Although they were dismissed by the music press as mere Jackson 5 clones, the Osmonds scored an impressive string of international hits during the 1970s that holds up surprisingly well today. All of the classics from their hitmaking days, plus a few choice album tracks, are collected on 21 Hits Special Collection. In fairness to the critics, tracks like "One Bad Apple" and "Double Lovin'" do emulate the Jackson 5 sound pretty closely (the former tune was actually a rejected Jackson 5 track), but the group quickly moved on to find its own flavor of pop-soul. For example, "Down By the Lazy River" is a rousing tribute to down-home gatherings that effectively combines guitar grit with gospel-style harmonies, and "Yo-Yo" layers swinging horns over a thick guitar groove to back up the Osmonds' exuberantly sung tale of love's up and downs. There are also several effective ballads: "Love Me for a Reason" layers slick, stately horns under its gorgeous chorus, and a nice cover of the Frankie Valli solo tune "The Proud One" effectively contrasts a heart-wrenching lead vocal from Merrill Osmond with a powerful chorus sung by the group. 21 Hits Special Collection also reveals that the Osmonds had a surprising and very un-"teen idol" penchant for hard rock: "Hold Her Tight" has the group belting it out over fuzzed-out bass and a slashing guitar hook reminiscent of the main riff from Led Zeppelin's "The Immigrant Song," while "Crazy Horses" puts over an apocalyptic lyric worthy of Black Sabbath over throbbing guitar riffs (including one designed to sound like a horse's whinny). All in all, 21 Hits Special Collection is a generous and consistent collection that shows off the multi-dimensional talents of a very underrated group.
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AllMusic Review by Donald A. Guarisco