Grooves in Orbit

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After NRBQ's At Yankee Stadium failed to become a hit, Mercury Records dropped them, and it would be five years before the band would have another chance to record for a major label. While At Yankee Stadium was by their standards a tight and consistent set that gracefully balanced commercial appeal with their taste for the offbeat, NRBQ seemed content to follow their own path under Bearsville's sponsorship, and Grooves in Orbit sounds more like one of the band's Red Rooster sessions than a bid for a wider audience. The opening track, "Smackaroo," is an irresistible rocker once you get past the fact that the lyrics are almost completely unintelligible, and the decision to close out the sides with "Daddy-'O'" (a frantic polka number recorded in front of a well-oiled audience) and "Hit the Hay" (an ode to sleep) suggests NRBQ were happily resigned to life as a cult item. However, if you want evidence to back up the old saw that NRBQ are the greatest bar band on Earth, Grooves in Orbit will do just fine -- between the rollicking and self-descriptive "12 Bar Blues," the glorious pop perfection of "Rain at the Drive-In" and "How Can I Make You Love Me," the honky tonk thunder of "Get Rhythm" (a Johnny Cash cover that out-rocks the great version they recorded for At Yankee Stadium), and the guitar-powered relationship advice of "A Girl Like That," Grooves in Orbit finds NRBQ firing on all cylinders and playing with earth-shaking joy. When it connects, Grooves in Orbit is a great album, and even when it misses, it's solid fun and worth a few spins.

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