Middle of the Road

Chirpy Chirpy Cheep/Acceleration/Drive On

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Middle of the Road’s discography is complicated, the end effect of being a Scottish band whose popularity was built on European hits. Their first album was an Italian release, they had records released only on the continent then later repackaged for the U.K. as a premature Hits collection, they barely had anything in the U.S. Cherry Red/7T’s 2010 set The RCA Years performs a useful function of rounding up the released master takes -- in other words, the three LPs Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep, Acceleration, and Drive On, plus six cuts only on that Italian debut -- presenting the complete recorded works and far too much Middle of the Road for anyone outside of Euro-pop obsessives. Which isn’t to say that Middle of the Road was merely a one-hit wonder: outside of the bubblegum singalong “Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep,” they did have a clutch of terrific pop singles, including “Tweedle Dee, Tweedle Dum” and the rolling “Sacramento.” That latter cut is the best evidence of how MOR was a proto-ABBA, capturing the same sweetly scrubbed, purposely inoffensive pop, an impression that grows stronger the longer The RCA Years is explored (and, as Phil Hendricks points out in his liner notes, Agnetha Fältskog covered “Union Single” in 1973 with lyrics written by Stig Andersson). Historically, this a relatively interesting precedent, but just because “Sacramento” uncannily predicts ABBA does not make the rest of this 41-track collection absorbing. It’s a curiosity for Europhiles -- the rest of us will find Middle of the Road more entertaining in a more concise collection.