Tompall Glaser bolted from MGM/Polydor after the success of Wanted! The Outlaws, the compilation that brought him to the cusp of stardom, signing with ABC presumably with the intention that he was bound to follow Waylon and Willie to superstardom. This never happened, perhaps due to Tompall's inate orneriness, perhaps due to bad breaks...or perhaps he never quite delivered the right album at the right time. His two ABC albums -- Tompall Glaser and His Outlaw Band (which bears too close a title to his final MGM album, The Great Tompall and His Outlaw Band, suggesting that Tompall may have been one of the prime reasons the outlaw bit done got out of hand) and The Wonder of It All, both released in 1977 and both compiled here on this 1992 Bear Family compilation (for some reason the order of the two are flipped, with The Wonder opening the disc) -- were decidedly slicker than his MGM recordings, something that dampens the renegade vibe that was a key to outlaw country. This wasn't entirely a bad thing, particularly in the case of His Outlaw Band, where Glaser is teamed with a group of studio pros who can turn out a tight blues groove that bounced enough to sound like Southern-fried disco on "You Can Have Her" and "It'll Be Her." That very '70s vibe holds through the sprightlier sections of His Outlaw Band -- the medley of Lefty Frizzell and Marty Robbins tunes is modernized with a bit of fuzz and bass punch, "I Just Want to Hear the Music" is a macho boast, while "Let My Fingers Do the Walking" is a slice of polyester leisure suit sleaze -- with the slower tunes of "Come Back Shane" and Bobby Charles' "Tennessee Blues" harking back to the melancholy soul that ran throughout Charlie.
If His Outlaw Band evoked signature '70s sounds, The Wonder of It All is positively steeped in the decade, opening with the fuzz-toned country-disco of "It Never Crossed My Mind" and the soft, swirling Fender Rhodes of "The Bad Times." The album keeps flipping between these two extremes, with the ballads having perhaps just a few too many accoutrements and the bluesy rockers just a little bit too slick, gliding by on electric pianos and spangly electric guitars. Those looking for the earthiness of outlaw may be put off by the gloss, but there's a certain period charm to the production and the songs are uniformly excellent, highlighted by Mickey Newbury's "How I Love Them Old Songs," Bobby Charles' "What Are We Doin' with the Rest of Our Lives," a reworking of the traditional "Duncan and Brady," Jessi Colter's "Storms Never Last," and Bill Chappell's lazy-rolling "Drinking Them Beers." That list confirms that underneath its desperate-for-a-hit exterior, The Wonder of It All is a bit of a songwriters album, which may be why it didn't spin off any singles, for as good as these songs are, they're not singles and don't quite merit the sound they're given...which could also be why outlaw country fans never quite embraced this record, either.