Albert Hammond's first album has long deserved a CD reissue, if only, most obviously, to put the title track and the composer's rendition of "The Air That I Breathe" back into circulation -- actually, that's not quite fair, because It Never Rains in Southern California is filled with great songs, and it also has been available since 1996 from Collectables in the U.S., paired with his second album, Free Electric Band, and augmented by "Half a Million Miles From Home" and "I'm a Train." This CD has Free Electric Band, but not the two bonus tracks, but is still a good package, if only for the state-of-the-art digital audio and fascinating and entertaining annotation. The two albums fit together so neatly on the same CD that it's difficult to tell, without concentrating, where one ends and the other begins -- what's more, the remastering brings out not only the best, most intimate nuances of Hammond's singing, on "It Never Rains in Southern California" and "I Think I'll Go That Way," among other songs, but also the playing. The tendency on Hammond's music is to focus on his vocals and songwriting, since he is a singer/songwriter, but that overlooks the contributions of Hal Blaine and Jim Gordon on the drums, Joe Osborn and Ray Pohlman on bass, and Larry Carlton on guitar, along with Hammond's own acoustic rhythm guitar -- he was a singer/songwriter with top-flight players and a solid rock backing that wasn't always that soft. In the absence of a huge chart hit, the second album never did nearly as well as the first, but the playing on Free Electric Band is, if anything, equal to or superior and more diverse, encompassing a wide range of acoustic instruments (including what sounds like a bouzouki on "Everything I Want to Do"), augmented by the same core electric band (sans Hal Blaine). The songs may be more personal and complex than one wanted from a rock act -- Hammond is a little too reflective on "For the Peace of All Mankind" -- but he finds the right balance on the ballad "Rebecca" and the rocker "The Day the British Army Lost the War." Along with excellent sound, this release offers very thorough annotation, as Hammond explains the convoluted process by which he obtained a recording contract, and recalls the absurdity of the record industry, in which even few top executives seem -- by his account -- have the courage to make a decision on their own.
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AllMusic Review by Bruce Eder