[7 March 2006]
What the hell were they thinking at Columbia Records back in 1980? Here’s a band, the Ozark Mountain Daredevils, popular only in the Ozark region of the U.S. (mostly Missouri and Kansas). They released a string of albums that had limited mass appeal, though their “blind squirrel finds acorn” routine netted them one smash national hit, “Jackie Blue” (which still sounds like no other song in their repertoire—not a good thing). They concluded their relationship with A&M Records with a live album (It’s Alive!) that showcased all that was right about the band.
I guess Columbia had some extra money in their budget…and/or a total lack of foresight. It was as if the label thought they could re-invent the band to be more commercially appealing to a nationwide audience. And I have some ocean-front real estate in New Mexico to sell you…
The eponymous titled Ozark Mountain Daredevils (not to be confused with the 1973 self-titled release that adds the article “The”) has one or two good moments interspersed with a lot of bad ones. The 10-song charade…err, parade starts with “Take You Tonight”, a fairly melodic number. The problem is, about 30 seconds after the song ends, you’ll forget the melody. It’s not the most stirring song here, but it’s pleasant and non-grating nonetheless. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of any other tune on here, except for the music in “Runnin’ Out”, which sorta kinda tries to be like a bit of a butt-kicking attempt. The lyrics (such as they are) are rather insipid, though. On the other hand, “Jump at the Chance” sounds like a southern schlocky attempt to sound like the Alan Parsons Project. But wait—it gets worse.
There’s something that gives me the willies when reviewing an album—I refer to it as the “handclap factor”. Now a non-scientific independent study conducted by your humble reviewer reveals that only one of every 64 songs released that feature handclaps somewhere within doesn’t suck (live albums excluded). When you hear the clapping of hands during a song, it translates into: “This song sucks big-time, an we’re using these handclaps to try and get you involved and distract you from the fact that the song truly does suck—even we admit that! So please clap along… unless you’re dead or already in the clutches of being terminally bored!” “Sailin’ Around the World” features handclaps—need I say more? (It’s not the one-in-64, either.)
“Lovin’ You” sounds like Orleans (ewww), while “Tough Luck” tries to sound tough… but wet toilet paper is tougher by comparison. “Oh Darlin’” (you’d think this band is from New York, since it can’t use the letter “g” in an adjective) is not the Beatles’ “Oh Darling” (there’s the “g”), but it sure as hell tries to approximate the Fab Four with the same beat as the real thing, and also by using a piano as the prominent instrument. Don’t you just love the originality here? Wait—there’s more…
If I wanted to hear Patrick Simmons, I’ll listen to Toulouse Street or The Captain and Me or any other old Doobie Brothers album (sans Michael McDonald, please). I don’t want to hear a pseudo-Simmons on “Empty Cup”. Actually, I’m waiting for Lou Christie to bust in mid-song and start singing “Liiiiiiiiightning is striiiiiiiiiiking again and again and again and again!’‘, since the guitar riff features the first two notes of the three-chord refrain of that particular song. And any woman named Rosalie who hears the song of the same name should sue the band for defamation of character, in addition to crappy lyrics sung in a sometimes-Spanish lilt. “Fool’s Gold”, a pseudo-ballad, closes out this messterpiece.
Sadly and scarily, this pile of horse dung came from the same lineage that put out solid material like “Noah” and “If You Wanna Get to Heaven”. Truth be told, I have no idea why Ozark Mountain Daredevils was given the re-release treatment, unless it’s part of an overall catalogue release. There is no other logical explanation for unleashing this upon masses that aren’t looking very hard for it in the first place. It gets its high rating (sarcasm fully intended) because the musicianship isn’t completely bad. Guitars seem to be in tune, nobody misses a beat… things like that. And if that’s the nicest thing I can say about an album, then the rest is better left unsaid. Just get It’s Alive for the only true Ozark Mountain Daredevils experience you’ll ever need. As for this record, it makes for a fine mini-Frisbee.