Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The Buckinghams – Mercy, Mercy, Mercy (A Collection)

I have been a fan of the Buckinghams’ style of horn-powered pop since they hit the Chicago airwaves in the mid-60’s as a reaction to the British invasion pop groups. The sound is not very garage or necessarily very rockin’ but these cats did perform some excellent pop tunes.

Opening with their first smash, “Kind of a Drag”, you hear what this band is all about right from the start. Amazing melodies and harmonies augmented by a horn section that almost puts these songs into a MOR area except that they are upbeat and catchy enough to avoid triteness.

“Lawdy Miss Clawdy” sounds almost Dixie-land-ish/pop with the horn section tacked onto this r’n’b number. Certainly different! More guitar-oriented is “I’ve Been Wrong Before”, making this more of a garage-pop tune with the horns in the background. The drums are pretty driving, also. Cool! The horns fit in well with the white boy r’n’b of “I’ll Go Crazy” – a good version. They do a pretty nice job on “I Call Your Name”, as well, and again the horns are not so up-front as to be over-powering. This is has a rockin’, staccato guitar solo! Very odd last note harmony, though!

Keyboards dominate “Makin’ Up and Breakin’ Up” and this becomes almost a psyche-pop number. Then another huge hit, “Don’t You Care”. The keys and the horns work together with a romantic melody line to form a perfect pop gem. “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” was another smash for the guys, this time more of a r’n’b/Tom Jones-ish feel – great groove with the horn section providing rockin’ accents. I really like the vocal trade-off on the last verse, too.

These cats got tons of airplay and “Hey Baby (They’re Playing Our Song)” is another biggie for them, and deservedly so. Really upbeat, with the organ upfront – maybe kinda like a better-sounding Cowsills or something. Growing up, these tunes were played on the radio all the type and were super summer songs at the local swimming pool! Tons of fun – especially the rave-up at the end!

Their producer got a little carried away with a “freak-out” section in the otherwise standard pop of “Susan”, but while the Buckinghams were a little pissed, I think it certainly makes it different! Still catchy as hell! They go all out on the harmonies, including an accapella section, which makes it slightly reminiscent of groups like the Association.

Nothing else on this compilation reached the heights of these tunes, but there’s still more cool pop. “Back In Love Again” has all the elements of the others and maybe even received some airplay, but not to the level of the hits. A little less successful is “You Misunderstand Me” and “Where Did You Come From”, both of which sounds almost like movie soundtrack fodder.

“This is How Much I Love You” starts as a string dominated ballad but has some nice semi-psychedelic touches, especially the fuzz guitar that comes out of nowhere! Wish there was more of that! Less impressive is “It’s a Beautiful Day (For Lovin’)” – just nothing special there.

The band got more ambitious for “Difference of Opinion”, an almost progressive pop tune. Pretty good, though! “I’ve Got a Feelin’” sounds a little like a Mike Nesmith number – maybe like “Listen to the Band”, right down to the horns. They were definitely trying to be more “serious” by this time. They’re a little too serious in “You” and it isn’t much fun anymore. Not terrible, but this country-ish style didn’t really fit them that well.

I love this stuff, but I have a soft spot in my heart because of my youthful memories! Not for everyone, but if you can appreciate a finely crafted, though slightly wimpy, pop tune, you should check these cats out!