Titled for the monster hit which dominated charts around the world in 1962, Stranger on the Shore is light listening at its best, a dozen slices of drifting, clarinet-led melody which simultaneously had absolutely nothing to do with English pop music as it moved toward the denouement of the Mersey boom -- and encapsulates it as well.
Whichever golden age of pop history one chooses to look at, the U.K.
charts' capacity to throw up unexpected shockers has remained their most constant (and constantly redeeming) feature of all.
Whether it's Englebert Humperdinck outselling "Strawberry Fields Forever" in 1967, or Bob the Builder beating Eminem to number one 30-some years later, the most popular pop refuses to be driven by either fad or fashion.
And in the light of those successes, Bilk's domination of 1962 seems so natural it's all but mundane.
This album, on the other hand, is anything but.
Drawing from traditional, classical, and light orchestral sources, Bilk -- expertly accompanied by the Leon Young String Chorale -- is a master of the sweeping epic, and it doesn't matter whether he's tackling a standard as trite as "Deep Purple" or Brahms' Lullaby, or something as impossibly soul-stirring as "Greensleeves." Everything emerges a major statement.
The other, "Is This the Blues?," is just as captivating, by the way.
With that song and this album, Bilk didn't simply give the world a set of well-played standards; he set a standard which has still to be eclipsed.