Michael Stanley

Greatest Hints

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The Michael Stanley Band never fully broke commercially, but this classy, hard-working Cleveland rock & roll band was impressively consistent in the well above average quality of its albums. The fact that MSB was on several major labels and worked with a variety of legendary producers should be considered an asset, not a liability. 1979's Greatest Hints -- the title being an inside-joke wink from a group that had not broken through the mainstream to have a "greatest hits" collection -- is more of a rock album from start to finish than its ballad-rich predecessor, 1978's Cabin Fever. Stanley discusses this fact in the Razor & Tie CD reissue liner notes, as well as the fact that Greatest Hints, which was produced by veteran Harry Maslin, is oddly heavy on additional percussion. This album also marked the MSB debut of additional keyboardist/singer/songwriter Kevin Raleigh and bass guitarist/saxophonist Michael Gismondi. Raleigh (who would be an important focal point on subsequent albums) and keyboardist Bob Pelander blend their piano, organ, and synthesizer work easily on Greatest Hints. "Last Night," "Don't Lead With Your Love," and "Promises" are fun rockers, and the instrumental cohesion is impressive. "Back in My Arms Again," written by Holland-Dozier-Holland for the Supremes, swings along joyfully. "Beautiful Lies" is this album's only ballad. "We're Not Strangers Anymore" is loaded with strings, but it doesn't drag down the mid-tempo rock feel. The six members of MSB are individually talented, but they jell for the benefit of the songs on Greatest Hints. Stanley himself sings lead, but Raleigh's harmonies add a nice counterpoint since their voices are dissimilar.

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