The Family Dogg

The View from Rowland's Head

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Family Dogg's final LP was one of those odd records that's weird not so much because of the actual music it contains, but because it varies in style so much from track to track, and because it seems so indecisive about whether to be pop-oriented or hipper, album-oriented rock. Much of it's early-'70s pop/rock with a slight cheery British slant, but possessed of a somewhat greater ambition than most lightweight pop/rock singles of the time. The problem is that the songs aren't as good or cool as they're obviously trying to be, and that so many approaches are tried on for size that it sometimes sounds like a various-artists compilation. There's easygoing, singalong, singer/songwriter stuff ("I Wonder"); a shanty-like folk tune of hardship with overlays of orchestration, jazzy brass, and searing distorted guitar ("Riker's Island," actually one of the better tracks); passable folky pop with lyrics reminiscent of Bob Dylan's spiteful mid-'60s songs, overlaid with incongruously sweet strings ("Like Janis"); a curious attempt to blend Leonard Cohen with early Jerry Jeff Walker, again with rather middle-of-the-road orchestration ("Crucify Your Mind"); good-time gospel-boogie rock ("Trying to Put Me On," "Inner City Blues"); and uplifting pop/rock with gospel overtones ("We Have All Been Saved"). The obvious highlight of the LP is also its least typical cut (inasmuch as anything here could be said to be atypical of such a hard-to-figure-out album), "Sympathy," a big 1970 Dutch hit. Actually a cover of a song by the British progressive rock band Rare Bird, it's a mournful tune with a funereal beat, glowing organ, creepy ensemble choral vocals, and positively monstrous blasts of fuzz bass. It's better experienced on a various-artists compilation (though it's hard to say exactly what thematic compilation would be a logical place for it), however, than on this curious, patchy, and mostly mediocre album.