The Complete Recordings of Arrival

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AllMusic Review by Richie Unterberger

Although they had two fairly sizable U.K. hits in 1970 ("I Will Survive" and a cover of Terry Reid's "Friends"), this 2012 compilation, remarkably, marks the first time any of their material has been available on CD. The two-disc set includes both of their albums (each of which, in an unwise career, was self-titled, one appearing on Decca in 1970 and the other on CBS in 1972), as well as their non-LP singles ("I Will Survive" among them) and three previously unreleased tracks. Perhaps there hasn't been demand for (or even much knowledge of) the group because although they had some talent, they simply didn't fit into a comfortable niche in the early-'70s scene, and were stylistically wide-ranging enough to defy easy identification. Featuring several male and female members who sang and didn't play instruments (as well as a few who did), the material on their first album flitted between feel-good harmony pop/rock that could verge on easy listening; lightly charming piano-based pop/rock with an endearingly squeaky female vocal ("No-Good Advice"); middling soft rock; soul-rock with gospel/spiritual overtones (the non-LP single "I Will Survive" also being an example); and organ-anchored prog rock lite (the mostly instrumental "La Virra," with its sub-Doors riffs and spaced-out, faint ambient singing). It's not bad, and most of the songs are original compositions, usually written by one of the singers, Frank Collins (though Dyan Birch's melancholy, folky "Not Right Now" is one of the better tunes). But the sliding stylistic focus and the just-above-pedestrian quality of most of the songs don't make it easy to connect with or strongly remember.

With different personnel (though singers Collins, Birch, and Paddy McHugh remained, as did keyboardist Tony O'Malley), their second album was more impressive and fairly different, though Collins continued to supply most of the material. The mood was considerably more serious, with a stoic keyboard-based spiritual feel that avoided overt religious or gospel influences. The concentration on Birch's suitably stirring-but-not-strident lead vocals helps, and though the songs aren't stunning, it suits the mood if you're looking for rather earnest early-'70s rock with a reflective feel, almost to the point of wariness (though not quite grimness). Filling out the set are tracks from early-'70s singles that seem to be forcing a more commercial approach (including covers of Jimmy Webb's "(Let My Life Be Your) Love Song" and Stevie Wonder's "He's Misstra Know-It-All") and unreleased versions of songs by Leonard Cohen and Melanie, two singer/songwriters whose different brands of earnestness fit Arrival's style. The 20-page booklet includes detailed liner notes, and is crammed with period photos and graphics.

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