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Let There Be Music

Asylum 1029
Released: March 1975
Chart Peak: #33
Weeks Charted: 32

John HallThis hot young band from Woodstock is (along with Little Feat) the best of the funky American rock & roll bands working today. They play with a jazzy riffing intelligence and show-off instrumental skill that few of their generation can even approach. Let There Be Music, their second album to be released in the States, is more tailored and somewhat more slickly produced than their debut LP, Orleans. But it's definitely the album to justify the faith that a lot of people seem to put in them.

Orleans - Let There Be Music
Original album advertising art.
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Whereas guitarist John Hall completely dominated the first album, the credits this time are more evenly distributed among the band and maybe that's why it's a successful record. Hall's songwriting continues to preside with its finger-popping hooks, and Johanna Hall's lyrics give this band a rare sensibility that most all-male bands sorely lack. Larry Hoppen is the perfect foil for Hall's aggressive attack as he wittily plays his keyboards and contributes to sparkling guitar duets with Hall, the keystone of Orleans's live performance. Drummer Wells Kelly is the backbone of the band, and I'm disappointed that his deeply moving showpiece, "I'm a Bum," wasn't included in this set.

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The best songs on Let There Be Music are outstanding. "Dance with Me" is one of the prettiest pop tunes I've heard, especially for its attractively starry-eyed lust. "Fresh Wind" is a nice picture of Orleans's considerable harmonic strengths, while "Time Passes On" softly illustrates the band's debt to the late and lamented Young Rascals. Hoppen's great "Let There Be Music" is a blaster that should sound nice on the radio and seems to be a tangible and calculated tip of the hat to the Doobie Brothers. I like the lyrics, which seem to be a balm for the troubles of many an internally battling band.

That's just the A side. The flip has "Business as Usual," handsomely organized and phrased, with a message about apathy that isn't to be ignored. "Cold Spell" is the best energy-crisis song since Tower of Power's "Only So Much Oil in the Ground." Less successful is "Give One Heart": The lyric is sharp but a good rule is that white bands shouldn't play reggae since reggae lovers take the music very seriously and don't like to hear it tampered with. To his credit, drummer Kelly has the impossibly sprung rhythms down pretty well.

Part of the reason Let There Be Music plays so well on repeated listenings is Charlie Plotkin's production: The sound is alive and crisp and he realized that Orleans doesn't require much in the way of frills. But let yourself be cautioned that Orleans is a band that has to be heard in concert. Like some other good things, it's addictive.

- Stephen Davis, Rolling Stone, 4/24/75.

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