Artist: Album (label, release date) 1-5 stars
The Association: Windy & Other Hits (Collectables, December 27, 2005) **
Ambrosia: How Much I Feel and Other Hits (Collectables, December 27, 2005) **
The Spinners: I’ll Be Around & Other Hits (Collectables, December 27, 2005) ***
Average White Band: Pick Up the Pieces (Collectables, December 27, 2005) ***
The lack of Weekend Reissue Roundups this month haven’t been due to laziness; there have been far fewer reissues this month than usual, including this week. However, the sometimes-good, sometimes-lousy reissue label Collectables have dusted off four 10-song budget-priced Rhino Flashback titles this week; while none are satisfactory compilations, they may come in handy for those filling gaps in their collections. The caveats are described below.
The Association: Windy & Other Hits
This Association compilation is a perfect example of what’s wrong with these releases. While it does have the #1 1967 hit “Windy”, it manages to leave out “Never My Love” (the second most played song on the radio in history), a #2 hit from 1967 and perhaps their most sublime moment of pop brilliance. Also absent is the familiar lush pop standard “Cherish”, which reached #1 in 1966. Not here too, is their psychedelic stab at acid rock, “Six Man Band” which charted in 1969. That’s their three best songs missing; the best of the lot here is “Windy”, “Everything That Touches You”, a 1969 top-10 that sounds like a re-write of “Cherish”, and the band’s 1966 debut hit “Along Comes Mary”. The Association weren’t a heavy 60’s band; their sound had more in common with the Four Freshman than Jefferson Airplane. But they did play at the Monterey Pop Festival, and managed to chart albums until 1972. Formed in Los Angeles in 1964 as a 13-member group called the Men, they originally pursued a folk-rock sound, but by the time of their debut they had been trimmed to a six-member group and pretty much gone strictly pop. Their best hits, especially “Never My Love”, are pretty good, and their occasional forays into rock weren’t embarrassments. Most noteworthy was the lush production, done by Curt Boettcher. The Association’s Greatest Hits on Warners is still the best introduction.
Ambrosia: How Much I Feel and Other Hits
Just like the other discs in the series, this doesn’t even pretend to be inclusive. Most people know Los Angeles-based Ambrosia through the mellow pseudo-soul pop/rock of “How Much I Feel”, easily their best hit, one of the better FM pop hits of 1978. Prior to 1978, Ambrosia was more of a progressive rock band, mixing orchestral sounds with pop, as on their earlier chart hits “Holdin’ on to Yesterday” and “Nice, Nice, Very Nice”, as well as their version of the Beatles’ “Magical Mystery Tour” none of which are included here. Which would be OK, we can start from 1978 with the pop stuff and not miss much. But “Biggest Part of Me”, a #3 hit from 1978 isn’t here either. The bland “You’re The Only Woman” is here, as is “I Just Can’t Let Go”, and that covers the “Other Hits” in the title. The rest are album cuts mainly from their two biggest albums Life After L.A. from 1978 and One Eighty from 1980, and sound like weak Hall and Oates cuts. Try the much better Anthology on Warners.
The Spinners: I’ll Be Around & Other Hits
A good Spinners anthology is a good thing to have; the Spinners were very arguably the best early 70’s Philly soul group (transplanted from Detroit) in a crowded field of good groups; their hits from their 1971-1976 peak are quite memorable; “Could It Be I’m Falling In Love”, “They Just Can’t Stop It (Games People Play)”, and “Then Came You” are great songs that dressed up the wasteland of AM radio in their day, and still sound great now; sweet, sexy, and soulful. And yes, you guessed it, none of these seminal hits are included on this disc. What is here? The hits “I’ll Be Around”, “The Rubberband Man”, “Ghetto Child”, “I’m Coming Home”, “One of A Kind (Love Affair)” and five ringers; needless to say nothing from their earlier (and spottier) years at Motown in the 1960’s is included. A little better than the Ambrosia and Association discs, but the album to buy here is The Best of The Spinners, on Atlantic.
Average White Band: Pick Up the Pieces
This band always had a very truthful name. A white funk/r&b band, specializing in instrumentals, they had an enormous #1 hit in 1975 with “Pick Up the Pieces”, a funky little number that turns up in movies and commercials every day. It’s probably their best hit, although their second best and second biggest hit, “Cut The Cake”, is missing. “School Boy Crush”, “Queen of My Soul”, and “If I Ever Lose This Heaven” make it in, fortunately, making this an almost okay collection of the band’s hits. Which raises the question: why leave out “Cut The Cake?” What was Rhino thinking when they compiled these? It’s true they’re budget releases, but who would want any of these releases? The record to buy here is Pickin’ Up the Pieces: The Best of Average White Band (1974-1980), on Rhino.
Also out this week: three albums from obscure 70’s prog-rock group Jak the Lad, Its Jak (sic), Old Straight Track, and Rough Diamonds on EMI; Miles Davis’ Cellar Door Sessions 1970, on Sony, and Marc Almond and the Willing Sinners’ Mother Fist and Her Five Daughters, on Some Bizarre.
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