Seals and Crofts
Warner Bros. BS 2699
Released: April 1973
Chart Peak: #4
Weeks Charted: 77
Certified Gold: 6/25/73
It looks like a trend. Arlo Guthrie, Steve Goodman, Seals and Crofts -- all adorning their album covers with family portraits. The difference here is that S&C have gone all the way and dedicated the record to their wives, spalshed their pictures all over the gatefold jacket, and even written a song about them.
These ingredients, part of the duo's personal philosiphies, crop up throughout without becoming obnoxious. The main reason they don't is the great difference in the styles of the outstanding tunes. Besides the "Ruby Jean and Billie Lee" ballad there's the all-for-fun "Standin' on a Mountain Top," the country "Dust on My Saddle," and the mellow instrumental "Wisdom."
"Mountain Top" sounds like a vintage 1964 rock tune that might have vied with the Riveras' "California Sun" for a spot in the Top Ten. And well it should, because a check at the credits shows that James Seals did indeed write it in 1964. Today it's a refresher, a breather between songs sprinkled with various messages.
S&C must have really combed the vaults this time around, because "Dust on My Saddle" is a 1966 Seals copyright. Reflecting the influence of his early country work, this is a sheer delight, an "El Paso" that ends happily ever after. The innocent narrator flees from the law for six years only to discover that the real culprit was caught just after he left town. Even in the mid-Sixties Seals was aware of the comfort provided by close relatives: The hero announces that "I'm bound for Carolina -- and my family."
Unfortunately the tracks most likely to get AM play are the unadventurous ones. They're not bad, but they're musical meringues appealing to those looking for sweet sounds without much substance. The title tune and "We May Never Pass This Way (Again)" are the best-known entries in this category. Then there are a couple of minor irritants that will keep listeners needle-hopping to hear the really good stuff.
- Paul Gambaccini, Rolling Stone, 6/7/73.
Radio listening can create the impression that Seals and Crofts hae a narrow, restricted style, the core of it being a kind of low-keyed preachiness couched in high-noted harmonies. In fact, their work is eclectic, or extraordinarily varied, and this album is especially so. An insistent but fairly tasteful electric guitar kicks along such rockers as "Standin' on a Mountain Top" (written in 1964) and "It's Gonna Come Down (on You)," which are worlds removed from the Seals sax solo also included, or the tongue-chewing cowboy song, or the ballads that are as secular and girl-chasing as anybody's ballads, or the pastel waves of uncategorizable music that are built upon Crofts' mandolin lines in such pieces as "Nine Houses."
You're almost certain to like some of it, almost certain not to like all of it, but likely to admire, in any case, the way Seals and Crofts manage to sound like Seals and Crofts through all these changes. Myself, I like the guitar-mandolin arrangements, the lyricism, and the taste -- and I grow a little weary of being talked down to, which seems necessarily a part of the religious instruction and/or moralizing they periodically lay upon us. I also find this particular album so carefully produced that it is almost sterile in some places. It seems, however, that there are several levels on which I can listen to it, paying varying degrees of attention -- and I find some sort of reward at any plateau. Can't explain that. But people who are more heavily into Eastern Thought than I am are continually doing things that affect me in ways I can't explain.
- Noel Coppage, Stereo Review, 8/73.
In the classic folk-schlock manner, female contributors to this album (predictable exception: Bobbye Hall, here designated Miss rather than Ms) are listed by first name. Only these women aren't groupies -- they're wives, and the album is dedicated to them. Well, I'm sure it sounds better on a pedestal than on a turntable. C-
- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.
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