Audio Remasterer: Simon Murphy .
Liner Note Author: Andy Davis .
Some successful bands have an instantly recognizable musical personality, and on the other end of the scale there are bands like Vanity Fare, whose body of work suggests a handful of talented musicians who ended up drifting along with whatever was the musical trend of the moment. After releasing a lone single in 1966 as the Sages, Vanity Fare emerged with their new handle in 1968 and scored an immediate hit with their first record, "I Live for the Sun," while their next two hits also fared well in America -- "Early in the Morning" rose to number 12 on the singles charts in December 1969, and in May 1970, "Hitchin' a Ride" went to number five. Though Vanity Fare never scored that sort of a hit again, they toured successfully for years afterwards, and were the sort of entertainers who were happy to give audiences what they wanted, which was often the sounds of the day rather than what the band had been doing last year. I Live for the Sun: Complete Recordings 1966-76, which collects 47 numbers the band recorded over the space of ten years (including the Sages single and two solo sides from lead singer Trevor Brice), certainly bears this out. The first Vanity Fare sides were sunny harmony numbers not unlike the Beach Boys or the Four Seasons; for a few years they were specializing in covers of American hits like "Younger Girl" and "Hey Baby"; next they were doling out very British-sounding studio-slick pop like "Early in the Morning" and "Hitchin' a Ride"; and at decade's end they were delving in bluesier and more progressive-leaning pieces like "Megowd (Something Tells Me)." By the end of their run in the mid-'70s, Vanity Fare were cutting near-novelty tunes like "Rock and Roll Is Back," environmental anthems like "Fast Running Out of World," and semi-glam numbers such as "Take It, Shake It, Break My Heart," and though the band's professionalism and commitment as showmen are evident on every track, Vanity Fare often seem to be the willing victims of their producers and managers on this collection, hardly staying in one spot long enough to ever seem like themselves. On one hand, this makes them a valuable object lesson in the ways of the record business in the '60s and '70s; on the other, the consistent strength of Trevor Brice's vocals, the guitar work of Tony Goulden, and the group's harmonies make it clear that whatever they were doing, Vanity Fare were determined to do it right. I Live for the Sun: Complete Recordings 1966-76 tells an odd but interesting story of the world of British pop, and if you're fascinated by the star-making machinery of the era (or just like well-crafted vintage U.K. pop singles), there's a lot here you'll enjoy. ~ Mark Deming