Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show

Sloppy Seconds

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This is where Dr. Hook hit full flight, which may be the reason why they wound up with a massive hit with "The Cover of the Rolling Stone." Or maybe the reverse is true -- they had a surefire hit, so they wound up combining their strengths around this song. Possibly. But all evidence points to the group and Shel Silverstein both figuring out what they were all about, and that Silverstein realized he had a vehicle where he could indulge in his darkest impulses without getting completely nasty. After all, this is an album that opens with "Freakin' at the Freaker's Ball" -- an unapologetic celebration of all manner of deviants, particularly those who harbor a fondness for whips and chains -- then dips into a bit of sweetness via "If I'd Only Come and Gone," whose very title is a dirty joke. There are sweeter moments to be found -- "Carry Me Carrie" pulls at the heart strings, "Queen of the Silver Dollar" is a tribute to barroom queens slightly past their prime -- but there's no denying that the heart of the record lays in the thick, ugly groove of "Get My Rocks Off" and the tasteless closer "Looking for Pussy." Not everything on Sloppy Seconds operates on this level of sleaze, but that's only because these tunes (and the title) are so potent they throw everything else off, giving the nicer songs an ominous undertow. Naturally that's the wonderful thing about the record: it gets colored and shaded by its masterpieces, so its craft winds up seeming ominous even when the intention was benign. And yet, Sloppy Seconds never feels safe: even when it makes a bid for placid ballads: it's unkempt, raucous, and ridiculous; the hippie dream gone wrong. Which is why "The Cover of the Rolling Stone" cuts so deep, of course: these aren't true believers, they're grifters, happy that they've defied all expectations and have made a buck or two.

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