Just 12 months ago Universal released a wonderful box set on National Treasure, Georgie Fame. The box was to celebrate the great man’s fifty plus years in the music biz and it focused on his early recording career with EMI label, Columbia. Now, Universal continue the Fame fest with another box set that ambitiously tries to span Georgie’s whole career. A tough task, sure, but the compliers pull it off. The new box has six discs featuring 110 tracks (18 previously unreleased), spanning more than five decades and the music takes in all of Georgie’s hit singles as well as notable B-sides, choice album cuts and plenty of rarities.
The first CD, naturally, looks at Georgie’s early years and actually begins with a couple of instrumentals, the Hammond soul/jazz workout that is ‘Orange Street’ and the ska-flavoured ‘Rik’s Tune’. Both were set favourites when Georgie and his Blue Flames were residents at Soho’s legendary Flamingo night spot. The CD offers plenty more Flamingo tunes. Stuff like ‘Night Train’, ‘Green Onions’, ‘Work Song’ and ‘Let The Sunshine In’ were all popular with the all nighter crowds and betray Georgie’s respect for artists like Mose Allison and his love of Motown and Soul. A fact underlined by the wonderful, included covers of tunes like ‘Sweet Thing’ and ‘My Girl’. Most of the tracks on this first CD were featured in last year’s Columbia collection.
CD 2 looks at Georgie’s early forays without the Blue Flames … a time when his managers were trying to make him more of pop star than a soul and jazz artist but cuts like ‘Try My World’ still have huge merit. The third disc will be one to interest soul collectors. It contains a previously unreleased version of Bobby Womack’s ‘Daylight’ and a great take on Eddie Floyd’s ‘California Girl’. Highlights on the fourth disc include versions of ‘Funny How Time Slips Away’ and ‘Sitting In The Park’ that Georgie cut during his time at Pye. These versions are very different to the treatments he gave the songs in the 60s and both are amongst his best soul recordings. The brass work on this newer version of ‘Funny’, in particular, is memorable. This CD also includes a 7 track live recording of a show Georgie performed at London’s Lyceum in 1971. Previously unavailable, they give a great feel of how Georgie and his (reconvened) Blue Flames worked.
The box’s last two discs take us from 1991 to the present and include tracks from Fame’s time with Ben Sidran’s Go Jazz label and from the LPs he released on his own Three Line Whip label. There’s a nod to his time with Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings while amongst the cuts there’s a great song called ‘Flamingo All-nighter’ which kind of brings things full circle. Undoubted highlight though is the lovely ‘My Ship’. Rightly this is the very last track in the box. It was written by one of Georgie’s best and oldest friends, Mike O’Neill who died last year. O’Neill, like Fame hailed from Leigh, Lancashire and was a member of rock and rollers Nero and the Gladiators and was partly responsible for bringing the young Clive Powell down to London in the first place.
It’s a nigh on impossible task to sum up Georgie Fame’s career in just six CDs. I, for instance, would have liked to have seen Georgie’s version of ‘By The |Time I Get To Phoenix’ and ‘New York Afternoon’ that he recorded with Mondo Kane (please grab a listen to this one!) included but, you know,’SURVIVAL’ A CAREER ANTHOLOGY 1963 – 2015′ just about gets it right!
The box set comes complete with a 48-page hardback book that features extensive liner notes, a new interview with Georgie by Paolo Hewitt and many unseen photographs.