The Ides of March

Friendly Strangers: The Warner Bros. Recordings

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Everything the Ides of March released on Warner Bros. is on this double CD, including not only all the tracks from both of their Warners albums (1970's Vehicle and 1971's Common Bond), but also the non-LP B-sides "High on a Hillside" and "Lead Me Home, Gently," as well as the 1970 non-LP single "Melody" and the single version of "Vehicle." It's a comprehensive but odd document of a band that seemed torn between commercial and progressive impulses, resulting in a variety that seemed as indicative of uncertain direction as eclecticism. The lay-it-on-heavy Blood, Sweat & Tears-like horn rock is the most dominant sensibility. But there's also room for smooth MOR harmony rock, blatant Creedence Clearwater Revival imitation ("Factory Band"), blatant Crosby, Stills & Nash imitation ("L.A. Goodbye," "We Are Pillows"), a Chicago-like arrangement of Crosby, Stills & Nash's "Wooden Ships," and a way-drawn-out symphonic arrangement of "Eleanor Rigby." Then there's the 11-minute opus "Tie-Dye Princess," which boasts the immortally dated lyric "Hail hail to the tie-dye princess, hail hail to the tie-dye queen!" Yes, it is a second-division mish-mash of the trendily commercial and the trendily progressive. But it's rather enjoyable in its competent, energetic mirroring of some of the period's fads, the heart of a Midwestern horn pop/rock band always beating under the ambition. It's an oddly structured reissue, though. The first disc is jammed with 21 tracks and 79 minutes of music, while the second plays out the string with four tracks and 20 minutes. Wouldn't a more even balance, separating the first and second album onto separate CDs, have made more sense?

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