Oliver

Good Morning Starshine

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"Good Morning Starshine," from the Broadway musical Hair, went Top Three for Oliver in 1969, the same year the Fifth Dimension and the Cowsills climbed the upper reaches of the charts with songs from that same musical. It was the first of two big hits from this album, and enjoyed stunning production work from Bob Crewe, featuring flamenco guitar, multiple percussive sounds, and a beautiful vocal from the singer, making for a glorious pop single smack dab in the middle of the summer of 1969. It follows its own follow-up hit, "Jean," a one/two punch on side two of this album titled after the hit from Hair. That Rod McKuen composition, which was the theme to the film The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, shows the late William "Oliver" Swofford as a more than competent singer, which makes one wonder why there's so much excess on the rest of the album. He does a decent job on the Rolling Stones' "Ruby Tuesday," though Melanie's minor hit version got her more notoriety for it. Bob Crewe's production kicks in after the mellow intro, and had they sustained the boss basslines, violins, and singing guitars across the rest of this LP, it would have been sheer delight instead of a collection of hits and misses. The Beatles' "In My Life" has flowing flute and organ work, which make it unique, and the version of Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides Now" is listenable as well. They try to get too clever by including two Lionel Bart songs from the Academy Award-winning film Oliver, and it doesn't work as well as it could. The voice goes painfully off key on the long notes of "Who Will Buy," a mediocre opening for an album which has merit. Oliver's originals suffer also, the arrangement of "The Arrangement" isn't happening, while on "Can't You See," the voice is so overwrought and elaborate that it takes away from the good will generated by the hits. If he could take Rod McKuen throwaway lines like "run if you will to the top of the hill" or "Jean, Jean, roses are red," and make them believable, how could Crewe allow the embarrassments that are the original tunes? "Letmekissyouwithadream" is tough to take. Lionel Bart's second song from the film Oliver, "Where Is Love," doesn't suffer as bad as the first, but covers of other acts Bob Crewe was associated with might have been more in order. Norma Tanega, The Toys' Barbara Harris, Diane Renay, Mitch Ryder, and the Four Seasons all had hits on Crewe's watch that would have been a better fit for Oliver's vocal range. The melody on the intro and outro of "Jean" would make its way into the theme to the film Making Love, which Robert Flack had a hit with 13 years later. Oliver's third and final hit, "Sunday Mornin'," lingered around the bottom of the Top 40 and was not included on this release on Crewe records or its follow-up, Oliver Again, but the title track is so stirring that it makes up for some of the album's deficiencies.

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