Starry Eyed and Laughing

All Their Best...

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Starry Eyed and Laughing's devotion to Bob Dylan is apparent in their "Chimes of Freedom"-quoting name but the band's sound evoked another chime -- that of the Byrds, whose crystalline jangle could be heard all over the band's two albums, 1974's Starry Eyed and Laughing and 1975's Thought Talk. This influence may have been apparent but Starry Eyed and Laughing didn't merely copy the Byrds, sounding like a '60s covers band. They were creatures of their time, products of the British pub rock movement of the mid-'70s, so they were capable of spirited country-rock and sweet power pop, with their debut leaning toward the former and Thought Talk the latter, partially due to the smooth production from Flo & Eddie. These are the differences between the group's two albums but they're subtle, so when highlights are paired together as they are on BroadSide's 2009 All Their Best..., they flow together as if they're from one album, particularly because there was no dip in quality between the two records (although pub purists might not like the shimmering soft rock gloss on later singles like "Song on the Radio"). This makes All Their Best... a great listen and a good summation of the band's career, which does make it welcome, but listeners should keep in mind that Starry Eyed and Laughing's two albums were reissued in their entirety as Aurora's 2002 double-disc That Was Now and This Is Then, along with many of the non-LP cuts that also appear here. For those dedicated fans, All Their Best... is notable for the presence of three previously unreleased Dylan covers: a different version of "Chimes of Freedom" plus "He Was a Friend of Mine" and "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere," both recorded at a radio session. These aren't major items but they're very good -- and for fanatics, they're worth the time.

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