Spanky & Our Gang

Spanky's Greatest Hit(s) [1988]

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This highly regarded anthology was the first -- and for over a decade the only -- CD entry from Spanky & Our Gang. Spanky's Greatest Hit(s) was issued in 1969 following the band's decision to call it quits after the untimely passing of co-founder Malcolm Hale as the group readied their third LP, Without Rhyme or Reason (Anything You Choose). While the track selection on this package is admittedly light on some of the band's more interesting album cuts, as the title insinuates it does feature "the hits(s)" as well as a few interesting surprises, making it a desirable package for casual fans as well as collectors. It is a gross injustice that Spanky & Our Gang have been summarily dismissed as a light rock or sunshine pop act. Indeed, among their assets are their vocal harmonies and airy string arrangements -- as heard on their biggest hits, "Sunday Will Never Be the Same" and "Lazy Day." Behind that veneer was one of the more eclectic vocal groups of the era. With the aid of veteran producers and arrangers such as Bob Dorough, Jerry Ross, and Stu Scharf, Spanky & Our Gang incorporate elements of jazz and folk into their interpretations and cover versions. A prime example is their take on "Everybody's Talkin'," which resonates more with Fred Neil's original folk rendering than with Harry Nilsson's hit version. Likewise, they add a depth to Margo Guryan's "Sunday Mornin'" that is merely hinted at on the original. The band also drew upon their own talents for material and vocal arrangements. In particular are the numerous contributions of Lefty Baker, including the upbeat "Yesterday's Rain" and "Three Ways From Tomorrow." Latter-era member Kenny Hodges' assistance is noted as he recalls his folky roots as a member of the Bitter End Singers during the early to mid-'60s. Spanky McFarlane's liner notes -- written specifically for this CD reissue -- also indicate that many of the group's trademark vocal harmonies, complex as they often were, also came from within. There are a few notable differences between several versions of songs found exclusively on this package and those located on the original albums -- which are, incidentally, not available stateside, but only as pricey Japanese imports. For starters, "Sunday Mornin'" is offered up in an extended form that includes some behind-the-scenes hijinks between the band and their concurrently new producers, Dorough and Scharf. Additionally, "I'd Like to Get to Know You" does not include the introductory party atmosphere and spoken prologue found on the album version. A similarly titled Greatest Hits disc was issued in 1999, and while it arguably includes a much more accurate portrayal of the band's full potential, it likewise lacks much of the concentrated wallop found on this compilation.

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