THE RAK SINGLES Hot Chocolate (4CD Box Set)
Here is the latest in Cherry Red’s 7T’s label series ‘Singles’ collections and what a treat it is. Featuring every single A & B side the boys recorded for Mickie Most’s RAK label this is a 5 star release. The statistics around the band are quite amazing, especially nowadays when ‘sales’ are entirely differently counted. For a decade and a half Hot Chocolate had an unbroken run of chart singles, 29 Top 40 hits, 12 Top Tens and the No 1 ‘So You Win Again’. Looking back and listening to this fine collection i am constantly surprised they only ever made the top spot once. The sheer consistency and quality of their writing and musicianship is quite extraordinary. Altogether if you add it up the band spent 5 years in the charts making them one of the most successful pop acts of all time. It’s easy to forget just how many great songs they produced, as i’m sitting here listening i keep nodding my head and saying to myself ‘what a great record, forgotten about that one’. You may consider 4 CD’s and 72 tracks a lot to digest but trust me its not. Disc’s 1 & 2 are absolutely essential listening and for me personally contain my favourite tracks right from the opener ‘Love Is Life’ which i so clearly remember getting a promo single of back in 1970 through ‘You Could Have Been A Lady’, ‘I Believe In Love’ You’ll Always Be A Friend’ the memories flood back. However it’s 2 tracks in particular that stand out for their experimentation and boldness ‘Brother Louie’ with its biting social comment on interracial relationships, sadly still relevant in some quarters today. Followed by the epic ‘Rumours’ with its stabbing ‘Shaft’ style guitar riff. Both these songs run for between 4 and 5 minutes which defied the perceived wisdom that anything longer than 2m30s would lose listener interest, well Errol & Co certainly blew that argument out of the water. And for music trivia fans both Brother Louie & Rumours contained one Cozy Powell on drums. This doesn’t surprise me as Cozy was signed to Mickie Most (owner of RAK Records) at the time and he (Mickie) wouldn’t have missed a chance to employ Cozy on the tracks, no doubt for free….The other highlight of Disc 1 for me is definitely ‘Emma’ another beautifully crafted ‘story’ song penned by Brown & Wilson and featuring my old friend and RAK labelmate on backing vocals Suzi Quatro. Disc2 kicks off with the uptempo ‘Cheri Babe’ which is one of those aforementioned tracks i had forgotten about as is the second single ‘Blue Night’ however the ‘B’ side of the latter song was to become more famous, or should that be infamous? it was ‘You Sexy Thing’. More hits follow with ‘Disco Queen’ ‘A Childs Prayer’ before RAK realised the potential of ‘You Sexy Thing’ and released a newly tweaked version as an ‘A’ side. I don’t know about you but YST is probably my least favourite HC song, nothing wrong with it, but i have listener ‘fatigue’ it remains the most played HC track on radio due to the (mostly) unimaginative minds of station programmers, and sadly will probably be the track the band will always be remembered for, when as already demonstrated they had so much more to give. Disc3 contains another bold move with the 6 minute opener ‘Put Your Love In Me’, classics follow rapidly with ‘Every 1’s A Winner’ ‘I’ll Put You Together Again’ (another personal favourite), ‘Mindless Boogie’ ‘Going Through The Motions’ and as the 80’s dawned a song i’m very attached to ‘No Doubt About It’. In the late 70’s i lived in Finchley where coming home in the early hours of the morning one day i swore i saw an UFO in the sky towards Hampstead Heath (i did honestly!) Remarkably i only learnt years later that the writers of ‘No Doubt About It’ which dealt with an alien encounter were inspired by seeing the same ‘UFO’ i did in the same time and place! Yea, vindicated! Right moving on, other tracks on Disc3 include ‘Are You Getting Enough’ ‘Love Me To Sleep’ & ‘Losing You’. The final Disc4 starts to run a little out of steam, but not by much, biggies still abound with the likes of ‘Girl Crazy’ ‘It Started With A Kiss’ ‘What Kinda Boy You Lookin For’ & ‘I Gave You My Heart Didn’t I’. I’m a big fan of these compilations that run chronologically as they give you the chance to hear whoever the band are progressing and evolving and refining their material. In Hot Chocolate you had a band who never dropped their quality level and achieved massive success in countries all over the world. This new compilation housed in a sturdy clamshell box with an excellent and informative booklet is the best compilation of HC’s work i’ve seen, there are other ‘Best Of’s’ etc but many miss off the early tracks. This is THE only collection you will ever need. Enjoy.
Til next time……..stay safe…….Colin
Mick O’Dowd… What a cracker this release is Colin! Always loved them from when they first appeared as The Hot Chocolate Band on Apple Records with “Give Peace a Chance” (Yes that one). I believe there were 2 versions of Could Have Been A Lady. The original was tweaked to make it more funky sounding. So many hits. So many memories. Always remember Centre Page performing Everyone’s A Winner. Like you, Colin, Emma & No Doubt About It were my faves although it’s so hard picking faves from a track list like this.
Colin Bell… Mick, Hi mate, yes there were 2 versions as you say. They had such a consistently high standard its as you also say so hard to pick a fave! This is one of the most enjoyable compilations i have ever reviewed.
Stephen Singleton… One of the best bands ever ! Incredible songwriters and musicians . Also brilliant in concert . I’ll be ordering this monster
Alan Esdaile… Some really great tracks and always excellent live but never seemed to be given the credit they deserve.