Album review: CLASSIC ARCHIVES – Hurricane Smith

CLASSIC ARCHIVES – Hurricane Smith

Angel Air [Release date 12.11.20]

We could ask you to name the RAF Glider pilot who later had a number one hit single on the US Billboard Top Forty. But you know the answer, of course you do.

Norman ‘Hurricane’ Smith’s intitial career in music recording largely flew under the radar (see wot I did there?). He was the engineer on the first Beatles’ albums, up to “Rubber Soul” (1965), only relinquishing that role when he stepped up into producing. From one great band to another… he produced Pink Floyd’s first four, groundbreaking albums. On their own admission, they learned to use the recording studio “to realise their own artistic vision” under Smith’s instruction.

And so, as a mega successful studio engineer and producer, what do you do next? Become a mega successful recording artist in your own right, of course. But first, you write a song for John Lennon. You play it to Mickie Most for an opinion, and he says ‘love it, record it yourself’. He did. ‘Don’t Let It Die’ reached the No2 spot on the UK charts in 1971, and was probably one of the first pop hits to take ecological awareness as its lyrical theme. (Winning him an Ivor Novello award).

Smith’s gravelly, expressive vocals and the sheer pop optimism of his second single, ‘Babe, What Would You Say’ propelled it up the US and the UK charts, peaking at No1 and No3 respectively.

He continued recording throught the seventies and eighties. This compilation captures another half dozen or more Smith songs with seriously sinuously melodies that didn’t quite make it, plus a few well selected covers. Inevitably, music fashions change, and sales fell away. Consequently, he focused on touring England’s cabaret circuit, where he was hugely popular.

A year before his death, in 2008, aged 84, Smith published his memoirs, “John Lennon called me Normal” (his studio nickname). Around the same time, his son Nicholas recorded a taped “interview” with his father, setting the record straight on many of the questions and memories of Norman ‘Hurricane’ Smith and his numerous fans.

That fascinating interview, of this talented, but modest man takes up the last 5 of the 20 tracks on this “Classic Archive” release… which in itself is a small but worth celebrating piece of 20th and 21st century pop history.  ****

Review by Brian McGowan

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