Black Oak Arkansas

Jim Dandy's Black Oak Arkansas Greatest Hits

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Though never regarded as one of the great Southern bands, there's no denying that Black Oak Arkansas was, in its day, one of the more entertaining. With flamboyant frontman James "Big Jim Dandy" Mangrum -- and his ear-grabbing, moonshine-and-sawdust voice -- Black Oak managed to put out a clutch of semi-distinctive albums in its '70s heyday. But be warned: this is not the music from those times. Yes, some of these songs do indeed come from albums such as High on the Hog and the band's 1971 eponymous debut disc, but the "hidden" fact is that these "greatest hits" were all re-recorded in 1999 -- and let's just say this isn't a case of aging like fine wine. Even BOA's signature song, a cover of LaVern Baker's "Jim Dandy" (which inspired Mangrum to simply morph into Jim Dandy, taking that as his stage name), while once a rousing rocker, is hanging on by its private parts here. Why? Well, mainly because Dandy's once unique voice sounds like it's been to hell but not nearly back. Five cuts are lifted from the band's 1999 "comeback" album (yes, this is a review that requires a lot of quotation marks!), but that disc was a hodgepodge of covers and re-recordings also. The fact is, at its best, Black Oak could deliver. But the band's songwriting was always hit or miss and this album does nobody any favors. Adding to the woe-pool is the fact that stronger material such as "Hey Y'All," "Keep the Faith," and covers of "Singing the Blues" and "Dancing in the Streets" has been omitted. If you've never heard a Black Oak Arkansas album, you might think this is pretty fair rock & raunch. But if you want to lay down some coin for the good stuff, get one of their '70s records.

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