Cliff Richard - 21 Today (Music CD)
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In fact, it would not necessarily be a bad thing if the entire album followed suit. While by no means the nadir of Cliff's recording career, 21 Today is very much a portrait of the artist on auto-pilot, a succession of pleasant mid-tempo ballads, with Shadows-lite backing, soaring strings a-go-go and - the curse of British MOR later in the decade - the utterly wholesome oohs, aahs and echoes of an army of clean-living backing youths.
A couple of tracks buck the trend - "Without You" and "Tough Enough" are gritty Shadows-led stompers, while Hank Marvin and Bruce Welch's "Y'Arriva" at least packs an intriguingly mock-Spanish backing, to match vocal stylings lifted straight from an old Speedy Gonzales cartoon. There is also a bizarre version of "Tea For Two," Cliff giving it his best well-mannered showband vocal, while the Shadows noodle away in best smokey jazzclub style.
Overall, however, 21 Today is the sound of a singer growing old before his time and hindsight insists that it is no coincidence that, within a year of its release, the arrival of the Beatles had already consigned Cliff to Boring Old Fartdom. How, the sniggering Fabs fans whispered each other, how would he ever escape from those clutches? And, more importantly, would he even want to? ~ Dave Thompson