A review of the 25th anniversary reissue of 'Cricket Star' by 'Robert Calvert and the First XI'.
The blurb says "Produced by Robert Calvert and Adrian Wagner, this limited edition CD single is re-mastered
and digitally enhanced from the very rare original 7" flexidisc released in 1979 on Wake Up Records by it's
founder and co-producer/writer Adrian Wagner for MediaQuest." I bought one and now you're going to
hear about it!
The CD is very handsome looking with the flexidisc design translating well to being stamped on a compact
disk. (Actually, it's printed onto a sticker, which was threatening to detach itself from my copy). It comes
in a clear jewel case, full size and not one of those wretched slimline cases or a cardboard sleeve like many
CD singles. First surprise is the authentic sounding reggae vibes; the track opens with a clatter of suitably
Caribbean sounding drums, and a vamped guitar accented in the right places (second and fourth beats of
each bar) There are some pleasant female backing vocals and tinkling keyboards but no trace of the deep,
punishing bass sound you'd expect from real reggae. When I say authentic sounding reggae vibes, I don't of
course mean that this is genuine heavy dub, but neither is it the kind of grave robbing that UB40 have
resorted to late in their career - and it's a cut above condescending exercises like 10CC's â€œDreadlock
Holiday". This is a fairly poppy brand of reggae, of its' time (it was recorded in the late 70's) and the trebly
production subliminally suggests you're hearing it through the speaker of a transistor radio. Bob's voice is
pitched higher than normal and he makes more of an effort to actually sing, i.e. carry a tune than his usual
sprechtesgang style of vocalizing as used in Hawkwind. .
A bit of sampled cricket commentary and desultory county ground applause is thrown in about halfway
through. I'd kind of like to hear the sonorous tones of John Arlott drawling "...and there's Mrs. Johnson.
She's brought a cake for the player's tea...it's a lovely cake..." to emphasise how crap cricket is (not really,
but to each his own). But this single is about another sort of cricket, the one that in the British imagination
ties in with sun-drenched Caribbean beaches, pina coladas and long hot summers. Definitely one for the
'feel-good' department, and it's not too great a stretch of the imagination to say that Bob could have had a
novelty hit with this, if it had maybe been produced on a higher budget. Somewhere there's a quotation
from Steve Took, an old sparring-partner of Bob's, to say that he thought doing a cricket single was a very
commercial idea. And taking a look at the cover of the Hawklords album, I believe Bob was wearing
batsman's gloves for that shot, so perhaps there was something about the image of sweating at the crease
that appealed to him!
As well as co-producing, and now marketing, this record, Adrian Wagner has also done a couple of fine oil
paintings of Bob from the photo sessions for this single - see above. The one on the right is for sale on
Ebay but (be warned) is not going for a song. What it does do is portray another realisation of Captain
Calvert, all in whites, batsman's gloves suggesting fists knuckled in defiance, willow bat held aloft with a
commanding air, as if admiring the boundary he's just struck... "Robert Calvert and the 1st XI" indeed.
However, the public school image that this conjures up, and the resolutely Middle England air that seemed to
cling to Bob (let's leave South Africa out of this) are completely at odds with the Caribbean vibe of this
song. Perhaps a double-A side of this one with something altogether more English would have done the
business. (Steve Took's "Howzat"?)
Anyway, it's nice to see this become available on CD after being for many years an expensive collectorâ€™s
item, probably on account of the low circulation of the original flexidisc. Adrian Wagner had more to say
about this and a number of other topics of interest in connection with the original single, in the
accompanying blurb. Which I was going to reproduce, but you can read it on Adrian's own site
As it says on that page, you can buy a copy of Cricket Star by going to Ebay and searching for, er, "Cricket
Star". Doing so will turn up the oil painting too. Recommended!