10cc had some commercial success in the United States, but in their native United Kingdom they achieved close to superstar status. While there have been several reunions and break-ups, their classic and most creative period occurred 1972-1983. Their new four-CD box set, Tenology, covers that period as 62 of the 64 tracks contains all of their hit singles, B-sides, some deep album cuts, and a few unreleased tracks from that era. (A fifth disc, a DVD, finishes off the box set but will not be the focus of this review.) It is a fine way to celebrate the band’s 40th anniversary.
The one constant for 10cc has been Graham Gouldman. He began his career as a prolific songwriter. He wrote such songs as “For Your Love” and “Heart Full Of Soul” for the Yardbirds, “Bus Stop” and “Look Through Any Window” for The Hollies, and “Listen People” and “No Milk Today” for Herman’s Hermits. In 1971 he formed the band Hotlegs with Eric Stewart, Kevin Godley, and Lol Crème. After one hit song, “Neanderthal Man,” they changed their name to 10cc.
Unless you want to seek out their original albums, Tenology is the best compilation of their music I have seen and heard. It is a fine overview of their early career, as it presents the band in all their idiosyncratic glory.
The first two discs are devoted to their singles. The sound is significantly different from track to track. It may have been this lack of a cohesive sound and the unusual or avant garde quality of many of their releases that prevented extensive radio airplay in the U.S. when compared to their native country. “I’m Not in Love” and “The Things We Do for Love” were their only significant American hits.
The 32 tracks on the first two discs are presented in chronological order beginning with 1972’s “Donna” and ending with 1992’s “Women in Love” and “Welcome to Paradise” (the only two tracks released after 1983). Whether it be the Phil Spector-type wall of sound style of “I’m Not in Love,” where their voices are overdubbed into a virtual choir, the reggae of “Dreadlock Holiday,” or the quirky rock sound of “Rubber Bullets,” or the pop leanings of “The Things We Do for Love,” it is never boring.
The third disc is reserved for album tracks. The 18 songs cover their six studio albums released in 1973-1978. The drug pusher song “Flying Junk,” the brutal religious commentary of “The Second Sitting for the Last Supper,” and love’s failings dealt with in “Don’t Hang Up” are all highlights.
The fourth disc is labeled B-sides and rarities. It is a hit-and-miss disc, as many songs consigned to the B-sides of singles were done so for a reason. “Channel Swimmer” is more accessible than many of their A-side material, but a track like “Don’t Squeeze Me Like Toothpaste” sums up their eclectic nature. The only two previously unreleased tracks, “People in Love (The Voodoo Boogie)” and “The Recording of Dean and I” are more interesting than essential.
The DVD contained a number of music videos and television appearances, so if you are a hardcore 10cc fan, then buyer beware.
10cc has always been a fascinating band worth exploring. Tenology is an excellent introduction to the classic period of an oft-overlooked band.