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Recent album review #1
Mike Curb appears to have been a busy fellow ... according to his Wikipedia entry, at one time or another he's been president of MGM Records, composer of numerous film scores, lieutenant governor / stand-in governor of California, and also involved in NASCAR racing, along with all sorts of charitable works. On the surface then, The Mike Curb Congregation looks like just another of his many projects.

But by all accounts Curb was extremely conservative in both his tastes and his politics, and when he took over the helm of MGM Records, he apparently fired the company's entire A&R Department, and dropped all the 'counter-culture' acts from the label's roster. He then put together The Mike Curb Congregation as a wholesome alternative to what he saw as the drug-fuelled psychedelia / degenerate rock that pervaded the charts of the time. Perhaps it's no surprise then, that this album includes a version of MGM performer (I'd hesitate to call him an 'artist') Little Jimmy Osmond's thoroughly naff hit single "Long Haired Lover from Liverpool".

The Mike Curb Congregation were best-known outside the USA for a modestly-successful hit single titled "Burning Bridges" (incidentally, there's no association between that and another hit around the same time, called "Softly Whispering I Love You", by a UK choral group similarly called The Congregation).

As for the music on Come Together ... well, imagine the singing of the choral section of the James Last Orchestra - without the orchestra - and that's pretty much what this album sounds like. And taking the place of orchestral support is a rudimentary line-up of keyboards, drums, and bass guitar. So The Mike Curb Congregation's sound is kind of equivalent to the James Last Orchestra on a tight budget.

The material consists of sing-along choral interpretations of popular hits of the day, mostly with an emphasis on the then still-prevalent but fading hippy ideals of world peace etc etc, all delivered with youthful gusto, somewhat akin to a revved-up gospel chorus. So yes, although the album's all very white-bread, cheery and wholesome, it's rather too samey to listen to more than once, so I'd choose James Last ahead of this anyday.

Footnote: Given Curb's politics, it may be no accident that the flag of what was then highly-conservative New Zealand appears on the album sleeve, but not that of the more substantial but liberal-leaning Australia.

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by Reviewer: bluemoon

Posted: Sunday 30th Aug 2015 9:37 PM

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Recent album review #2
Did you know you can search the Rolling Stone archives online? Their reviewer made the annoying decision to lump Bodine and Locomotive together in one review without talking specifics, so one of the reasons I bought this - for the stunning price of one dollar - was that it was reviewed by Rolling Stone in the same review as Bodine, also on the crappy MGM label.

So this album isn't the one by the English band called Locomotive, which included future member of Traffic Chris Wood - this Locomotive hailed from Seattle.

I have conflicting opinions about this album. On the one hand, Locomotive is a pile of slightly gruff blues-influenced rock of the sort that was popular at the time, that leaves me with a slight impression of distaste. On the other hand, Locomotive were probably a perfectly decent blues-based bar band, and they do have some talent, and their music isn't irksome - it's just in one ear and out the other though.

So I see Locomotive as a 2-star album, which is my dumping ground for albums that aren't too good, but not that annoying either - sort of like a cut-out bin. But I've dropped it down to 1½ stars because at least other 2-star wonders had a couple of songs I liked, and left an impression. Normally, an album has to be really bad to fall below 2 stars, but whilst Locomotive don't vary their formula enough to be bad, the blues tends to lure people into the same old scales and chord patterns - "Get On Away" is one of the one-riff ponies on here.

So Locomotive's lineup was pretty standard with guitar, bass, drums, and organ, and they present themselves as a gritty blue-collar band rather than mere studio creations, or some bunch of grubby hippies playing jam music. The rear sleeve photos reflect that - out by the railroad tracks in leather vests, blue jeans, and big belt buckles.

Despite the band's no-nonsense appearance, their material is flat out boring. This music just pours out with all the flavor of purified water. It ranges from obnoxious ("Big City Car") to pleasant ("Barbara Jean"), but there's little to discuss. The repetitive lyrics are all about girls going free, girls not understanding, buying shiny new cars, etc.

Guitarist John Ussery wrote almost all the songs, and he is a functional blues player with an appropriately slightly scratchy voice. But the band has an almost ceaseless approach to blues/rock, with a bit of contemporary roots-rock thrown in for good measure. I like the band's sound, but not what they do with it - their music (Editor: and their songtitles too!) betrays the fact that they don't have anything new to say.

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by Reviewer: Obscurity

Posted: Monday 31st Aug 2015 2:51 PM

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