BGO's 2013 two-fer Rising/Players in the Dark pairs Dr. Hook's two albums for Columbia -- 1980's Rising and its 1982 sequel Players in the Dark -- which also happen to be their last two albums of original material. Rising picks up the satin thread from Sometimes You Win, finding this collection of former hippies essentially burying their ragged roots underneath layers of polyester gloss and disco beats. Their woolly former incarnation peeks into view at the closing "99 and Me," a lengthy pseudo-blues vamp that's lost amidst the rest of the record's sweetened urban cowboy balladeering and soft rock-disco seduction. Often, it seems that the band is intent on remaking Sometimes You Win -- the flow almost mirrors its predecessor -- and while they certainly get the form right, the substance is plainly lacking. The opener "Girls Can Get It" isn't bad -- it deservedly scraped the bottom of the Top 40 -- but apart from that opening cut, very few of the songs have hooks that stick, which means Rising is a pleasant enough listen but never lodges in the memory.
Players in the Dark is a better affair, largely due to its riotously sleazy opener, "Baby Makes Her Blue Jeans Talk," an ode to a swaying denim-clad lass that is in joyous bad taste. Dr. Hook swims to similar depths elsewhere here, most notably on the nonsensical "The Turn On" (where Dennis Locorriere is made to sing "tacos turn me on"), but for the most part this showcases Locorriere the seducer, singing ballads draped in satin. Some of these songs aren't so bad -- "Loveline" was a minor hit and should've been -- and the emphasis on slow ones gives Players in the Dark a consistency Rising didn't quite have, but it's also clear that Dr. Hook had reached the end of the road. They're just lucky that they concluded on a vague note of triumph thanks to "Baby Makes Her Blue Jeans Talk."