Friday, October 16, 2009

13 Songs by Artful Dodger

Ever since the Beatles stopped performing live, it's usually been a mark of commercial doom for a band to get tagged as "power pop", and there's no better example than Artful Dodger. Like a perfect cross between the Raspberries and the Faces, this was the ultimate coulda-shoulda-woulda band. Passionate, energetic, unafraid to rock, and armed with a songwriting team (vocalist Billy Paliselli and guitarist Gary Herewig) that tossed off classic singles almost effortlessly, Artful Dodger dropped their self-titled debut in 1975. It boasted concise, hook-filled gems like "Think Think" and "Wayside", but that was the year that Frampton Comes Alive sold a bajillion copies, so let's chalk that one up to bad timing.

In '76 they followed up with the even stronger Honor Among Thieves (with songs by Gary Cox rivalling the Paliselli/Herewig axis). The band was certainly gaining a cult audience, but nothing big enough to impress the bean counters at the label. Possibly due to the exhaustion of touring, possibly due to desperation for sales (probably both), Artful Dodger's next move was disastrous. Coming out in 1977, at the height of the punk explosion, Babes On Broadway was exactly the wrong album at the wrong time. The mix was mainstream and dull, the band sounded tired, and, worst of all, the songs just weren't up to the gold standard this band had set for itself.

It looked like a tragic end - and it would have been - except that 3 years later, in 1980, they returned for one last stand. Against all odds and all reason, they created the album of their lives: the self-produced Rave On was by far their best work. It burned with an energy and desperation, like the band knew it was a final shot. The song "Forever" could be read on one level as a love song, but it's clear its real meaning is much more a statement of purpose - put simply, the band meant everything to these guys, and you can hear it in every note of Rave On. Unfortunately, even the flawless single "A Girl (La La La)" couldn't find a toe-hold in the trendoid new wave/disco days of 1980, and the life of one of my fave bands came to a close (but at least they did it in heroic fashion).

This collection is compiled chronologically. Three songs each from their first two albums, two songs from Babes on Broadway, and four from Rave On. The tracks from the latter are upped from a vinyl source, as I don't think it's ever been released on CD (and if it has, please do the band a favor and buy it - you won't be disappointed). As an added bonus, I've started the mix with an early version of "Long Time Away" from back when the band still called themselves Brat.

Artful Dodger

1. Long Time Away (Brat)
2. Wayside
3. Follow Me
4. Think Think
5. Honor Among Thieves
6. Remember
7. Dandelion
8. Can't Stop Pretending
9. Mistake
10. She's Just My Baby
11. Now Or Nevermind
12. Forever
13. A Girl (La La La)

#1 from Yellow Pills: Prefill - A Power Pop Prescription
#2 - 4 from Artful Dodger (1975)
#5 - 7 from Honor Among Thieves (1976)
#8, 9 from Babes On Broadway (1977)
#10 - 13 from Rave On (1980)

10 comments:

PDX Chica said...

Looking forward to listening to this. I love how passionate you are about this... :-)

PDX Chica said...

Really enjoyed this... thanks for posting!

Roy Pearl said...

You're welcome, chica! Glad you gave it a listen. It looks like the band has finally had their albums reissued digitally - maybe they can beat the odds again and forge a reunion that outdoes their early stuff.

Anonymous said...

Love your overview on the band. Why these guys never made it is a mystery... You should have expanded your compilation- after all, how can you have a "Best of Artful Dodger" and not include Scream and It's Over...

Rave On !!!!

crickybear said...

How can an Artful Dodger compilation not include Scream, It's Over, and So Afraid????

Make it 16 songs... And I'm "all in"!

Great band- I will never understand why they didn't make it nationally???

Thanks for the memory
Mike

Roy Pearl said...

Thanks for the comments! And yeah, a number of other songs could be on the mix - but it's meant as an overview that might get someone to purchase a proper album from the band, not as the ultimate AD compilation. In fact, AD needs to release that comp themselves (I'd buy it)!

Anonymous said...

If only one could buy a proper album of any of the Artful Dodger albums, I for one would buy all of them to be able to listen and enjoy them once again! Would be great to get a repost of this and anymore AD you might have.

Dr. Detroit said...

I dunno... I always liked "Babes on Broadway."

Eddie said...

Hi RP, If you could fit the Babes On B-way title track on a future mix, you'd make me very happy!

Roy Pearl said...

I'll see what I can do, Eddie!