Baby Grand

Ancient Medicine

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Now this is closer to what the doctor ordered: Less sappy and more savvy than their debut, Ancient Medicine features credible '70s studio rock in line with Toto and Steely Dan. Of course, Baby Grand isn't as commercially sharp as the one or as smart as the other, but at least this album justifies a record contract. Vocalist David Kagan is still a minor-league talent, with lyrics that wilt on inspection, revealing much too much ado about nothing (especially when compared to, say, the lyrics from Steely Dan's "Reelin' in the Years.") Fortunately, the music is interesting enough to make Kagan's inadequacies only a minor problem. "All Night Long," "Runner in the Rain" (with its shades of Genesis' "Ripples"), and "Right Here, Right Now" (suggesting Dan circa The Royal Scam) are good period songs. The band, which now included drummer David Prater and bassist Carmine Rojas, also throws in a pair of instrumentals, the pop-jazz "Weekend in New Jersey" and a lame boogie number, "It's Not a Figure Salon." Despite the signs of improvement, Ancient Medicine proved to be their last studio album (although a live album did follow). They likely would have improved as a band over time, but it was wiser to salvage the parts that worked (Bazilian, Hyman, Rojas) than hope to squeeze gold from a turnip. "All Night Long" and a cover of Left Banke's "Walk Away Renee" suggest commercial acceptance wasn't out of their grasp, but it was unlikely that Kagan's voice or storytelling style would ever resonate with a large audience. And then again, maybe it was the use of completely unrelated album artwork that did them in (this one features a head made out of vegetables).

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