City Boy: City Boy/Dinner At The Ritz
There are countless bands who, with hindsight, make you shake your head in wonderment that they aren't and never were household names. City Boy are a perfect example of such a band, this sextet of English upstarts seeming to bring a perfect blend of pop rock goodness into play during the format's heyday (the mid 70s), with what should have been chart shattering results.
An amazing 40 years down the line from their self titled debut, and it would be fair to suggest that the album is most notable (from the outside), for featuring a fledgling Robert John Lange ("Mutt" to his friends) behind the production desk - and to a lesser extent for bringing cult melodic rock guitar hero Mike Slamer into the public eye. And yet with an approach that sits somewhere between the quirkiness of 10CC, progressive pop of Supertramp, rock n' roll hoochie-coo of Mott The Hoople and catchiness that so many 70s bands exploited in a way we've never seen since, in truth what should have made this album stand out was its great songs and wonderful performances. Sample the seductive melody of "Sunset Boulevard", the gentle acoustic guitar led prog-lite of "Haymaking Time", or the layered vocals and persuasive keyboard and guitar interplay of "5000 Years/Don't Know Can't Tell" for proof that City Boy could rock, pop, prog and roll with the best of them. Add in great vocals from Lol Mason and Steve Broughton - the latter also providing guitars alongside Slamer - Max Thomas's creative keyboard work and talented rhythm section of Chris Dunn (bass) and Roger Kent (drums) and you could ask for little more.
However more would come, the sextet teaming up with Lange again for the more mature and harder hitting slice of Rock that would be Dinner At The Ritz. However with their eye for a pop tune, ear for melody and willingness to utilise expansive arrangements, City Boy really had the weapons to make them superstars. "Momma's Boy" illustrates it from the off, a cutting burst of guitar happy to nestle alongside 'doo-dah-dah-dah-dah' backing and a snarling lead vocal. "Walk On Water" brings the polished pop side to the table, before "Dinner At The Ritz" even reminds of Queen, although more through its willingness to move from style to style and its out and out Englishness, than the actual end result. However with the likes of "State Secret - A Thriller" hitting like a cowbell clanging spy pastiche, the ambition was certainly there to match the best Freddie and co had to offer - if still with a more blatant eye on the pop scene.
There are numerous City Boy CDs out there, however this double album, two disc reissue from Lemon/Cherry Red is actually the first official CD release for either of these excellent albums. When coupled with five cracking BBC In Concert live tracks (all from the debut), a B-Side in "Teleulah" and interesting liner notes from respected rock scribe Malcolm Dome, well, there's simply no reason to look beyond this set as the definitive version of two cracking albums from a criminally underrated band - and even better was to follow…
1. (Moonlight) Shake My Head And Leave
2. Deadly Delicious
3. Surgery Hours (Doctor Doctor)
4. Sunset Boulevard
5. Oddball Dance
6. 5000 Years/Don't Know Can't Tell
7. The Hap Ki Do Kid
8. Greatest Story Ever Told
9. Haymaking Time (bonus track)
10. Telulah (B side bonus track)
BBC In Concert
11. During Surgery Hours
12. Greatest Story Ever Told
13. Sunset Boulevard
14. Oddball Dance
15. 5000 Years/Don't Know Can't Tell
1. Momma's Boy
2. Walk On The Water
4. Dinner At The Ritz
5. Goodbye Blue Monday
6. The Violin
7. State Secrets – A Thriller (I. State Secrets II. Heavy Breathing III. Spring In Peking)
Added: August 4th 2015
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: City Boy/Dinner At The Ritz at Cherry Red
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