CLIFF BENNETT and the REBEL ROUSERS: Into Our Lives (Label: EMI)

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Cliff Bennett and the Rebel Rousers were one of THE great live UK soul bands of the sixties. Young shavers, no doubt, will find it hard to believe that in those halcyon days soul was real underground music. Very few soul records were ever released in the UK, fewer were played on the radio and visits from American soul heroes were few and far between. Starved of the real thing, UK soul lovers had to be satisfied with a number of stalwart bands that gigged the length and breadth of our sceptered isle playing energetic covers of the big US soul tunes. The best of those outfits numbered Jimmy James and the Vagabonds, Herbie Goins and the Nightimers, Zoot Money and the Big Roll Band, Geno Washington and the Ram Jam Band, Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames – and Cliff Bennett and the Rebel Rousers. Bennett – genial and still-performing – was born and raised in deepest Slough where he acquired a love for rock and roll which led to the formation of his band -The Rebel Rousers (named after a hit from twangin’ guitarist Duane Eddy). His musical tastes widened to embrace burgeoning soul and his act soon reflected that new passion. His gigs consisted of covers of the latest tunes from the studios of Motown, Stax, Atlantic and Chess – though he still retained the odd rock and roll gem. What made his sound so different and so exciting was that the Rebel Rousers eschewed the standard beat combo line up; they featured a big brass section and in Bennett they did possess a vocalist with a great soul voice – notwithstanding his Slough roots. Signed to EMI’s Parlophone label, Bennett enjoyed two major hits – a cover of the Drifters’ ‘One Way Love’ and his version of the Beatles’ ‘Got To Get You Into My Life – a song “given” to Bennett by Paul McCartney (Bennett shared the same management as the Fabs). Both hits are, obviously, included on this new four CD set which contains all the material Bennett and his bands recorded for Parlophone. There are almost 120 tracks and they not only show the development of a hard-gigging band but, in some ways, illustrate the development of British pop tastes in the sixties. The sound goes from rock and roll, through soul and into rock and stuff that’s a tad more experimental. Soul-wise there are excellent versions of songs originally recorded by Marvin Gaye (‘Try It Baby’, ‘I’ll Be Doggone’, ‘One More Heartache’), the Impressions (‘It’s All Right’, ‘Talking ‘Bout My Baby’), Little Milton (‘Who’s Cheatin’ Who’) and many , many more. The collection’s as good a sixties artefact as anything that has been or will be released this year and it stands as a fine tribute to one of the UK’s soul’s great unsung heroes.
(BB) 4/5