A's, B's and Rarities

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It seems strange to see the output of Mickie Most's RAK label finally being taken seriously by record labels as well as collectors, 30-plus-years after the imprint established itself as the epitome of disposable pop tunes. Yet EMI's ongoing A's, B's & Rarities series offers nothing less than the same thorough treatment that any other, more hallowed, label could expect. The format is essentially the same throughout: a gathering up of every RAK single (A-sides and B-sides) released by a given band, with the remainder of the CD filled with choice outtakes and oddities. Sadly, whereas other entries in this series -- Mud, Arrows, CCS, Hot Chocolate, Suzi Quatro -- can effortlessly address that criteria, Pilot really should have been saved for some future "best-of the rest of" set. The fact is, despite the four U.K. hits they racked up in a year (including the Top Ten "Magic" and the chart-topping "January") they really weren't that great a band, the missing link between Smokie and 10cc, with a shot of Fox thrown in for good measure. Yet A's, B's & Rarities avoids many of the pitfalls that this set should have laid bare, by virtue of some genuinely cunning programming. The original (non-hit) version of "Just a Smile" is replaced by a remix; 1975's "Lady Luck" single makes its CD debut, alongside David Paton's scarcely known 1980 solo single "No Ties No Strings," while the sequence of flop 45's that led up to Pilot's departure for Arista are all brought together. And the stuff does grow on you, to the point where even "January" doesn't sound quite so annoying as it used to. This remains the weakest link in the A's, B's & Rarities series so far. But maybe it isn't as redundant as one originally thought.

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