Ain't Life Grand
Black Oak Arkansas
Released: May 1975
Chart Peak: #145
Weeks Charted: 8
Black Oak Arkansas is a band historically given to wretched excess, but this album features smooth harmonies, clear guitar tones and any number of crisp, concise rockers. It is highlighted by a captivating rendition of the Beatles' "Taxman," an actual melodic ballad, "Love Can Be Found," and "Cryin' Shame," which is bright, bouncy and difficult to resist.
Difficult, but not impossible. Fanatic BOA followers may rest assured that the group's obnoxious elements still predominate. "Back Door Man" rubs fresh assault into feminist wounds, but it is so inane that it boils down to macho dude about nothing.
- Ken Barnes, Rolling Stone, 7/31/75.
More of the same good old rock and roll from Jim Dandy and his friends. All tunes are group originals except the Beatles' "Taxman" and there is the usual raunchy BOA excitement generated on each cut. The group even experiments with some softer material here and it comes out very nicely. Black Oak Arkansas should score handily on all counts with this one. Best cuts: "Taxman," "Fancy Nancy," "Rebel," "Back Door Man," "Cryin' Shame."
- Billboard, 1975.
Well, a gentleman named Richard Podolor has produced this new BOA album Ain't Life Grand and he's done the strangest thing to them; he's made them into a commercial sounding pop group. The rough edges have been smoothed out. You can hear every guitar like separately, every drum role, every note on the bass. There's so much clarity you can actually hear what Jim Dandy really sounds like, and this could be an enormous problem if you're not a solid Black Oak Arkansas fanatic. Listen to "Keep On." I never thought of Black Oak Arkansas as a tight harmony group, but surprise, here they are!
As usual all the material is pretty much the same. "Fancy Nancy" sounds like most of the material from the previous albums, as does "Back Door Man," a number the band has been performing on stage for awhile. But something has happened to the boys. They are like wild colts that have been broken and are now suitable for riding. And, as I said, I really can't make up my mind if this was such a wonderful idea.
This is the most palatable album Black Oak Arkansas have ever recorded. It may also be the least representative of what the band are capable of -- creating a sultry, sexy, "hot'n nasty" record and making you squirm at how raw and wild it is.
I've always said that Black Oak Arkansas make interesting but not very good records. Well, they've made a very tight, clean good record now... so when are they gonna get sloppy again?
- Janis Schact, Circus, 8/75.
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