tue 23/04/2019

Reissue CDs Weekly: Lesley Gore | reviews, news & interviews

Reissue CDs Weekly: Lesley Gore

Reissue CDs Weekly: Lesley Gore

Sixties pop at its classiest on the ‘California Nights’ album

Lesley Gore in 1967, the year she released one of pop’s great albums courtesy Ace Records


Lesley Gore California NightsLesley Gore: California Nights

The reissue of 1967’s California Nights is a timely tribute to both Lesley Gore, who died in February this year, and Bob Crewe, the producer of most of the album’s tracks, who died in September last year. Gore first charted in 1963 with “It’s my Party”, which was followed by a string of hits including the feminist-slanted “You Don’t Own me”. Crewe was prodigious: he was a songwriter, manager, producer and singer. With Bob Gaudio, he steered The Four Seasons to success and wrote or co-wrote classics like "Big Girls Don't Cry" and "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine (Anymore)".

California Nights was issued on the back of the hit single of the same name, which entered the US charts in March 1967. Gore’s last big single had been October 1965’s “My Town, my Guy and me”. The less than 18 months interlude between hits was a major length of time when pop was moving and developing at a speed not seen before or since. The Beatles had gone from “We Can Work it Out” to “Strawberry Fields Forever” within this period and in less time. Similarly, and pertinently, The Beach Boys had issued "Good Vibrations" in October 1966. What was thought of as the California sound was no longer only that of the beach, hot rods and surf.

As a single, Gore’s “California Nights” was a surprise hit. After opening with a series of suspended chords reminiscent of The Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows”, it quickly bloomed into a soaring song with lyrics celebrating nights on the beach with a breeze blowing. A cor anglais added an exotic touch while a backing emphasising the off beat brought the delirious flavour of carnival music. Producer Bob Crewe was undoubtedly aware of The Beach Boys and their evolution. "God Ony Knows" was first issued on their Pet Sounds album in May 1966. “California Nights” was recorded in mid-October 1966. With Gore, Crewe had made a record which overhauled her familiar sound by injecting elements which were totally fresh. Yet it still sounded like a Lesley Gore single. A fantastic record, it was a deserved hit.

lesley gore bob crewe 1966But the hit demanded an album in its wake. “California Nights” had been recorded along with “I’m Going Out (the Same Way I Came in)” in October 1966 at one of the year’s three sessions Crewe produced for Gore. The other two sessions were held in August and November. Seven tracks in total were recorded. All were collected for the album, along with three recorded with Quincy Jones in April 1966. Nothing collected on California Nights had been expressly intended to be compiled on album. (Pictured left: Bob Crewe in 1966 with, from left, Lesley Gore, her brother Michael and mother Ronnie)

Nonetheless, it is a fantastic album. Gore’s voice is at her most dramatic on the Crewe co-written and produced “Bad”. She shines on “I’m Going Out (the Same Way I Came in)” (the B-side of the “California Nights” single), a song which, in the hands of Kiki Dee and others, became a blue-eyed soul classic. On the yearning “Maybe Now”, written by Gore with her brother Michael, her sensitive voice is as moving as Dusty Springfield's at her most reflective. “Love Goes on Forever” would have been a UK chart topper if recorded by Petula Clark. Surprisingly, the ten-track album held together coherently and the three tracks made with Jones ("Off and Running", "The Bubble Broke" and also Springfield-esque "Cry Like a Baby”) do not stylistically jar. It’s a testament to Gore’s awareness of what was right for her.

This is one of pop’s great albums. But it was her last for the Mercury label, which jettisoned her in 1969. She did not make another album until 1972. Bob Crewe kept the faith and issued singles by her on his own label in 1970, but they never made an album proper together.

The reissue is in stereo and has more sonic presence than ever. Fifteen bonus tracks from 1965 have been added, but the liner notes do not explain the rationale for their inclusion. All are great though. Get this and revel in Sixties pop at its classiest.

As a single, 'California Nights' overhauled a familiar sound by injecting elements which were totally fresh. Yet it still sounded like Lesley Gore

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