The product of a reunion that wouldn't even survive until the record was released in 1975, Beau Brummels proved to be the band's final album for Warner Bros. A much more sonically solid release than the Brummels' WB covers debut, the self-titled album focuses on band-written material smoothed (sometimes overly so) into a country-rock sheen.
Perhaps it was the strained circumstances under which the elpee was produced, but like other attempts at "bringing the band back together" after several years not playin' together (think Animals, Byrds, more than one CSN&Y get-back-together), a certain spark was unfortunately missing.
The album starts out promisingly, with a slightly more mid-seventies remake of the band's '65 Top Forty single, "Tell Me Why." A rumination on lost love, it wouldn't sound out of place on the Thorns' one album. Things grow more pronouncedly countrified with the second track, "First in Line," with its bluegrassy banjo (courtesy Dan Levitt). But before the album dips fully into country-rock territory, the group follows with a strong mid-tempo stroll entitled "Wolf," featuring one of lead singer Sal Valentino's better wounded vocals. Which is definitely saying something. The guy had one of the more aching folk-rock voices around.
Fourth track, "Down to the Bottom," sounds like a cut the Eagles might've recorded during their Hotel California daze – it even includes an arty allusion in the lyrics – which may either be a recommendation or a condemnation depending on your musical inclinations. Either way, it's the record's last really satisfying performance. Back in the days of vinyl long-players, we would've put it this way: great Side One; skip Side Two.
The second side's woes don't arise from weak material since many of the later cuts are truly fine as compositions. "Tennessee Walker," the final track of our reconstructed Side One, has a nifty Hoagie Carmichael feel to it, while the smart construction of album finale "Today by Day" even manages to shine through the band's sloggy performance. Some smart modern-day Nashvillian should rescue this song.
The rest of the record ("Goldrush," "Singing Cowboy," "Gate of Hearts," et al) is so snoozily played – even by the admittedly lazy standards of the mid-seventies – that you have to wonder what usually savvy co-producers Lenny Waronker & Ted Templeman were thinking. Perhaps they were happy just to get ten completed tracks in the can.
Per Collectors Choice Music's typically info-packed liner notes, a quickly retooled version of the Brummels (minus several key players) toured in support of the group's last studio release, to decidedly mixed reviews. A wan ending to a band that at its peak fearlessly rode point for future generations of folk- and country-rockers . . .