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Music Review

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I'll Take Romance


Artist: Betty Driver
Label: Stage Door Records
RRP: £7.99

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STAGE 2330
5 055122 153405
Release Date: 26 February 2016

For the second of my reviews of new releases by the Stage Door label, I turn to another quintessential British recording - Betty Driver’s I’ll Take Romance. The 22 track album celebrates the early recording career of former Coronation Street actress Betty Driver whose 1949 recording of 'Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday (I Love You)' currently features in the Waitrose Pick Your Own Offers television advertisement in the UK at the moment.

Although most audiences associate Betty Driver with her Coronation Street character Betty Turpin, a role that she played on screen for nearly 2800 episodes from 1969 to 2011, her career began nearly 4 decades before she first set foot on the cobbles of Weatherfield.

In 1930 at the age of just 9, Betty began performing professionally in music hall variety and became one of Britain's best loved singing stars of the 1930s and 40s making countless records, hosting her own radio and television programmes and starring in three feature films. During World War II Betty toured frequently with ENSA, entertaining troops stationed both at home and abroad.

I'll Take Romance showcases highlights from Betty's 20 year recording career, from her very first 78rpm record Jubilee Baby released in 1935 when Betty was just 14 to her last commercial recording Let's Gather Round The Parlour Piano issued in 1954. Featuring 12 tracks previously unavailable on CD, the selections range from novelty comedy numbers to sublime torch songs, ably demonstrating why Betty Driver was considered one of Britain's finest vocalists of the era. As a bonus, the collection features three live tracks taken from rare radio broadcasts, the highlight of which is Betty's 1955 performance of 'The Sailor With The Navy Blue Eyes', revisiting the song she became synonymous with throughout the 1940s.

This is certainly a niche recording from Stage Door. Betty Driver was virtually unknown as a singer by the majority of the UK population, although she was probably one of the most recognisable faces on British TV for 40 years. It’s a brave move by Stage Door to release this as a physical CD (they released a Complete Betty Driver digitally back in 2013) and I’m not sure it’s one I would have taken the risk on. It’s an archival recording more than something you would want to listen to over and over. Many of the songs are very dated, and there is a distinct lack of standards that made it though to current day. I struggled to recognise many, and those that are there are not classics by any means. I can only really see this appealing to the collector, enthusiasts of music from the day, or almost ‘novelty’ collectors. Quality is as you would expect from music nearly a hundred years old - 78s don’t clean up easily, but Stage Door have done their very best as you would expect.

Not one for me I’m afraid, but by all means give it a try. It is however, a fitting tribute to Driver who passed away in 2011, and shows another side to her that most of the general population would have known nothing about.


Ian Gude

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