I was really surprised but happy to see that Universal released a compilation of the best of the long gone,but not forgotten,talent of Keith Hampshire.
I have just finished listening to this CD and what is to follow,like all my reviews,is strictly from what I remember and my own feelings.The liner notes which are included,were NOT referenced.
The first time I saw Mr Hampshire was on the Wayne and Shuster Show,as I was a HUGE fan of those Canadian comic icons.Keith became one of the Wayne and Shuster stable of supporting players and I admired his work on that show very much.What a shock in the early 1970s then when I first heard on the radio,then promptly picked up,a gold labelled,black lettered A&M 45 single "Daytime,Night Time".My suspicions were soon confirmed that that funny man on the TV with a head that seemed just a little bigger than it should,and with a soft spoken manner,was the self same singer on this record.After all these years it is still hard to reconcile Mr Hampshire's looks/image with that hard driving and rugged voice emanating from those record grooves.
After "Daytime" came "The First Cut is the Deepest".There has never been anyone who could sing this song like Mr.Hampshire.Sheryl Crows' recent version literally eviscerates the song and cannot come close to the grittiness and soul this version has.It is a similar situation with the song "Hooked on a Feeling".There were two charted versions of it,one by Blue Swede and the other by BJ Thomas.Thomas's version literally sissified it,while Blue Swede drives the song home the right way and exactly as it should.
After this hit came "Big Time Operator",another hard driving,straight ahead rock number.After having bought this last tune,his songs just seem to evapourate from the airwaves and I heard very little from or about Mr. Hampshire after that.The last thing I recall is seeing him periodically emceeing a Toronto based rock show,the title of which eludes me.Somewhere along the line I also picked up on the info that Mr Hampshire had been born in England,like another famous English-Canadian singer of the day David Clayton Thomas of Blood,Sweat and Tears fame.I learned he had worked briefly in England on a pirate radio station and that is all I know.
I have neither seen nor heard anything of Mr.Hampshire since those days more than 30 years ago,but his music has always stayed with me.Listening to these tracks,well mastered in this 12-cut disc,brings back alot of memories for me.I was pleasantly surprised to hear a version of Linda Ronstadts' hit "You're No Good" here.It is the first time I have heard it,but let me tell you,Mr.Hampshires' version(again)tops hers by a country mile.THAT song should have made it to the top,not Ronstadt's.Like most of the rest of the music you will hear here on this CD,it is good,hard and funky rock with a propelling and swinging group of backing studio musicians.Really good stuff,no doubt about it.
Because of the quality of the content it is so frustrating to know such a talent seemed to just wither on the vine,so to speak.And I wish I knew the hows and whys of it all.
While Mr.Hampshire himself may have "faded away" his music is still alive and well,thanks to this nice compilation of some of his best works.I recommend this highly to all as a dedication to an under appreciated and highly talented man and to Canadian talent in general,which can stand tall with the best of them.
Good night Mr.Hampshire....wherever you are!.