Artful Dodger

The Complete Columbia Recordings

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Artful Dodger may have been hurt because they fell in between the Raspberries and Cheap Trick. The band released their first album for Columbia in 1975, just as the Raspberries fell apart, and their last arrived in 1977, the same year Cheap Trick redefined power pop with their debut. So, Artful Dodger existed in the time warp of the mid-'70s, a time when album-oriented rock ruled and punk didn't enter the consciousness of the mainstream. They'd release one more album, Rave On, which appeared in 1980, just as power pop was overrun by skinny ties and nervy rhythms -- the fallout of punk. Nothing like that can be heard on The Complete Columbia Recordings, Real Gone's double-disc collection of everything Artful Dodger released during the mid-'70s: their self-titled 1975 debut, 1976's Honor Among Thieves, and 1977's Babes on Broadway, plus the single version of "Can't Stop Pretending." Most of this material hasn't seen a digital release prior to this, but that didn't stop the music from earning a considerable cult following, because it's music that seems to exist out of time. Certainly, it feels like the '70s -- the debut and half of Honor Among Thieves were produced by Jack Douglas, who helmed the defining Aerosmith records and Cheap Trick's debut -- and Artful Dodger swing between the effervescent rush of the Raspberries and a tamed version of the Who's arena-filling roar, a sound that's anchored in a free-floating '70s aesthetic not tied to any particular year or trend. This worked against Artful Dodger at the time -- they didn't have anything approaching commercial success -- but as they receded into history, their three records held their period production charms while also revealing the strong songwriting craft at their core. Simply speaking, this is dynamite power pop: big, bold, and melodic, music that favors the power over the pop. Any fan of power pop who listens to "Overnight Sensation," "No Matter What," or "Couldn't I Just Tell You" and wishes all music could sound like this, will find Artful Dodger enthralling.

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