The Osmonds

The Plan

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The 1970s saw the release of countless concept albums, but few were as unusual or unexpected as this 1973 magnum opus from the Osmonds. Anyone who thinks of this family group as a bubblegum soul outfit will be bowled over by this incredibly ambitious outing, which attempts to explain the family's Mormon beliefs through a series of songs that cut across a wide variety of pop genres. The end result is a testament to the group's versatility and skills as musical craftsmen but The Plan ultimately doesn't work for a few important reasons. The first is that the songs are too serious and overblown for their own good: "Are You up There?" and "The Last Days" have solid melodies, but their preachy lyrics are too awkward and diffuse to convey the group's beliefs with any real power. The other big problem with The Plan is that it is overwhelmed by its own musical ambition: the abrupt jumps from fuzzy acid rock ("Traffic in My Mind") to orchestrated show tune-styled arias ("Before the Beginning") to frenetically bopping big band soul ("It's Alright") result in more genre-hopping than a single album can handle. That said, a few solid tunes emerge from the clutter to make an impression: "Let Me In" is a smooth, lushly orchestrated ballad whose clever lyrics can be heard both as a love song and a devotional hymn, and "Goin' Home" is a sharp, keyboard-driven rocker whose hook-laden style is reminiscent of Elton John's early-'70s tunes. Ultimately, The Plan comes off as an ambitious misfire instead of the thought-provoking epic it was obviously intended to be, but its grandiose style makes it worth a spin for Osmonds fans and anyone into unusual 1970s pop artifacts.

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