Ted Carfrae, My Life In Music: The Planning & Recording of Cilla Black’s Beginnings Revisited Album Part 1

TCM Group’s Ted Carfrae writes…..’I have been very fortunate to work with many great musicians over the years. Cilla was most definitely a highlight. A true pro.’

When I was asked by Steve Davis and Robert Willis to make this album there was a mixture of feelings. I knew Cilla Black was a great singer, a British institution, but I also knew that she hadn’t recorded an album for many years, so my first thought was…’Can she still deliver?’ Well, I need not have worried because during the making of this album, I knew I was in the presence of a brilliant artist.

Ted Carfrae & Cilla Black.

Choosing the material was a wonderful time of nostalgia and discovery, as I would meet Cilla at her London flat and we would listen to hundreds of CD’s. Motown, Northern Soul, The Eagles, absolutely nothing was out of bounds, and Cilla would sing along with virtually every song at full power. Any worries I might have had previously about the quality of her voice, very quickly turned to delight as she belted out song after song.

What was really interesting I remember is that she made every song her own, she added her little touches here and there that made it unmistakably Cilla Black, so even then at that early stage she was working out what she was going to do, the consummate professional  and  it was very impressive indeed.

It became apparent very early on that Cilla did not want to make another covers album so this time we decided to make it relevant to her life. We talked for hours and played songs and very quickly there were certain songs that we both decided we had to record.

Paul, John & Cilla.

We talked a lot about her early club work and the material she chose to sing and clearly she was and is clearly still a Rock n Roll singer at heart. She was excited about making a new album that was different in many ways from anything she had recorded before and she wanted to stretch herself as an artist and the sheer passion for music was evident from the outset.

The album concept was essentially a Greatest Hits package and I was going to record just three or four new songs that had to compliment the collection. Before long we came up with two songs in particular that she felt she must record for personal reasons.

The first was John Lennon’s classic ‘Imagine’. At first when we started to seriously discuss the idea, she was a little afraid to tackle it because it is such an iconic song, but if there was anyone who had the right to record it, it was Cilla purely because of her very close connection to John. After all, it was John Lennon who championed her and persuaded Brian Epstein to go and see her live and of course the rest is history.

Ringo & Cilla 1968.

The second song was ‘Photograph’ , a massive hit for Ringo Starr back in 1973. Cilla told me how George Harrison actually wrote the song for her and for whatever reason she never got around to recording it. Once again there was a very real connection that meant we had to include it on the album.

Cilla’s friend Dale Winton found two songs that went on the album, the first song ‘Beautiful Goodbye’ was a country Number 1 record for a Nashville artist that year called Jennifer Hanson. Both Cilla and I loved it so much we had to record it.  The second song was a dance version of the classic ‘If You Could Read My Mind’ and we both really liked the way she sounded singing along with it. It was a great arrangement but I needed to work on how I was going to make it more acoustic for the album.

Two songs that I found were both quite obscure, I guess. The first was a song I have always loved called ‘Kiss You All Over’, it was a hit for Millie Jackson in 1985 but I first heard it by a band called Exile back in the seventies. The second was an album track on a solo Martha Reeves album called My Man (You’ve Changed My Tune).

Cilla Recording ‘Alfie’ At Abbey Road.

When I first heard the song I thought it was perfect for Cilla because I knew she had a three octave range. Cilla really liked the challenge of singing it and because it was so different, she agreed to give it a go. As the song selection process went on, it became apparent that we were going to record more than four or five songs, in fact we ended up with eleven which was fantastic. The final song we found was a new Burt Bacharach song called ‘Beginnings’ and of course Burt’s connection with Cilla goes back to 1968 when he recorded ‘Alfie’ with her.

Part 2…..continues next Friday.

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