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Stranger On the Shore

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Album Review

Titled for the monster hit which dominated charts around the world in 1962, Stranger on the Shore is light listening at its best, a dozen slices of drifting, clarinet-led melody which simultaneously had absolutely nothing to do with English pop music as it moved toward the denouement of the Mersey boom — and encapsulates it as well. Whichever golden age of pop history one chooses to look at, the U.K. charts' capacity to throw up unexpected shockers has remained their most constant (and constantly redeeming) feature of all. Whether it's Englebert Humperdinck outselling "Strawberry Fields Forever" in 1967, or Bob the Builder beating Eminem to number one 30-some years later, the most popular pop refuses to be driven by either fad or fashion. And in the light of those successes, Bilk's domination of 1962 seems so natural it's all but mundane. This album, on the other hand, is anything but. Drawing from traditional, classical, and light orchestral sources, Bilk — expertly accompanied by the Leon Young String Chorale — is a master of the sweeping epic, and it doesn't matter whether he's tackling a standard as trite as "Deep Purple" or Brahms' Lullaby, or something as impossibly soul-stirring as "Greensleeves." Everything emerges a major statement. "Stranger on the Shore" itself, meanwhile, is so deeply embedded in the musical consciousness that it seems incredible that it's an original Bilk/Young composition, one of just two on the album. The other, "Is This the Blues?," is just as captivating, by the way. With that song and this album, Bilk didn't simply give the world a set of well-played standards; he set a standard which has still to be eclipsed.

Customer Reviews

two things

released in 1961 with "Hey Jude" on it . . . . . . plus, I don't think this is the original "Stranger on the Shore" . . . . . and of course the pompous "Mister" before his name . . . . . . . not much has changed in 40 years . . . . .

Still not the one!

There are many decent versions of Stranger on the shore by Acker Bilk but the one that hit big in the 60s has a distinct sound that triggers a flood of memories in your brain. I suppose it is a Pavlov type of thing but who cares, when you hear the original it causes those memories to unlock. Imitations do not have that effect. You would think record companies would have figured it out by now. Unfortunately this is still not the one.

Only one track worth owning

Stranger on the Shore is the only track I enjoyed. The rest are 1960s elevator music on clarinet, with minimalist orchestrations.


Born: January 28, 1929 in Pensford, Somerset, England

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Acker Bilk -- or Mr. Acker Bilk, as he was billed -- has won immortality on rock oldies radio for his surprise 1962 hit "Stranger on the Shore," an evocative ballad featuring his heavily quavering low-register clarinet over a bank of strings. To the jazz world, though, he has a longer-running track record as one of the biggest stars of Britain's trad jazz boom, playing in a distinctive early New Orleans manner. After learning his instrument in the British Army, Bilk joined Ken Colyer's trad band...
Full Bio

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