Following Raven's exemplary 2002 reissue of Rhinestone Cowboy/Bloodlines by a year, the label's 2003 two-fer of 1977's Southern Nights and 1978's Basic isn't as thematically linked as its predecessor, which were both written and produced in large part by Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter. These two records share a similar sound -- the high-gloss, professional production common to most soft rock and country-pop crossovers of the late '70s -- but they're different in approach. Southern Nights contains the work of a number of frequently incompatible songwriters, so it's an album of moments. Granted, those moments -- including the singles "Southern Nights" and "Sunflower," a cover of "God Only Knows," and two songs from Jimmy Webb -- are very good, but the inconsistency of the album is put into sharp relief by its pairing with Basic, an album devoted to the songs of Michael Smotherman, a mellow singer/songwriter (and former Captain Beefheart sideman) who has been forgotten but was a good, sturdy writer within the conventions of '70s soft rock. Basic may not have had hits outside of "Can You Fool" (which wasn't all that big anyway), but it stands as the more satisfying of the two records on this two-fer -- and it likely wouldn't have gotten a reissue if it wasn't paired with the bigger hit Southern Nights. In addition to good notes from Keith Glass, Raven expanded this release with three bonus tracks: "Another Fine Mess" (a small gem from the soundtrack to the Burt Reynolds film The End, written by Paul Williams, and originally released as the B-side to "Can You Fool"), and two rarities from the 1975 compilation album Arkansas -- a 1967 cover of Leon Payne's "You've Still Got a Place in my Heart" and the 1969 "Arkansas," a good, if slightly dated, country-pop song that would have fit well onto any of Glen Campbell's late-'60s albums. These help elevate an already fine package into something that is necessary for any serious Campbell fan.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine