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.
1. Long Time Away (Brat)
3. Follow Me
4. Think Think
5. Honor Among Thieves
8. Can't Stop Pretending
10. She's Just My Baby
11. Now Or Nevermind
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)
John Lennon "Double Fantasy" 2000
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