While researching the Child discography a couple of years ago I made the personally unnerving discovery that their (apparently misleadingly entitled) "The First Album" was in fact their second.
Disturbing as that was, it wasn't the first time I had come across such blatant....pardon my French...bullshit. And even more astoundingly, in both cases the reputable German Hansa Records label was at fault. You see, ex-Bay City Roller Les McKeown released his "It's a Game - The First Album" through that very company in 1989 - a good decade after the Child debacle - in spite of the fact that it was his SEVENTH solo album (counting a compilation and a live album, albeit issued only in Japan). And to add insult to injury it was the second album of his to bear the title "It's a Game", the first one being the BCR's 1977 magnum opus. Hmmm...
But let's get back to that "lost" very first, eponymous Child album. Issued only in Germany in 1977 by a little something called Honeybee Records, but manufactured and distributed by the small European giant Bellaphon. And having previously only heard the other two Child albums, the aforementioned "The First Album" (1978), as well as "Total Recall" (1979), it's nothing short of a revelation!
At the time Child consisted of Graham Bilbrough (Vocals); Dave Cooper (Guitar) and twins Keith (Bass) and Tim (Drums) Atack.
Having had their first couple of singles in the U.K. issued on the indie label BUK Records in 1976, and a third one on Pentagon Records in '77, chart success at home eluded Child. Which seems to have brought them in search of something bigger and better abroad. And seemingly very rightly so, since "Child" surpasses its successors on all artistic fronts, thank-you-very-much! It's grittier, better produced, better played and has better songs on it. From all that I can only assume guitar player Dave Cooper's departure was something of a loss to the band. Afterwards, bass player Keith Atack took over on guitar while ex-Scottie Mike McKenzie was brought in on bass. With that, in my opinion, the band lost their heart and soul while gaining what little commercial success eventually came their way with, primarily, covers "It's Only Make Believe" (UK #10, 1978) and "Only You (And You Alone)" (U.K. #33, 1979).
Opening with Child's most exciting and probably best track ever, the inexplicably German-only single "Public Enemy Number One", the very first album is up for a good start. The pulsating, heavy drums are decorated with a clean and powerful guitar riff worthy of Martin & Coulter circa "The Bump". A clean and dynamic production, not to mention what is probably Graham Bilbrough's best vocal performance on record. Phew! A lost '70s teenpop classic indeed. Mabel's "Hey! I Love You" also springs to mind.
A nice enough cover of The Association's "Never My Love" is another highlight of Side 1, while the Beatles B-side "I'm Down" is done no favours here.
Side 2 opens with third single "What's a Nice Girl Like You". Another nice and crisp production with subtle keyboard flourishes. Now, why was this never a hit?
And yet another decent cover follows, this time Betty ("It's in His Kiss") Everett's "You're No Good" (also recorded by Linda Ronstadt, a year or two earlier than Child's version).
The self-penned "Love and Let Go" sports a nice guitar riff although it lacks something resembling a strong chorus, while the infectious "Hurdy Gurdy" is reminiscent of a late '60s fare from the Kasenetz-Katz school of bubblegum music (A couple of years later the old KK stalwart "Yummy, Yummy, Yummy" became one of Child's last single releases). And that's a compliment.
The album closes with a credible cover of Alex Harvey's "River of Love", which was also Child's debut single on BUK in June 1976.
Well, in conclusion, and after becoming belatedly acquainted with the truly first Child album, the other two subsequent LP's are rendered somewhat unessential soft, sell-out samples of what should-never-have-been. And although not entirely bad, the first, real Child album is just so much better.... IMHO, as always.
See also: CHILD.