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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Off Broadway

Live At Fitzgerald's

Review by Gary Hill

In the mid to the late 1970's it seemed that there was a prevailing sound on the local music scene in the Chicago area. Based on hard edged guitar, Beatles leanings, catchy pop arrangements, and an almost punky texture, this sound was dubbed "power pop". The most well known practitioners of that sound were most likely Cheap Trick and Enuff Z'Nuff, but it seemed to be the dominant sound of the area then. Off Broadway, although never as well known as those other two acts, were among the artists performing in that genre, and they were one of the better ones. Although having broken up years ago, they recently reformed, and this live album is a recording of the modern incarnation of the band, and is quite a good disc both in terms of performance and recording quality. If you are a fan of the band it is a "must have", but if you haven't heard them, and like the music of Trick and Enuff Z'Nuff, you should probably give this one a chance, too.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2003 Year Book Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.
Track by Track Review
Bad Indication
Drums lead in to the live take on this classic Off Broadway cut. The song shows that the band has lost nothing in terms of charm over the years. This buoyant power pop number is still very entertaining.
Bully Bully
Bouncy, almost punk textures create the intro here. Then the sparsely arrange verse continues these elements with a mix of old rock and roll. This feels rather like a cross between Buddy Holly, Elvis Costello and The Ramones. It's good fun.
Automatic
Guitar starts off this one. It has a classic power pop sound, and the vocal arrangement is especially strong. The guitar solo is quite tasty, too, and the composition eventually turns very frantic.
Hang On For Love
This classic number is another from the vein that the band made their own, and is one of their better known pieces. It holds up very well in this recording.
Stay In Time
The percussion on this one just about thunders in. It's another of the band's better known pieces, and they play it a bit harder than on the studio version, and the change seems to serve the song well.
Full Moon Turn My Head Around
Probably the punkiest cut that Off Broadway ever did, this feels a bit like a cross between Cheap Trick and a slower paced Dickies. It's good clean fun, and features a tasty guitar solo. A bit of an audience sing-along shows up, too.
Drop Me A Line
The vocal performance on this is the strongest point, but the musical arrangement is pretty crunchy. It is another that calls up comparisons to Cheap Trick. It is quite a high energy performance and has some Beatlesesque moments. The scat singing segment is a nice touch.
I Belong to Me
This is more high energy power pop that has some tasty guitar work and is percussion heavy in its presentation.
Showdown
Harder edged and more punky in texture at the intro, as the chorus enters it is more pop oriented. This rocker is quite cool, but suffers from a bit of feedback on the recording.
U.S. Girls
A '60's rock texture is heard on the intro here, but the overall mode is a more typical of that Midwest sound. This is good, but not really a standout.
She Said
This is another that is cut pretty much from the same vein as the preceding material, although the Beatles influences are more prevalent here. Those elements, along with an almost swirling arrangement pull this one up quite a bit.
 
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