Noel Harrison (1966)

CD, LP and digital download

 
Often called a virtual tribute to Bob Dylan, Noel Harrison's debut studio album actually only contains four tracks written by Dylan.
 
It does however contains the fabulous Tomorrow is My Turn, the single A Young Girl and a funky version of To Ramona, as well as a number of other great tracks, including Noel's versions of God Bless the Child and Much as I Love You.

In a 1966 interview to promote the record, Noel said: "I don't suppose I've ever been what you could term 'big' in records, but the current trends in pop music should change that. The way music and lyrics are moving right now suits me."
 
The re-mastered CD version of the original Decca album is put together well, but it would have been nice to see the extra tracks from the World of Noel Harrison compilation and some of the rare B-sides from the time included as a bonus.



 


 
 
Track List:

It's All Over Now Baby Blue

God Bless The Child

She's A Woman

Love Minus Zero

Nothing But a Fool

Mr Tambourine Man

A Young Girl

To Ramona

Much as I Love You

Like Strangers

All Blues

Tomorrow is My Turn
 


Watch:

A live performance of Noel singing the single A Young Girl.




Advert

A 1965 advert promoting the single A Young Girl.




Competition

In a somewhat odd promotion for the 1966 release of the album, London Records offered radio listeners the chance to win a fridge by saying how they would tempt Noel out of the fridge on the album's cover. Runner-up prizes included subscriptions to Batman comics.

The winner of the competition was Los Angeles DJ Gary Owens, pictured here receiving his prize from Noel.




 
Sleeve Notes: (2008 re-release)

By Duglas T Stewart

I think Noel Harrison is a great singer.

Back In the days when it seemed as though the whole wide world was playing the brand new quiz board game sensation Trivial Pursuit, I was playing along with some future pop star friends.
Unnamed future pop star lands on Pink and the category is entertainment.

Future pop star number two (now known as Teenage Fanclub’s Norman Blake “the nicest man in Scottish pop“) draws the card and asks the question “Name actor Rex Harrison’s pop singer son”. I butt in with “I know it, I know it” but it’s not my turn.
It’s the turn of he who will remain unnamed future pop star number one.

He looks pleased with himself and answers confidently “George”. Beatle George? are you joking’. “I don’t remember Professor Higgins having a Scouse accent.” (Ironically, Rex did actually hail from Liverpool).
We shouldn’t have mocked him so, maybe we’re partly to blame for how things turned out, but that’s another story.

The answer was obviously Noel. Noel Harrison, the guy who sung the song in The Thomas Crown Affair as Faye Dunaway watches Steve McQueen do aerial acrobatics in his glider; Noel Harrison, the sandy haired likable English sidekick of Stefanie Powers’ Girl From UNCLE. (I never actually saw the show but I had a Girl From UNCLE, annual. The pre-Hart to Hart Stefanie looked hot and I used the annual often for reference purposes); Noel Harrison, son of Rex Harrison... it was flaming obvious.

The son of Rex Harrison singing songs by the likes of Bob Dylan and Charles Aznavour? You might be thinking “this might be good for a laugh”, remembering fondly earlier Rev-Ola releases featuring WillIam Shatter’s over earnest to screaming interpretation of “Mr Tambourine Man” or Sebastian Cabot’s theatrical readings of popular Dylan ballads.

A lot of people like to mock Harrison senior’s “singing” in My Fair Lady but I don’t. Whether it’s singing, talking or somewhere else in between no one else has ever come close, with the possible exception of Miss Peggy Lee, to capturing every nuance, raw emotion and ounce of tenderness in Lerner and Lowe’s magnificent song and I bet the song’s authors agreed with that judgement.

And though Noel was more of what most people would call a singer, he could be considered by some to also be a “non-singer”.
I used to have a Kenny Everett compilation of what purported to be The Worst Records Ever Made and it featured Noel having a go at Procul Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale”. Okay, I understand when it came out “A Whiter Shade of Pale” was seen as something new and a bit of a masterpiece… but I never liked It, not until I heard it delivered by Noel’s posh, light and likable tones. He removed all the pomposity of the song and made it much more “groovy”.


And a bit like his old man doing Lerner & Loewe, no one ever came close to matching Noel’s version of Michel Legrand’s “Windmills of Your Mind”... not Jose Feliciano, who got to sing It at the Oscars; certainly not Sting in the bad Thomas Crown Affair remake; not Hannah Gordon on the Morecambe & Wise show and not even Dusty Springfield, who added breaks to make the tough lyric and melody easier to handle.


This album, Noel’s first; years before “Windmills”, is Noel as a balladeer and wannabe folk singer. Of the Dylan songs, “Love Minus Zero” is the best and the folk waltz “To Ramona” is given a bawdy feel that sounds part Tijuana Brass and part Kurt Weill. Noels take of “Mr Tambourine Man” cant match the classic pop reinvention of The Byrds hit version but isn’t without charm, even if Illustrative use of a gay and jingly tambourine is a bit corny.

Noel shines brighter on the trio of Aznavour songs. He totally nails the mix of sorrow and elegance of the songs and they are up there with the greatest English language versions of Aznavour songs, up there with Blossom Dearie and Aznavour’s own.

Noel’s effortless ease makes these songs live, especially “A Young Girl”. His voice and delivery on these tracks reminds me of Scotland’s champion Francophile the mighty Momus and in turn that leads me to think Noel could have been a brilliant Interpreter of Jacques Brel or Serge Gainsbourg and explains why he did such a great job singing Legrand.

“A Young Girl” Is one of the albums highlights and the other is “Nothing But A Fool”, Oscar Brown Jr’s lyric to a popular Brazilian song. Again, Noel’s soft elegance and an almost thrown away delivery matches the poignancy and brilliance of this bittersweet song.

There are a few lows among the highs and the quite charmings on this album. Noel’s take of Lennon and McCartney’s “She’s A Woman” with an Austin Powers-esque intro fails to convince, shame its so early in the running order. It sounds like a “we’ve got to get a Beatles song on it” decision by the record label.
“Much As I Love You” Just feels like it’s In an awkward key for Noel, too slow and the Jazzy piano grates.
Another Oscar Brown Jr. lyric to the Miles Davis tune “All Blues” is one of those jazz standards, like Paul Desmond’s “Take Five’, that Just doesn’t suit having a lyric.
Finally one that will split the vote, Noel’s delivery of “God Bless the Child” couldn’t be any further removed from Billie Holiday. Noel really sounds a whiter shade of pale or even a paler shade of white on this cut and although I know it should be wrong, somehow I like It.


God bless Noel Harrison,

Duglas T Stewart
March 2008.



Advert


A March 1966 advert for both the Noel Harrison album and the single Baby Blue.