The Ugly's

The Quiet Explosion

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AllMusic Review by Richie Unterberger

The Ugly's [sic] undeniably had an interesting history, if nothing else than for their connections to bigger and better bands. Lead singer Steve Gibbons later fronted the Steve Gibbons Band; bassist Dave Pegg, who was in one of the lineups, later became a mainstay of Fairport Convention; Dave Morgan, in one of the later lineups, wrote some material covered by the Move; one-time keyboardist Jimmy O'Neill joined a late version of the Mindbenders; and Gibbons and Morgan both later played with ex-Move bassist Trevor Burton and ex-Moody Blues frontman Denny Laine in Balls. From the angle of archival diligence, this 23-track compendium is exemplary, with all 12 of the tracks from their 1965-1969 singles; five songs recorded for the BBC; a half-dozen unreleased cuts, one of them an alternate version of "Mary Colinto"; and typically excellent liner notes from David Wells that serve as a thorough group history. All that applauded, even die-hard '60s British rock fans have to conclude that, for all the band's notable history and talent, their actual recordings just aren't all that good, and do not persuasively argue that the Ugly's should have been bigger than they were. While Gibbons has an interesting, brooding voice slightly similar to fellow Birmingham product Denny Laine, their songs weren't all that special and didn't carve out a consistent or captivating style. Perhaps the best of the lot was the 1965 single "It's Alright," which fit in well with the vibe of some of the socially observant songs the Kinks were starting to do around the same time, and is centered around an attractive harpsichord line. Its B-side, "A Friend," seems to be the most overlooked cut they ever did, sounding something like a bizarre Joe Meek production, but one with much more intelligent and sullen lyrics than the material Meek favored. Otherwise, however, their early songs just don't have all that much going for them aside from a tense pop sensibility. They also had an unfortunate bent for bad novelty songs that militate against repeated listening ("Ugly Blues," "A Good Idea," "And the Squire Blew His Horn"), and while "End of the Season" (released about a year before the Kinks put out their own version on Something Else) is a better song, it's vastly inferior to the Kinks' rendition. Their final single "I See the Light" isn't bad late-'60s rock, and as the liner notes aptly observe, some of the unreleased material filling out the CD bears a resemblance to their Birmingham cousins the Move. That material isn't nearly as good as the Move, however, and some of the BBC tracks are unremarkable covers of classics by Love, Moby Grape, and Eddie Cochran.

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