Rare Bird - Somebodyís Watching [Talking Elephant Records - 2018]
This latest reissue from Talking Elephant is the fourth album from Rare Bird, originally released by Polydor records in 1973, Somebodyís Watching was their second for the label, and also their second since their shift away from the more progressive sounds of their first two albums in favour of a more radio friendly style. Unfortunately for Rare Bird, this change of style did not herald the commercial success they had craved since the moderate commercial accomplishments of their debut single, Sympathy, which charted at number 27 in February of 1970. Despite their attempts to create something with mass appeal they never managed to breach the charts again, either with albums or singles and Sympathy remains their only chart success.
The first thing one notices when listening to the album is the huge debt they owe to the music of The Eagles. The albumís opener and title track is a well-constructed slab of funk rock that reminds me of both The Eagles and Steely Dan, and features some fairly terrific lead guitar work from guitarist Curtis and Gould. The guitar work is a key trait that is evident right across the album. Third Time Around is up next and once again that lead guitar takes centre stage, with both Gould and Curtis trading some lovely, funky lead breaks in what is otherwise a decent, yet fairly typical 70s rock track. Turn Your Head is more Eagles tinged country rock, albeit a shift from the rockier material of the first two tracks. The track is built around an acoustic guitar riff with some electric lead adding extra flavour over the top. The vocals are reminiscent of the Eagles, with the chorus featuring massed vocals not dissimilar to those of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. More and More sticks to the same blueprint as the previous track, with a pretty funky bass line, that hints at a definite Fleetwood Mac influence, whereas Hard Time is a great country rock ballad, and really nails that West Coast sound made famous by the likes of The Eagles. Itís hard to believe that these guys were British and not American.
The second half of the album kicks off with Who is the Hero, another classic 70s country rock ballad in the style of what has already gone before. High in the Morning follows in a similar vein, however this is one of the strongest songs on the album. Those catchy massed vocals are back, and the song is as good as anything by their contemporaries. This is followed by Dollars, which seems to be the albumís real oddity. Itís actually the bandís interpretation of tracks from Ennio Morriconeís score to For A Few Dollars More. The bandís country rock style really suits the material and once again it allows Gould and Curtis to shine as they trade guitar licks. The track is all the more notable for the appearance of John Wetton of King Crimson and Asia fame, on bass guitar. The album closes with bonus track Virginia, a single released around the same time as the album. One of the more commercial tracks on the CD, and I must admit to being surprised it didnít fare better in the charts. A catchy slice of funky country tinged rock, that could rival their peers.
Overall the album is very reminiscent of that particular time in the 1970s when everyone was trying to create that West Coast sound that The Eagles and CSNY were masters of. This lack of originality lets the band down slightly, however, on the stronger material they are a match for any of their rivals. The songs are generally of a reasonable quality, with one or two of a higher standard, however it just lacks that little bit of originality. For that reason alone, it scores a 3 out of 5. It is still a pleasant enough listen for fans of this genre, itís just not going to replace your Eagles or CSNY records.Darren Charles