Dave Berry – Scenester LP Review

Dave Berry


This Strange Effect –  2 CD Set (RPM Records RETROD860)

Among RPM Records’ latest re-releases, this comprehensive 2 CD set of Mike Berry’s Decca sessions 1963-1966 with no less than 57 items for the die-hard fan.
Dave’s mixture of beat ballads and pop were a typical combination for artists of the early 60’s, hungry for fame but with a hard edge so as not to alienate the teens. This formula did prove successful, especially in the Netherlands and Belgium, but US success eluded Dave, as it did many British artists. Image was all-important then, and Dave’s air of mystery and mild sexual threat helped separate him from the crowd of male vocalists all vying for their place in the hearts of the UK’s young, predominantly female pop fans.

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Known best for his deep, emotional performance of ‘The Crying Game’, a 1964 track memorably utilised as the theme for the 1992 film of the same name, Dave continues to sing to this day, and has worked with some of the best known musicians in rock’s community. Big Jim Sullivan, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones all make appearances here as session musicians.

‘Easy to Cry’s beat and twang is a light beginner, followed by the steady rolling ‘Tongue Twister’ with its accessible wit, and a capable cover of the Chuck Berry classic, ‘Memphis Tennessee’ sees us into CD1. The light treatment of the fine ‘Tossin’ and Turnin’ is a little too ‘showbizzy’ for these ears, but the driving rocker, ‘My Baby Left Me’ is more to my liking, its descending riff, good vocal and pleasing guitar solo toward the end, an early standout.

‘Hoochie Coochie Man’s tinkling bar room piano sound proves wittily appropriate, with a good, strong backing and voice, and we’re into a couple of rock classics, an apparently live recording of ‘Little Queenie’, the vocal good and rough, with backing as tough as you like, and a capable ‘Diddley Daddy’. Dave delivers all the sensitivity needed on ‘Baby It’s You’, and has effective if distant, female backing vocals on ‘Sweet and Lovely’, even if the track’s wild guitar solo feels out of place here.

One listen to the sublime ‘The Crying Game’ tells you why it still receives regular plays on radio to the present day, its sad lament a perfect antidote to some of the wide-awake forced happiness that often infects the lighter end of the pop market. ‘Don’t Give Me No Lip, Child’s rude, raspy rocker is a match for many other of the 60’s harder breed of artists, and is perhaps one of the more unusual choices of cover songs by the notorious Sex Pistols, in the following decade. A trio of rock standards follows, with a jaunty ‘Not Fade Away’ a deep, echoing ‘You Better Move On’, and an understated alt-take of ‘Diddley Daddy’, followed by a better, beatier take of ‘Not Fade Away’.

The slow, orchestral ballad of ‘I Don’t Want To Go On’ possesses too little power to satisfy, and the country craziness of ‘Ella Speed’ takes the biscuit for odd placement immediately after it, but is made up for by the gentle, ‘The Girl From The Fair Isle’. ’Go on Home’ has some great, fuzzy guitar to go with this boastful, challenging song, and ‘Everybody Tries’ wistfulness brings us an antidote to this, perhaps too soon.

The reediness of Dave’s voice on ‘God Bless The Child’ suits the orchestral backing, but would surely be unlikely to light the fires of his young audience; they would have to wait for something more robust, perhaps the Mexican-flavoured ‘On The other Side Of Town’, with its pregnant pauses among the strong vocals. Dave brings a country feel to ‘Go Home Girl’ in this song of the eternal problem of loving your best friend’s girl, and the mournful ‘My Last Date’ stays with the country vibe, with a high rise in the chorus.

Folk-blues chestnut ‘St James’ Infirmary’ is rendered here in a funereal jazzy style, with a good piano break rumbling in there. ‘Just A Little Bit’ has a great guitar intro and a fast, exciting beat, leading us into ‘C.C. Rider’s country steel guitar and rockin’ voice double-act. The moody, sensitive performance of ‘Don’t Make Fun of Me’ has a nervous note that ends the first CD well.

‘One Heart Between Two’ opens the second CD, a mournful balled with a pleasing vibrato on the guitar, followed by the staccato rock ‘n’ roll of ‘You’re Gonna Need Somebody’, the vocal with a touch of a sneer backed by a fuzzy bass. ‘Me-O My-O’s upbeat, steady roller and ‘If You Need Me’s bar-room blues is delivered brightly, in a Georgie Fame/Blues Band style.

Dave’s sizeable hit, ‘Little Things’ is another standout, the horn and guitar backing perfectly suited to the voice, capturing all the intimacy suggested in the title. ‘I’ve got a Tiger by the Tail’s country twang sees Dave’s voice on good form, and ‘Can I Get It from You’s light-touch romantic ballad seems at odds with the loaded suggestion of the title. ‘Why Don’t They Understand?’s routine youthful self-pity has a rather old fashioned backing that could not have helped its chances, and ‘He’s With You’ is positively mawkish.

‘Always Always’ has Dave back on track, with the lush orchestration and female backup vocals, adding to this highly atmospheric song. The title track to this compilation, the excellent Ray Davies-penned ‘This Strange Effect’ is among the best cuts here, Dave’s voice plaintive over the piece’s tense mixed message. ‘Now’s twangy, ‘Spanish Stroll’ atmosphere has a choppy rhythm that sets off nicely, and ‘I’m Gonna Take You There’ has that Buddy Holly-esque, teasing style lyric that keeps you listening the whole way through the song.

‘Just Don’t Know’s echoing chords and mysterious feel hides a classic country love lament and ‘If You Wait for Love’s martial beat and Northern-Souly metre is a pleasant departure. ‘Hidden’s acoustic guitar and crashing chords lead into a doomy lyric, alluding to unnamed problems, but not without a hint of hope in it. ‘I Ain’t Going Without You Babe’ has a mocking edge to its humour, and ‘It’s Gonna Be Fine’ reprises the Northern Soul beat, turning it to a mini-standout.

‘So Goes Love’ takes us back to the characteristic moodiness of slow, vibrato guitar and sad refrain, followed by ‘You Made a Fool out Of Me’s jokey, creeping beat. ‘Sticks and Stones’ staccato beat has a strong start and swings along nicely, and ‘Now And From Now On’ continues the swinging beat, held up with a good horn solo. ‘Same Game’s lost love lament climbs well, and lives up fully to its early promise, and ‘Alright Baby’ proves an upbeat rocker with a great guitar hook, albeit one in which Dave’s voice doesn’t shine.

‘I Love You Babe’s fuzzy rock guitar and moody jazz start is reminiscent of Dave’s contemporaries, The Animals, and all the better for it, and ‘Soft Lights (And Sweet Music)’ masks the less than honourable intentions of its subject, in a soft, soul-y treatment. ‘Green Grass’ jollies up well, and it’s up to the final selection, ‘Love Has Gone out Of Your Life’ to restore the moody, emotional style of performance we long associate with this highly individual performer. BUY HERE!


Scenester lives in London and Brighton, as time allows. Enjoys music, film, television, books, design and anything else which won’t leave well alone. Old enough to know better.

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