Not many albums are titled after their release date, but October 14, 1961, was a significant date whichever way you look at it, as Cliff Richard finally advanced into adulthood. He could drink alcohol. He could vote. He could drive a car. He could even have sex. And the fact that he was already the single most popular and successful solo pop star Britain had (or would) ever produced did not diminish the significance of the event. His fifth album even opens with a distinctly stylized Shadows version of "Happy Birthday To You," over which Cliff, the band and sundry friends revel in his new found freedom... "we should get the young ladies a drink," says someone and, perhaps, we should be grateful that the track fades out quickly after.
In fact, it would not necessarily be a bad thing if the entire album followed suit. While by no means the nadir of Cliff's recording career, 21 Today is very much a portrait of the artist on auto-pilot, a succession of pleasant mid-tempo ballads, with Shadows-lite backing, soaring strings a-go-go and - the curse of British MOR later in the decade - the utterly wholesome oohs, aahs and echoes of an army of clean-living backing youths.
A couple of tracks buck the trend - "Without You" and "Tough Enough" are gritty Shadows-led stompers, while Hank Marvin and Bruce Welch's "Y'Arriva" at least packs an intriguingly mock-Spanish backing, to match vocal stylings lifted straight from an old Speedy Gonzales cartoon. There is also a bizarre version of "Tea For Two," Cliff giving it his best well-mannered showband vocal, while the Shadows noodle away in best smokey jazzclub style.