The problem with the Bay City Rollers is that they tried to have a meaningful career. Their life span, after all, divides neatly into three very separate parts -- the first few years of local underachievement, living off the glories of a one-off U.K. hit in 1971 ("Keep on Dancing"); two years of absolute supremacy, bookended by the "Remember" single and Dedication album; and two more of increasingly desperate floundering, as they tried to escape their (admittedly ghastly) image and establish themselves as a viable serious rock group. Guess which one they took most seriously? And guess which one everyone else cares about? Between 1974-1976, the Rollers were the supreme deities of pop, purveyors of a dozen killer singles, a pair of largely interchangeable albums, and right at the end, a first grab for the elusive ring of critical respectability with the aforementioned Dedication. The band's first album to be cut away from longtime hit-writers Bill Martin and Phil Coulter, it literally blistered with well-chosen covers and well-crafted originals, and on long dark nights when sleep is elusive, scholars still lie awake wondering how the band ever slipped from the sublimely knowing irony of "Yesterday's Heroes" to the turgid banalities of "The Way I Feel Tonight," "Another Rainy Day in New York," and "You Made Me Believe in Magic." Absolute Rollers shares their befuddlement. Twenty-one tracks do, it is true, stray somewhat into the dark days at the end of the band's life, but more than any other compilation out there, they document the peak of Rollermania with the passion of a true tartan terror. The first half of the album is unsurpassed commercial brilliance, a straightforward rendering of all the vital hits -- including the surprisingly seldom-documented "Keep on Dancing"; the second half, the aforementioned deviation notwithstanding, cherry picks albums and B-sides to highlight the phenomenal strengths that the Scottish lads kept in reserve. There are a few crucial omissions -- "Yesterday's Hero," of course; their trailblazing version of Kenny's "The Bump"; and the teenaged Ian Mitchell's showcase, "Dedication." One can also mourn the absence of the B-side "Bye Bye Barbara" and the original versions of "Remember" and "Saturday Night" (the hit versions were re-recorded tracks cut with founding vocalist Nobby Clarke). But still, Absolute Rollers delivers a powerful package, and the most convincing proof yet that, beneath the tartan, beneath the gimmickry, and beneath the pretensions that ultimately crushed them, the Bay City Rollers might well have been the perfect mid-'70s pop group. They certainly made some of the most perfect mid-'70s records.
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AllMusic Review by Dave Thompson