles (A and B sides) that she recorded between 1967 and 1984 and the resulting 25 tracker, ‘FACE THE MUSIC’, is a wonderful tribute to a sometimes neglected UK song stylist.
Interestingly a number of the songs on this album have become favourites on the Northern soul scene… the biggest being ‘Stop And You Will Become Aware’. Released in 1967, it’s one of Helens’ last Columbia recordings. It was, sadly, a chart flop but by the mid 70s it had been adopted by the Northern crowd and copies were fetching over £400 – leading to a frantic search for other suitably Northern tempo-ed Shapiro tracks and ones that were espoused were things like ‘Take Me For A While’ and ‘Silly Boy (I Love You)’- both featured here… Northern… yes; soul…debatable. However if you want to hear Helen Shapiro “do soul” try her splendid covers of Brenda Holloway’s ‘Every Little Bit Hurts’ and Barbara Lewis’ ‘Make Me Belong To You’.
Elsewhere expect plenty of classy late 60s pop, tinged with soul – much like Madeline Bell’s output from the same era. No hits though; but Helen Shapiro moved on and evolved – moving towards jazz and eventually retiring to work in the Christian ministry but we’re told that she’s thrilled by this new compilation – and so she should. Like we said up top this is a wonderful tribute to a sometimes neglected UK song stylist.