The Now Generation

The Legendary Spar Recordings

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In the late 1960s and early '70s, the studio-only ensemble the Now Generation were principally known for issuing albums full of soundalike covers of contemporary hits, although they did put out some original material. Top Nashville session men like Henry Strzelecki, David Briggs, Norbert Putnam, Wayne Moss, Bill Purcell, Kenny Buttrey, "Pig" Robbins, and Charlie McCoy were among the musicians who played on Now Generation releases. Fortunately, this 20-track compilation concentrates on the original material, as much of the CD is taken from their self-titled 1967 debut LP, their only album not to fall into the "soundalike" bag. (Unfortunately, this otherwise well-annotated anthology fails to note the source of the specific tracks, making it impossible to determine its chronological range or whether anything is taken from non-LP singles or the like.) The highlights -- unavoidably so, when you're dealing with a group that was usually an identikit cover band -- are the eight songs penned by founder Bobby Russell, best known as the songwriter behind hits by Gary Lewis & the Playboys ("Sure Gonna Miss Her"), O.C. Smith ("Little Green Apples"), Bobby Goldsboro ("Honey"), and Vicki Lawrence ("The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia"). "Highlights" is, of course, a relative term when you're dealing with tracks taken from somewhat exploitative releases, and the Russell tunes on this CD sound a little like demos or knockoffs of '60s formulas. Assuming these songs were released no earlier than 1967, the formulas tapped are a little out of date as well, including the Newbeats (on "Come on On" and "This Town"), surf music ("Daytona Darlin'," "The Whole Summer Through"), Gene Pitney and Roy Orbison ("Wise Like Solomon," one of the best tracks, and "Big Windy City"), and the Four Seasons ("Uptown Downtown"). Sometimes the derivations turn into a most curious stew; "You're Slipping Away from Me" sounds like an unholy mixture of the Righteous Brothers, Dionne Warwick, and Bobby Vee. Fellow Now Generation member Bergen White chips in with another highlight, "Crawl Along the Sand," an eerie combination of psychedelia and girl group pop. And if you want the Now Generation's own versions of White's "Rainy Night in Georgia" (a big hit for Brook Benton) and "Sure Gonna Miss Her," they're here too, though they'll in no way displace the supremacy of the more famous hit renditions. Padding out the CD are pretty useless soundalike cover versions of "Wooly Bully," "You Showed Me," and "Indian Giver," as well as some dispensable instrumentals in both the easy listening and organ-and-sax-dominated rock vein. It's a strange compilation on the whole, combining secondary efforts by successful pop songwriters and incidental filler, almost all of which seemed to be intended as budget throwaways rather than serious artistic endeavors. Note that although one-time member Jimmy Buffett is credited with vocal and acoustic guitar, none of his compositional efforts are included on this CD.

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