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The Vogues

[Pickwick/33 Records SPC-3188]

I’ll be reviewing the vinyls I collect in chronological order, and this first entry is a record that came free with the stereo when I bought the unit off the guy a couple of towns over. It was the one he grabbed at random from a pile of records and threw on, to show me that the system worked. Anyway.

This is a sheer blast of 60s boy-group harmony music, from the synchronized stage moves easily imagined while listening, right down to the ridiculous sweaters they’re wearing on the cover. But there’s no need to be dismissive of their talents, or this album of tunes, which seems to be a mixed collection of hit songs by other people and their own attempts at songwriting.

Side A

5 O’Clock World you’ll know for sure, most likely from the Good Morning, Vietnam! soundtrack. This was a song written for them, and recorded by them. Their one most recognizable hit? Most likely. Up next is Magic Town, a slow dancer with sweet harmonies. Then it’s a track called 1-2-3, which was a Len Barry song covered, over the years, by many different artists. It is ultimately a great song for dancing. You Were On My Mind is also sort of bouncy, a typical 60’s song about how the singer has all these troubles but this person on their mind makes it all better. And closing out the side is You’re The One, which was originally a Petula Clark song but, if you can imagine, the Vogues made it more popular than she did.

Side B

I wasn’t really surprised that we kick off the second side with It’s Not Unusual, a song first recorded by Mr. Tom Jones. Now, get the song out of your head (‘cos I know it’s there suddenly, right?). You’re welcome. The version here is competent, though it lacks the verve of Mr. Jones. Make The World Go Away is another hit song, originally for Ray Price (among others), bringing a nice and slow, sweet country element to the mix of songs on this platter. Goodnight My Love is another slow dancer, actually the best slow song on this record. It has an interesting history, including an original version with an 11-year-old Barry White playing piano for it. Cool. And ending the second side is Make It Easy On Yourself, a song that, at times, seems on the verge of being unable to hold itself together. The drums are trying too hard, and it sounds sort of pasted-together, none of the instruments wanting to interrupt each other or something. All of which detracts from the clearly sad sentiment of the song.

In sum, these were singers projecting an image of being Good Boys, the kind it would be OK to take home to your Mom. The music occasionally has energy, but it never strays past tasteful, just in case your Grandma hears it. I know it’s a total lie to imagine that that decade was a simpler time, that they were somehow halcyon days (no matter what the Boomers are selling us every chance they get). Today, singers confront those hard times, more often. Here, it’s about keeping things calm and nice, despite the world, a kind of escapism in the simplicity of this music. The nostalgic part of me that happily remembers my Mom’s jukebox loved this.

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