March 25, 2008
Caroline Distribution
Pop/Rock, British Invasion, Merseybeat

Album Review

Gerry & the Pacemakers are fated to eternal comparisons to the Beatles, their onetime Merseybeat rivals who rapidly eclipsed the quartet in popularity and accomplishment, leaving them as something of a pop culture punchline. In the wake of the Beatles, it was hard to look back at Gerry Marsden and his irrepressibly cheerful music and think it was in the same league as the Fab Four, or any of the British Invasion groups that followed. That may be true, but Gerry & the Pacemakers shouldn't be judged against such R&B-schooled rockers as the Rolling Stones, the Animals, and the Kinks but rather against the stiff, starched rock & roll of pre-Beatles Britain. Compared to this prim, proper pop, the skiffle beats and bouncy melodies of Gerry & the Pacemakers seem fresh, almost serving as a bridge between formative English rock and the bright blast of the Beatles -- who were contemporaries of Gerry & the Pacemakers, so this doesn't quite parse exactly, but seen this way the band doesn't seem like a joke, so it's easier to enjoy what the group had to offer.
Even armed with this perspective, sitting through the four-disc, 123-track set You'll Never Walk Alone: The EMI Years 1963-1966 can be a bit of a long slog, and not just because this contains a full disc of stereo mixes in addition to some songs showing up sans strings or in other variations. Discounting these variations, You'll Never Walk Alone still serves up far too much too Gerry & the Pacemakers for anybody but the dedicated, but that doesn't mean this isn't instructive. First, this does confirm that they were a good singles band with the best of their hits -- the quite lovely "Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying" and "Ferry Cross the Mersey," the infectious "It's Gonna Be All Right," and depending on mood, maybe "How Do You Do It" -- holding up quite well. Outside of the singles, there aren't too many hidden treasures. Every once in a while there's a surprise like Marsden's delightful Beatlesque rocker "Think About Love" or a chirpy cover of the early Lennon-McCartney trifle "Hello Little Girl," and the group shows some aptitude on covers of Jerry Lee Lewis and Hank Williams, but for the most part this is pleasantly cheerful Merseybeat and not much more.
The exception is the live Gerry in California EP; culled from a concert at Oakland in October 1964, the complete show of which is released here for the first time, this live performance shows the band to be more energetic on-stage than on record, turning in a fun performance showcasing a band that's eager to please. That eagerness translated into politeness in the studio, where they were only too happy to follow the lead of their producers and create polite, well-scrubbed pop whether they were happily singing Merseybeat or singing middlebrow pop like "Strangers in the Night" just when their peers were branching out. Gerry dipped his toe into folk-rock with a not-bad version of Paul Simon's "The Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine," but that was an anomaly -- by the end of his run at EMI, soft pop like "Guantanamera" was more his speed, which may explain why Gerry & the Pacemakers faded from the view just when their peers got psychedelic. You'll Never Walk Alone proves that the band just wasn't made for those times. Nevertheless, there's an enduring innocence to their music that does make this a pleasant nostalgia trip (or piece of pop archeology, depending on your point of view), at least in small doses.
Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

Track Listing

  1. How Do You Do It?
  2. Away from You
  3. It's Happened to Me
  4. I Like It
  5. Pretend
  6. Jambalaya
  7. Summertime
  8. The Wrong Yo Yo
  9. I'll Be There [First Version][#]
  10. Slow Down
  11. Here's Hoping
  12. Where Have You Been All My Life?
  13. Maybellene
  14. You'll Never Walk Alone
  15. Don't Ever Stray [#]
  16. Hello Little Girl
  17. Don't You Ever
  18. It's All Right
  19. You Can't Fool Me
  20. A Shot of Rhythm and Blues
  21. You're the Reason
  22. Chills
  23. I'm the One
  24. You've Got What I Like
  25. Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying
  26. Show Me That You Care
  27. She's the Only Girl for Me
  28. Why Oh Why
  29. Think About Love
  30. I'll Be There [2ND Version -- No Strings]
  31. Give Me All Your Love [Version]
  32. Come Back to Me [Version]
  33. Ferry Cross the Mersey
  34. It's Gonna Be All Right
  35. I'll Wait for You
  36. Fall in Love
  37. Baby You're So Good to Me
  38. This Thing Called Love
  39. My Love Forever [#]
  40. It's Just Because
  41. Rip It Up
  42. Whole Lot of Shakin' Goin' On
  43. When Oh When
  44. What'd I Say
  45. I'll Be There [Second (Single) Version]
  46. My Babe
  47. Skinny Minnie
  48. It'll Be Me
  49. Reelin' and Rockin'
  50. You Win Again
  51. I Count the Tears
  52. You You You
  53. Now I'm Alone
  54. Dizzy Miss Lizzy [Live]
  55. My Babe [Live]
  56. Away from You [Live]
  57. What'd I Say [Live]
  58. Give Me All Your Love [With Strings]
  59. Come Back to Me [With Strings][#]
  60. Dreams
  61. Hallelujah I Love Her So
  62. Tomorrow [#]
  63. I'll Make It All Up to You [#]
  64. Walk Hand in Hand
  65. Today I'm in Love [#]
  66. La La
  67. Without You
  68. Girl on a Swing
  69. The Way You Look Tonight
  70. Fool to Myself
  71. The Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine
  72. On a Wonderful Day Like Today
  73. Tonight
  74. Strangers in the Night
  75. Who Can I Turn To
  76. See You in September
  77. Pretty Flamingo
  78. The End of the Rainbow
  79. Guantanamera
  80. Looking for My Life
  81. Anyone at All [Live][#]
  82. Introduction [Live][#]
  83. Dizzy Miss Lizzy [Live][#]
  84. I Like It [Live][#]
  85. My Babe [Live][#]
  86. Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying [Live][#]
  87. Slow Down [Live][#]
  88. I'm the One [Live][#]
  89. Away from You [Live][#]
  90. A Shot of Rhythm and Blues [Live][#]
  91. How Do You Do It [Live][#]
  92. What'd I Say [Live][#]
  93. Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying
  94. Ferry Cross the Mersey
  95. It's Gonna Be All Right
  96. This Thing Called Love
  97. Reelin' and Rockin'
  98. Whole Lot of Shakin' Goin' On
  99. Rip It Up
  100. You Win Again
  101. I'll Be There [2ND (Single) Version]
  102. You You You
  103. Give Me All Your Love [New Mix][Version]
  104. Dreams
  105. Hallelujah I Love Her So
  106. I'll Make It Up All Up to You [#]
  107. Walk Hand in Hand
  108. Today I'm in Love [#]
  109. La La
  110. Without You
  111. Girl on a Swing
  112. The Way You Look Tonight
  113. A Fool to Myself
  114. The Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine
  115. On a Wonderful Day Like Today
  116. Tonight
  117. Strangers in the Night
  118. Who Can I Turn To
  119. See You in September
  120. Pretty Flamingo
  121. The End of the Rainbow
  122. Guantanamera
  123. Looking for My Life