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After being unceremoniously dumped by Mercury after 1978's At Yankee Stadium, NRBQ returned to the warm embrace of Rounder and recorded a string of fine records that started with 1979's Kick Me Hard. The same lineup was to remain intact, not only for 1980's Tiddlywinks, but for nearly the next 20 years. Fairly early on, the synchronicity among the quartet was apparent; it was if they'd been playing together forever, and the music excelled as a result. The songwriting was getting better, too: Al Anderson, Terry Adams, and Joey Spampinato were dividing the chores, but never losing the group's cohesiveness. At times, Adams' songs would be a little too goofy, and Spampinato's heartfelt pop might dip into saccharine sweetness now and again, but never so much that it becomes a huge problem. Of these two excellent records, Kick Me Hard lives up to its title, especially during the bluesy organ workout "Don't You Know" and the riff-happy "All Night Long," with a great solo by Anderson. Tiddlywinks is carried by "Me and the Boys" (later to be recorded by Bonnie Raitt) and Anderson's beautiful "Never Take the Place of You."

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