Greatest Hits Live

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Recorded in Hollywood on Valentines Day, 1981, 707 open the set up with "Live with the Girl," which could be Deep Purple's "Highway Star" gone pop. "Feel This Way" follows with the same Cars-ish thumpa thumpa riff and '80s high-end vocal setting the stage for what is found throughout this close to 46-minute concert CD. It's a spirited romp through music that .38 Special and Loverboy embraced -- think Crowded House with less creativity but a serious enough approach. That these fellows are almost as forgotten as late-'70s rockers Whiteface (or the even more obscure group White Witch from the earlier '70s) makes this release all the more appealing. It's nice to know someone cares about the music they made! Even when a Beatlesque piano opens a tune like "Rockin' Is Easy" with its Utopia/Todd Rundgren chorus, it is still solidly locked in a time warp and can't help remain an exhibit solely for those who enjoy these dated sounds. Three songs are from the group's self-titled first Casablanca album from 1980, six are from 1981's aptly named The Second Album. There's an eight-page booklet with photos (including three of the guys with TV host Mike Douglas back in the day), liner notes from guitarist/vocalist Kevin Russell, and a sincerity that is felt in the packaging as well as the performance. It's the Russell, Phil Bryant, Jim McClarty core with keyboard player Tod Howarth that is on fire here, the guitar histrionics in "Pressure Rise" as essential as the rave-up vibe on "Tonite's Your Nite." For the followers of the style of music here -- and there still are many -- the rock & roll on 707's Greatest Hits Live (the title is the same for a variety of groups on the GB Music imprint) is a good representation and should satisfy, although they only had one true FM hit and never cracked the Billboard Top 40. A video of the Midnight Special performance of "I Could Be Good for You," recorded in 1981, the same year as this concert, is floating around on the internet, many people on YouTube comparing the group visually to Spinal Tap. The sound is far more serious than that and the drummer from the band New England, Hirsh Gardner, lends a hand with the mastering and post-production. Indeed, Kevin Russell's two solo compositions that close out the disc -- "Tonite's Your Nite" and "You Who Needs to Know" -- are up there with the group's McClarty and Duke McFadden hit and could have been written by New England's John Fannon himself. Which means, had 707 been given the opportunity to explore and mature beyond their handful of discs, who knows what might have developed?

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