Pass It Around

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This was the debut album for Smokie, an English quartet who were a pet project for legendary English pop producers Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman. Although their unique blend of country-rock and pop would soon make Smokie a big success in Europe, their style comes off as tentative and unfocused on Pass It Around. The group's instrumental performance is tight and their Beach Boys-meet-Sweet vocal harmonies are quite pleasing to the ear but their songwriting abilities are not up to snuff. Too many of the songs are weighed down with lightweight lyrics: "It Makes Me Money" is a petulant jab at rock critics, and "A Day at the Mother-in-Law's" is a gimmicky novelty tune that wears out its welcome after the first listen. The worst offender in this respect is "Headspin," a song that wastes its catchy central country-rock riff on a silly lyric about getting drunk. Other songs feel more like loose collections of riffs than fully realized compositions: "Goin' Tomorrow" rides its galloping guitar riff into the ground through endless repetition, and "I Do Declare" runs into the same problem despite a catchy chorus. Despite this problem, echoes of the group that Smokie would eventually become shine through here and there: "Daydreamin'" works an infectious harmony-driven chorus into a likable guitar-fueled melody and the surprisingly complex arrangement of "Don't Turn Out Your Light" weaves serpentine guitar lines and a chorus built on escalating harmonies into a beguiling little pop tune. In the end, though, the inconsistent moments outweigh the solid tunes. Thus, Pass It Around can only be recommended to the Smokie completist.

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