54-40

Casual Viewin' USA

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Casual Viewin' USA is a slightly complicated product: it's basically a butchered version of 54-40's 2000 release, Casual Viewin', where several album cuts were lopped off and replaced with older singles, like the sorta hit "I Go Blind" and "Since When." The marketing technique is simple -- Nettwerk America felt that by putting 54-40's most-recognized songs onto the new album, American fans (who have long ignored the band) would buy it as they would a greatest-hits compilation. Well, not quite. Many of the singles included are a decade old or more, so they feel out of place next to the new tracks, which are largely competent but workmanlike. And apart from "I Go Blind," which Hootie & the Blowfish made into a hit a full five years earlier, none of these songs will really be recognizable to a casual audience anyway. And 54-40 fans -- of which there are many -- will have no use for this hacked-up release and will probably opt for the original Canadian version of the album. To top that off, in early 2002 the band pumped out a proper singles collection, and even though that was Canadian-only, it renders this release virtually useless. In regards to what remains of the Casual Viewin' album itself, most of the cuts are fairly pleasant though undistinguished roots rock, punctuated by a few memorable singles like "Blue Sky" and the title track. The concept, while kind of incomprehensible in this version of the release, is somewhat interesting; the band set out on a worldwide journey armed only with video cameras to find inspiration for the record. It sounds more like Road Rules than a rock band, but that's where this late-career release gets its charm and perspective. But the Casual Viewin' USA version of the album serves only as an inexpensive introduction to 54-40 that includes the "hits" but plays like an album; neophyte fans willing to invest more money will want to go the greatest-hits route with Radio Love Songs and hardcore fans will want the Casual Viewin' album in its original format.

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