Here's another batch of quick takes on some vintage obscurities, plucked from local bargain bins and lent by friends.
The Righteous Brothers:Standards
One of the best parts of Righteous Brothers records is their vocal interplay. Phil Spector worked counter to that for some of the singles he produced for the duo, a novel concept at the time that put his stamp on those recordings. Spector also utilized the idea of reviving older songs from the pop songbook with the duo, rather than their usual method of reviving R&B chestnuts. Standards, the Brothers' last studio album before their initial breakup in 1968, revisits those moves from Spector's playbook. It's also perhaps a vinyl example of the unrest that led to the bust up; Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield each have a side all to themselves. Medley's rougher style fares best here, and he also produced his side. Surprisingly, the supper club-ready Hatfield side was produced by former Motowner Mickey Stevenson, who also helmed the excellent Souled Out for the duo the year before. This one's definitely only for hardcore Righteous fans. (Verve V6-5051, 1968)
City Boy: Young Men Gone West
This group's first and third albums came my way as a lend courtesy of Kyle Motor, which was handy since I've always sort of wondered what these regular dollar bin denizens were all about. City Boy was a long-running British group (a former folk outfit, as noted on the cover of their debut) who probably suffered on the charts due to their somewhat unclassifiable sound: Are they power pop, hard rock, yacht rock, folk, or ??? Well, depending where you are on their albums, any of the above may apply. In general, they feature vaguely kinky/jokey lyrics a la 10cc and some occasional Queen-y prog structures and guitar heroics. Frankly, I thought their debut was noxious. They didn't change their musical approach much by the time of Young Men Gone West, but I thought this album was quite a bit better; they just sound more comfortable with their eclecticism. The highlight is "The Man Who Ate His Car," which is about exactly that. Trivia note: Both these albums were produced by "Mutt" Lange, the debut being his first work outside of South Africa. (Mercury SRM-1-1182, 1977)
A hippie-era album that just looked too intriguing to leave in the dollar bin, Design actually has a bit of info revealing what can be expected via some liner notes on the back cover: They're a British sextet, wrote all their songs (most by Tony Smith), like harmonies, and sang for Princess Alexandra. The reader may expect they don't rock, and the reader would be right. However, that doesn't mean it's bad; musically Design is a blend of sunshine pop and folk, in a Eurovision sort of way. An online search revealed that the group had some success in the U.K., releasing several more albums even though main songwriter Smith left the band shortly before their debut came out. All were revived on CD last year, in fact. (Epic E 30224, 1970)