Fanny

Fanny

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Fanny are beloved because they didn't fit any distinct mold. They were the first all-female rock band to be signed to a major label, inking a deal with Reprise in 1970. All-female bands existed prior to Fanny -- and not just girl groups in R&B, either; there were garage rockers -- but this quartet wasn't a throwback to the three-chord primitives that popped up after the British Invasion. No, Fanny were a self-contained rock band, the kind that seized the expansion of psychedelia to write and record their own songs. Thing was, they weren't really psychedelic, and although they could rock, they weren't heavy rockers, nor did they push at the boundaries of what constituted pop and rock. Quite the contrary, actually: they belonged to the mainstream, which is why Richard Perry -- who then-recently had success with Tiny Tim and produced Ringo Starr and would soon helm smash albums by Barbra Streisand and Harry Nilsson -- was chosen to produce their debut. He could emphasize their bright, tuneful qualities without sacrificing their backbone, and that's precisely what he does on Fanny, giving them some serious punch without ever suggesting serious rebellion. Fanny were slightly ahead of their time, not in the sense they could have run with the Runaways, but in that after a few years, this kind of rocking pop could have eased onto the radio alongside "Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)," as Looking Glass was another band that walked the line between boogie and pop. Fanny also recall a bit of Badfinger here, both in how they power through power chords and how they settle into sweetness, and that versatility is pretty appealing, while their division of songwriting duties is impressive, with guitarist June Millington and her sister Jean writing the hardest-rocking numbers and keyboardist Nickey Barclay penning the lighter, weirder moments (exception being the nifty "Changing Horses," which hits as hard as a Millington song). As good as these originals are -- and they are good, they're all solid songs -- Fanny's nimble cover of Cream's "Badge" may explain their music best of all: they cut away the mystery of the original, straightening it out but giving it a looser, almost funky backbeat and never forgetting to jam. The album is somewhat tied to its times, but appealing for its unapologetic celebration of everything paisley, bell-bottomed, and post-hippie.

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