Band of Oz

Early Years

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This collection of older songs by the Band of Oz is one seriously enjoyable record -- in fact, that's the only thing that is "serious" about it. But that's not really a surprise, as this group has been delighting audiences along the Atlantic seaboard (mostly in the Carolinas) since 1967; they're experts at making "good-time music," and to judge from the results here they're also good at getting their sound down on record. At their best -- which is well over half of what's here -- the Band of Oz do great late-'60s Motown/early-'70s Philadelphia-style soul, with great harmonies and solid playing throughout, and in this kind of music, being derivative isn't a flaw but a virtue. Drummer David Hicks is the first member most listeners will notice, but bassist John Thompson isn't far behind and the others all excel at various points. Oddly enough, the album opens with one of their catchiest yet weakest numbers, "Keep Keeping It Up," but from there it pulls listeners in with some superb singing on numbers like "Ocean Boulevard" and "When Love Is New." The sheer geniality of the music and the performances works where the virtuosity isn't enough, and that's more than enough to carry across 43 minutes and change. This isn't a landmark album by any means, nor were the makers shooting for anything like that when they cut this music. But if you've been through the best of, say, Bill Deal & the Rhondels (practically the Beatles of the beach music scene, with five national chart hits in barely a year) and want more like it, this CD is a great place to start.

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