Monday, June 2, 2008

Dave Clark Five - You Got What It Takes

(Epic, 1967)

It’s interesting (to me) to note that while many other major groups – the Beatles, Kinks, Rolling Stones, various bubblegum popsters – backed off from their r&b influences in ’66/’67 to explore a self-conscious “Britishness,” the Dave Clark Five delved deeper into a range of American forms – blues, soul, and country/western – on albums like Satisfied With You and the downright weird ’n’ wonderful You Got What it Takes. The crazy-quilt stylistic hodgepodge of the discs the band released during this period suggests that it was more about shooting blindly in all directions for hits than executing any grand artistic masterplan, but there’s plenty to enjoy from this eccentric phase in Clark & co.’s career. The “You Got What it Takes” single is a fine example of such curiosities. Trying out something new, Mike Smith’s hammy, barking vocal is backed by an army of bright horns on this clunky, chunky hunk of white soulpop; the end result is more proto-Blues Brothers than DC5, but it was goofily appealing enough to give the group its last U.S. top ten. “Doctor Rhythm” is another of those “why didn’t they release this three years ago” songs, a streamlined r&b frathouse dancer that rides a great bassline as sax growls underneath. Satisfying, if incongruous. While neither track approaches trainwreck status (“Doctor Rhythm” would even fit nicely on a compilation of early hits), there are certainly a lot of embarrassing and baffling misfires on the surrounding late-era records as the Dave Clark Five tries to find its niche amid marketplace upheaval. Nevertheless, it’s always fun and surprising to hear them stretch out and switch from style to style on these unpredictable discs, and the additional effort it takes to find dusty copies of the LPs and singles from the immediate post-hitmaking period is effort well spent, I’d say.

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