For 1993 UK Columbia/CBS/Sony "Rewind" CD reissue:
The British blues scene has, over the years, offered up but a handful of female performers who have gone on to attain any kind of international status. Of that number the names Elkie Brooks, Maggie Bell, Jo-Ann Kelly, Dana Gillepsie and Christine Perfect spring to mind.
Christine's initiation into the world of the 12 bar was back in 1964 when she was playing keyboards with Sounds Of Blue. The band was led by vocalist David Yeats and comprised Stan Webb, Andy Sylvester, Rob Elcock and saxman Chris Wood (later of Traffic). As Bob Brunning notes in his excellent book 'Blues -The British Connection' (Blandford Press) this band only stayed together for about a year. When Stan decided to take Andy and drummer Alan Morley to Hamburg, Christine quit and moved south to London. She tried her hand at window-dressing with the department store Dickens & Jones but rejoined The Chicken Shack sometime late in 1967.
I was very impressed with this band. I particularly liked Stan's frantic guitar style which reminded me so much of Buddy Guy and Freddie King. He was also an exciting vocalist although prone to singing in keys a bit too high for him. But I also was taken with Christine's keyboard work. She had an excellent feel for the blues, knowing when to play fills and when to groove. Andy was a really solid bass player. The only weak link as far as I was concerned was Alan. That problem was solved temporarly with the addition of American Alvin Sykes and then permanently when Londoner Dave Bidwell joined. Now the band had all the right ingredients. Their first two albums did remarkably well but it was not until the single release "I'd Rather Go Blind" that their real potential as a unit was truly realised.
Originally recorded by Etta James for the Chess brothers in Chicago, "I'd Rather Go Blind" - a slow blues ballad - reached the No. 14 spot in May 1969. It was Blue Horizon's second biggest selling single following on from Fleetwood Mac's Golden No. 1 smash, "Albatross". It was round about that time that Christine and John McVie got married. They kept it very quiet and indeed I only found out by accident. I think I read it in a music magazine - I felt a bit stupid really, not knowing but I guess I can understand why they wanted to keep "mum". Both bands - Shack and Mac - were constantly touring and the pressure of hardly ever being together finally led Christine to quit Chicken Shack.
Just to further confuse the issue Melody Maker voted Christine the No. 1 British Female Singer two years running - '68 and '69. We were all stunned but naturally enough elated. It was essential from a Record Company's point of view to keep the interest alive and I persuaded Christine that it would make sense to record her own solo album. Eleven titles were recorded during August and December of '69 and featured a group of comparatively unknown musicians with guest spots from Andy Sylvester, Danny Kirwan and John McVie. The band featured Chris Harding (drums), Martin Dunsford (bass) and two guitarists with quite different styles. Anthony "Top" Topham had been the original guitarist with The Yardbirds prior to Eric Clapton joining. Top had become very good friends with Peter Green, who in turn introduced Duster Bennett to me. Duster and Top worked together sometimes and both had admired Christine's piano work with Chicken Shack. He was an obvious choice for Christine's band and added a strong fluent edge to the over all sound. Rick Hayward was from Harrogate in Yorkshire. I had first met him some years earlier when he was leading a band from Bradford known as The Accent. I cut one single with this band but nobody bought. Their recording career lasted but a month or two. Rick was an excellent rhythm player though and had a tasteful touch and a different lead style from Top. I worked with Rick on many occasions following the association with Christine. We cut one solo album which was released on Blue Horizon following our move to Polydor distribution. There was a second which never saw the light of day. Rick also became a member of Jellybread following Pete Wingfield's departure from that band and he can also be found on albums by Lightnin' Slim and yours truly.
We wanted to try to keep a bluesy feel to the album but give it a little commercial edge so as to introduce Christine to a wider audience without alienating her considerable number of blues fans. Christine wrote five of the selections; Danny came up with "When You Say" (also released as a single) and the remainder were sifted by Christine, Top and myself from other sources. My own choices were Chuck Jackson's "And That's Saying A Lot"; "Crazy 'Bout You Baby" - which I had by Ike & Tina Turner - and the magical "I'm Too Far Gone (To Turn Around)" written by Clyde Otis and Ben Kendricks (sic) and originally recorded by Bobby Bland. We released this as the follow-up single to "When You Say" which had proven to be a complete "turkey". It's easy to look back after the event and see where you went wrong but I have to go on record here and say that I never wanted this track as a single. For me it had little to do with the Christine that I knew and the Christine that made "I'd Rather Go Blind" the hit it was. I think that Deadric Malone's minor blues "I'm On My Way" would have been a much better choice. But there you go - I lost the fight on this particular occasion. I got my way when "I'm Too Far Gone" was finally released as a single but by then it was too late. Everyone had forgotten about those Melody Maker polls and someone else was now flavour of the month.
Christine had enough and "retired" from the music business. On a person to person basis I have not one bad word to say about Chris. She was always easy to get along with and always professional in her attitude. Our times together working in the studio were most enjoyable and I think, musically rewarding. I was certain in my own mind that her "retirement" would not last for long and indeed, she was to reappear at The Warehouse, New Orleans in September 1970 with Fleetwood Mac. The rest - as they say - is history.
(P) (C) 1970 Original sound recording made by & the copyright is owned by Sony Music Entertainment (UK) Ltd.
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