Seventh Avenue

I Hear Thunder: The Best of Seventh Avenue

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With a total of 23 "vocalists" credited on this best-of package, it's clear that Seventh Avenue was more of a conceptual studio group than a cohesive band with chemistry. Guided by famed English dance producer Ian Levine, the moniker Seventh Avenue began with a 1979 disco album -- distributed in the U.S. by AVI -- which featured four males seemingly in their mid-thirties boasting a decidedly gay appeal in their look and material. It would be a few years before any further releases ensued, but the return in the mid-'80s of the "group" brought a more youthful, sexy lineup and replaced the strings-oriented disco of the former with synth-laden Hi-NRG numbers. The music here represents both stages, ranging from the mellow disco arrangement and sublime vocals of "Miami Heat Wave" to the catchy pop refrain and slightly new wave inspired, carnival-esque programming of "The Right Combination." Besides those entries, other strong numbers include the jingle-worthy "Ending Up on a High," the anthemic "Armed Robbery," and the purely pop "Standing by Your Side." Even if all of the vocalists aren't the strongest, the delivery is always heartfelt and personable. This, combined with solid hooks and accessible production, is proof enough that the producer-oriented "boy band" concept was alive and strong well before the advent of New Kids on the Block or Take That. Fans of either of those groups or their more recent successors, such as Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC, will enjoy hearing the rudiments of that sound here.

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