This collection of two full-length releases by British '60s pop band Gerry & The Pacemakers includes "Where Have You Bee All My Life," "Chills," and their hit "Ferry Cross The Mersey."
The quartet's two U.K. albums compiled on one CD is an attractive package, and the perfect complement to Gerry & the Pacemakers at Abbey Road, filling in the album tracks that weren't included on that collection with only about six tracks overlapping between the two CDs. As it happens, the very best tracks off of the group's first album (including "Summertime" and "Slow Down") are on the "Abbey Road" CD, and none of the other album cuts, with the exception of "Where Have You Been All My Life," are all that compelling. "You Can't Fool Me" and "Don't You Ever" are generic Merseybeat numbers with little to distinguish them from the lesser work of the Searchers from the same era; but a lot of it is also enjoyable and fascinating: The group's British beat stylings of Hank Williams' "Jambalaya," "The Wrong YoYo" (aka "The Right String Baby, But the Wrong Yo-Yo"), Chuck Berry's "Maybellene" (done with what sounds almost like an "Oh Susanna" opening) are all better than decent, Gerry Marsden and producer George Martin getting the brashness of the guitar sound on the latter just about right by British standards (and also anticipating the duet between Marsden and Berry in The T.A.M.I. Show movie). The Ferry Cross the Mersey album actually works better in some ways in this setting, made up of mostly solid Liverpool-style rockers by the band (long after the Beatles had begun evolving into a more sophisticated style), presenting Marsden and company as a hard rock outfit alongside the likes of the Fourmost and Cilla Black. Among the surprises, Gerry & the Pacemakers briefly tread onto Dion & the Belmonts territory with the early '60s doo wop style "This Thing Called Love," and even George Martin's "All Quiet on the Mersey Front" sort of works, as a faux Shadows-style instrumental, complete with Hank Marvin-style lead guitar. Both albums' contents are presented in original mono in state-of-the-art digital transfers, which brings out the raw power of the group's playing on the hardest sides and the elegance of their approach on the ballads. ~ Bruce Eder