New England 1978 provides the world with a glimpse of John Fannon's music prior to it being put through the rock & roll machine of major labels, major management, and major record producers. Released about 20 years after the band's formation, these ten "demos" are even more sophisticated than the Cars' early recordings from around the same period, and like those legendary Ric Ocasek compositions, these early sketches are superb. Jimmy Waldo's keyboard sound on "Don't Ever Wanna Lose Ya" is reminiscent of early Deep Purple from their Tetragrammaton days. If the hit version of this song was overpowering, this original take stands up as a terrific rendition. It very well could have been the hit with its Cars-ish thumping rhythm guitar and keyboard sweeps. This disc also contains early versions of "Hello, Hello, Hello," "Turn Out the Light," "Shoot," "Nothing to Fear," and "Alone Tonight" from their first, self-titled 1979 debut; one song, "Searchin," from 1980's Explorer Suite and three previously unreleased titles -- "Candy," "I'll Be There," and "Even When I'm Away." Conceived as a retrospective, the CD captures the spirit of a group that "from 1977 through 1979 rehearsed 8 hours a day and journeyed to a small studio in Philly to record the demos that eventually would result in a recording contract with MCA/Infinity Records," according to the group's drummer. The music once heard only by heads of record labels like Clive Davis, Chris Wright, and Neil Bogart really could have been released as the group's first disc and is as entertaining as any of New England's commercial offerings. "Nothing to Fear" and "Searchin'" both have vocals that sound like the Beach Boys battling the group Yes, and that's a compliment. The pop sound of "Don't Worry Baby" combined with the heaviness of "Roundabout" works better than it might sound on paper. The 12-page booklet that comes with the material includes lyrics but not enough background information. With plenty of space on the CD, the almost 38 minutes of music would have been enhanced with a radio interview from the day, or even a new audio of the band telling its story. Regardless, New England 1978 is a real find for both fans and people unaware of the group and its unique blend of ultra-power pop.
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AllMusic Review by Joe Viglione