Dr. Hook

Pleasure & Pain/Sometimes You Win

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This 2009 BGO two-fer pairs Dr. Hook's sixth and seventh albums, 1978's Pleasure & Pain and 1979's Sometimes You Win, which in popular parlance may also be known as the hit disco albums. Dr. Hook began moving in that direction on 1976's A Little Bit More, which gave them a big hit in the form of gauchely seductive title track, but Pleasure & Pain ramped up the disco beats and slick sounds. Pleasure & Pain still had hints of Dr. Hook's hippie past, particularly on the first side where the group still covered Shel Silverstein (the soft, sad waltz "Sweetest of All," plus "I Don't Want to Be Alone Tonight," which was much closer to their soft rock present) and did a nice version of "Storms Never Last," which would be popularized by Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter, but even these numbers are given a satin overhaul so they fit with the absurd disco on the second side -- disco songs about "Clyde" playing electric bass on a porch and the immortal come-on "You Make My Pants Want to Get Up and Dance." These are fun oddities, but the album's selling points are "Sharing the Night Together" and "When You're in Love with a Beautiful Woman," two huge hits that are among the pinnacles of soft disco rock of the late '70s, invariably tied to the era but somehow also transcending it due to their hazy bad taste.

Sometimes You Win is where Dr. Hook went all-in on polyester leisure suits, ditching the Shel Silverstein (the songwriter decided he had become bored with writing songs) and delivering something close to a soft rock-disco masterpiece. Bad taste is in full effect -- the cover itself is a gaudy horror show of dice with crying eyes, a painting that wouldn't even make sense when slathered on black velvet -- but part of the charm of this era of Dr. Hook is how ridiculous their disco songs are, whether they're bouncing their way through a laundry list like "What Do You Want?" or proclaiming the "Love Monster" is on the loose. But what works on Sometimes You Win is that the two country songs are buried in the back (the rollicking "Mountain Mary" and ballad "Help Me Mama"), leaving the rest of the record as super-slick soft rock and glitter-ball disco for audiences who never liked R&B. For some hazy reason lost to time, "When You're in Love with a Beautiful Woman" is recycled from Pleasure & Pain, so this has three big hits, with the other two being "Better Love Next Time" and "Sexy Eyes," singles that give a good indication of the feel of the rest of the record but, fortunately, the rest of Sometimes You Win is nearly as much fun as the hits.

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