Gypsy Bells - Columbia Recordings 1967 Lou Christie


Ace Records
Catalogue Id:
CDTOP 1601

At long last, a CD full of the falsetto pop king’s wonderful Columbia recordings – including all the singles and 15 previously unreleased masters.

Lou Christie’s four-octave range is one of the most exciting and readily identifiable sounds of 1960s pop. He scored international successes with ‘The Gypsy Cried’, ‘Two Faces Have I’ (both 1963), ‘Lightnin’ Strikes’, ‘Rhapsody In The Rain’ (both 1966) and ‘I’m Gonna Make You Mine’ (1969), before cutting one of his most enduring songs, ‘Beyond The Blue Horizon’, in 1973. He would go on to release duets with Pia Zadora and Lesley Gore, record the beloved eco-concept album “Paint America Love”, and even make one of the earliest rap records with 1981’s ‘Guardian Angels’.

“Gypsy Bells” uncovers a rather confusing and largely buried chunk of the Christie catalogue. His co-manager Stan Polley engineered a switch from MGM to Columbia at the peak of his fame, less than a year after ‘Lightnin’ Strikes’ had been a US #1, and such a monster hit that it had pushed two cash-ins from Christie’s previous labels – Roulette/Co & Ce (‘Outside The Gates Of Heaven’) and Colpix (‘Big Time’) – into Billboard’s Hot 100 in its wake. No question, Lou Christie was hot at the start of 1967. It felt like Columbia couldn’t really fail. They wisely kept on producer/arranger Charlie Calello – who, in 1967, was also working with the 4 Seasons, the Cyrkle and Laura Nyro – as he’d given ‘Lightnin’ Strikes’ its irresistible, dynamic energy. The label sat back and waited for more sparks to fly.

The titles of Christie’s Columbia singles alone spelled out a confidence in his unique vision: ‘Back To The Days Of The Romans’, ‘Self Expression (The Kids On The Street Will Never Give In)’, ‘Shake Hands And Walk Away Cryin’’, ‘Don’t Stop Me (Jump Off The Edge Of Love)’. Commercially, though, the results of his time at Columbia would be a crushing disappointment: ‘Shake Hands And Walk Away Cryin’’ had all the hallmarks of a Top 10 hit but struggled to #95 on Billboard; ‘I Remember Gina’ was a huge regional hit – a #1 on several Alabama radio stations – but this couldn’t be translated into a national smash, and it didn’t even reach the Hot 100.

If either had done better, then there would have been a Lou Christie album released in late 1967. There were more than enough songs recorded but a paltry six were released at the time: the eerie ‘Don’t Stop Me’ was a rough blueprint for 1969’s ‘She Sold Me Magic’ (which would become a major hit in Japan); ‘Self Expression’ was a perky plea for progress and equality; while ‘Escape’ (“in a glass of champagne!”) had emerged as the flip to ‘Shake Hands’. This track saw Christie in crooner mode though, as with all his work, there were layers within layers – like Scott Walker, his lounge cuts were no straight-ahead Jack Jones recordings.

It’s the motherlode of unreleased tracks that makes this collection so exciting, with titles that have been known to Lou Christie fans for decades but never before heard, not even by the inner circle. They were locked and sealed in Columbia’s vault. Several of them are very much hits that got away: the classic Christie of ‘Yellow Lights Say’ and ‘Gypsy Bells’; the unexpectedly raw ‘Paper And Paste’; and – especially – the hook-laden, floor-friendly ‘Holding On For Dear Love’. The Lou Christie/Twyla Herbert-penned ‘Blue Champagne’ out-louches even ‘Escape’, while his takes on Jobim’s ‘Meditation’, Bacharach & David’s ‘How Many Days Of Sadness’ and the Carl Fischer/Bill Carey standard ‘You’ve Changed’ stretched his voice in ways we hadn’t heard before.

The range of material on “Gypsy Bells” shows how varied his influences were. From an upfront shout-out to Berry Gordy and “the elegant Supremes” to the lush complexities of Bacharach and the timeless ring of gypsy bells, he was clearly a huge pop fan. Like Sinatra, Elvis, the Beatles and Bruce Springsteen, Lou Christie has never been shy of talking about his influences; similarly, he has taken these varied ingredients to create something rich and delicious and quite unique. If this is your first encounter with the world of Lou Christie, you’re in for a treat, and you couldn’t have picked a better place to start.



Track listing


Side 1

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