Rev-Ola 1969 / Liberation Hall 2022
Writer for the stars goes back to the source to find the blueprints for chart action.
It didn’t take this Liverpudlian, who had landed in London in the mid-’60s, a long time to turn into a hitmaker and see his songs appropriated by successful acts of the day so, given the young artist was possessed not only of a distinctive writing style but also of a distinctive voice, which would later provide backing on a few of Elton classics, issuing the “Tony Hazzard Sings Tony Hazzard” LP in 1969 seemed quite logical – at least in the eyes of publisher Gerry Bron who initiated the release. Not that Tony wanted such a telltale title, planning instead to call the platter “Demonstration” – because the pieces compiled there were the original recordings of what used to be presented to stars. Making proper reappearance more than five decades later, the baker’s dozen classic cuts – the still-hot aural pies remixed and remastered from the 4-track tapes Hazzard bought out to salvage, with one old entry discarded and replaced with two previously unheard offerings – finally reflect the veteran’s personal perspective.
Laid down in the company of seasoned session players and, thus, highly polished, these songs show no sign of wear and tear many other numbers suffered over the years, shining a light on Tony’s talent, his unique way with words and tunes frequently emphasized by deploying imperatives for taglines and wrapping choruses in memorable melodies that lodge themselves in the listener’s minds and refuse to leave. There’s another simple reason to this: all Hazzard’s sentiment’s are easy to relate to, which is why the twangy “You Won’t Be Leaving” feels so infectious, the writer’s optimistic sincerity surpassing the allure of HERMAN’S HERMITS harmonies. While he went for a fresh take on the ever-fetching “Fox On the Run” lifting the MANFRED MANN‘s arrangement to a faux-flute-flaunting tee – the template applied to THE FAMILY DOGG’s innocent “Brown Eyed Girl” as well – although not without a individual flourish, his reclaiming of “Ha Ha, Said The Clown” sounds much more dramatic than its most famous reading, as accentuated beat, prominent piano and slightly histrionic vocals rendering the author’s delivery a standout. And then there’s “The Matter With You” – familiar to many from the “Pennyworth” series – to open the album in quite a serious manner, unleashing the wave of organ-oiled power-pop and tenderly bring the tide ashore once the boisterous “Fade Away Maureen” from the CHERRY SMASH cache has ceased to sway.
Snippets of studio banter at the start or end of a track adding to its arresting pull, and if the calypso-tinged “Hello, It’s Me” that HERMITS declined to taps into The Fabs’ honeyed lyricism, the simultaneously countrified and baroque-tinctured “Hello World” that THE TREMELOES exposed to the sun, when the song wasn’t supplied for Eurovision, is totally Tony’s sort of sonic confectionary, as is “Listen To Me” that’s stripped of THE HOLLIES ebullience here in favor of a darker, albeit exquisite, hue. However, where “Goodnight, Sweet Josephine” and “Hey, Mrs Housewife” bear the timestamp on their postcard-like, attractive surface – even without the input from, respectively, Lulu and THE BLUEJEANS – the de-psyched “Me, The Peaceful Heart” doesn’t require THE YARDBIRDS’ rave-up to flutter impressively from the past to the future.
The future will hopefully hold more demonstrations of Tony Hazzard’s songwriting flair, because what’s gathered on this album only whets an aficionado’s appetite.