Forever destined to be most closely associated with the Wombles and ‘Bright Eyes’, the Watership Down theme sung by Art Garfunkle, Mike Batt has an illustrious CV as a performer, arranger and composer and this 36-track, 2-disc album is an expansive career retrospective.
Not only does it include selections from his original solo material, it also includes Batt’s own recordings of hits he wrote for other artists. Along with his version of the aforementioned ‘Bright Eyes’ there’s also his own versions of ‘A Winters Tale’ (a 1983 hit for David Essex) and (I Feel Like Buddy Holly’ (a 1984 hit for Alvin Stardust) – an ideal fit for Batt’s unmistakable vocal just as much as those who originally had hits with them.
‘Summertime City’, a hit for Batt under his own name and the theme to the BBC’s Seaside Special TV series in the seventies, also gets an airing – with Batt musing: “For many years, despite its success I looked back on it with embarrassment but now I am proud of it as a good, strong pop record. I insisted that Sony ‘delete it forever’ and the rights to the song reverted to me. So this is the first time (apart from the MB Music Cube) that it has been released since 1975.”
Batt’s Wombles days are not neglected either. ‘The Wombling Song’ an a couple of others are included but not, sadly, ‘Remember You’re A Womble’ – certainly one of my favourite hits of 1974 as an 8 year-old and surely the most splendid glam rock/folk rock mash-up of all time.
The rockier more upbeat side of Batt’s career, however, is represented by tracks like ‘Imbecile’ which features Family’s Roger Chapman on vocals as well as a beautifully unmissable solo from Rory Gallagher. Chapman also contributes vocals on another track, as does the Zombies’ Colin Blunstone whose trademark vocal graces ‘Tiger In The Night’.
An instinctive ear for a pop melody, a prolific orchestral composer and an instantly recognisable voice in his own right, Mike Batt has made a major contribution to British music over the past four decades and The Penultimate Collection is a worthy retrospective. Just why oh why was ‘Remember You’re a Womble’ missed off?
Released digitally on 8th May 2020 and in physical album format on 6th June 2020