‘Hot Chocolate: The RAK Singles’ reviewed

❉ The list of hits found on this selection is impressive and there are a mighty 72 tracks across this set’s four discs.

One of Britain’s most consistently strong singles bands of the 1970s, Hot Chocolate were never averse to releasing a greatest hits compilation – six or seven at the last count – but this beautifully packaged new collection from 7Ts and Cherry Red brings together the entirety of Hot Chocolate’s singles and B sides recorded for Mickie Most’s poptastic RAK Records.

Since 1969 when they appeared as one of the first bands on the Beatles’ Apple label (with their Lennon approved reggae version of Give Peace a Chance) Hot Chocolate were one of Britain’s strongest, most consistent singles bands.  Originally named the Hot Chocolate Band, the band’s song-writing partnership of Errol Brown and Tony Wilson was originally signed by producer Mickie Most as a song-writing team, writing for groups such as Herman’s Hermits.

Starting with their catchy debut as Hot Chocolate, Love is Life, The RAK Singles kicks off with some absolute classics from the early ’70s and there’s a warm nostalgic feeling hearing these hits again: Brother Louie (a song about an interracial relationship) has a voice-over from Alexis Korner that transports me back in time about 40 years, whilst 1974’s Emma, with Errol Brown’s sullen vocal, is one of my favourite songs ever (surviving a mutilation at the hands of the Sisters of Mercy in the following decade).

It was interesting to read in Phil Hendrik’s excellent sleeve notes that You Sexy Thing was initially released as a B side (on Mickie Most’s mistaken advice) before being re-recorded as an A side with new guitar parts and becoming a UK #2 hit single on its re-release. Both versions can be found here and this collection doesn’t shy away from using the original A and B side versions rather than later edits and remixes featured on previous collections. For example, their forgotten bubblegum popper Mary-Anne was included on a rarities album in 2004 in an edited version, but this collection uses the original version and it sounds great. 

The list of hits found on this selection is impressive and there are a mighty 72 tracks across this set’s four discs. To pick out a few of the best –  there’s A Child’s Prayer, Everyone’s a Winner (which uses “synth bass” and “synth guitar”) and No Doubt About It (a song by Most’s brother, apparently about a close encounter with a UFO?). Cherie Babe is an excellent Glitterband-stye stomper whilst Changing World and Rumours share the feel of Marvin Gaye’s social issues soul, in fact Changing World is about the Watergate scandal.

Later on, Errol Brown and Tony Wilson started writing separately: Brown would write and perform the A side and Wilson would write and perform the B side. Wilson’s B side Lovely Warm Smile is a great song.

The production of these tracks, along with the genius of John Cameron’s arrangements and Harvey Hinsley’s innovative guitar technique and use of synths, and the quality and variety over the course of these four discs is excellent.

❉ Hot Chocolate: ‘The RAK Singles’ 4CD Box Set (7Ts Records QGLAMBOX181) released September 17, 2021 by Cherry Red Records, RRP £20.99. Click here to order directly from Cherry Red Records.

 Cherry Red Records have been releasing and reissuing the most innovative and independent thinking music since 1978. Follow them on Twitter or visit their site.

 James Collingwood is based in West Yorkshire and has been writing for a number of years. He currently also writes for the Bradford Review magazine for which he has conducted more than 30 interviews and has covered music, film and theatre.  His Twitter is @JamesCollingwo1


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1 Comment

  1. So pleased to see that Cherry Red has properly researched and included the various different mixes of some of these classic singles and included them on this collection. So many classic 70s single mixes have been muddled with album versions now that it’s hard to distinguish what was really on those vinyl releases (when did you last hear the actual single version of Alice Cooper’s ‘School’s Out’ for example, which didn’t end the same way as the album version?). I may be a vinyl nerd, but authenticity is good to see done right. Hot Chocolate’s singles are iconic and this collection will acknowledge that beautifully. My only wish? That this release was available on vinyl.

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