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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Blondie

Plastic Letters

Review by Gary Hill

This was Blondie’s second album and it found them working within a quirky pop rock sort of element, but not taking it to the mainstream extreme of the next disc. Frankly, I’ve always enjoyed this album a lot. I’d have to say that perhaps the bonus tracks take away from the continuity and power of the disc, though. Still, they are bonus tracks and as such just extras. The core release is definitely worth having.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Fan Mail
This is the classic example of how Blondie could bring a pop rock vibe to some punky elements. Or, perhaps it's the opposite equation. Either way, the keyboard section almost brings some prog to the table.
Denis
Catchy little pop ditties, particularly those with a 1950’s bent, are not really my kind of thing. Somehow I’ve always loved this track, though. It’s predictable and yet, magical, too. Part of the lyrics to this are in French.
Bermuda Triangle Blues (Flight 45)
There is an appropriate air of mystery to this track and yet it’s a bouncy rocker that’s a lot of fun, too. I like the number a lot. It’s one of the highlights of this set.
Youth Nabbed as Sniper
Harder rocking and a little punky, this is overall a killer rock and roll number. There’s nothing at all wrong with this track, but it pales a bit in comparison to the material that preceded it.
Contact in Red Square
There’s a cool “Secret Agent Man”-like introduction here, but the number moves out into a more typical Blondie (at least typical for this disc) sound from there. There’s some cool keyboard work and also a nice Russian influenced segment. I’ve always liked this a lot.
(I'm Always Touched by Your) Presence, Dear
More of a poppy number, this is energetic and tasty, if not that special. It’s entertaining, but doesn’t really stand out amidst the rest of the music here.
I'm on E
High energy and rather punky, this has a cool multiple layered vocal arrangements, but otherwise is somewhat middle of the road in terms of the rest of the music here.
I Didn't Have the Nerve to Say No
This one’s a step up. There’s quite a bit of range here. Parts are punky and parts are more along the lines of the first couple tracks here. I’d put this well above the halfway mark in terms of quality of the material.
Love at the Pier
Bouncy and fun, this is also a little silly in some of its delivery. It’s not all that great and one of the weaker cuts on show here.
No Imagination
In some ways this isn’t all that special. That said, there is a killer keyboard based section and a great guitar solo that go a long way towards elevating it.
Kidnapper
There’s an old school bluesy element to this with some doo wop sound in the mix. It’s a nice change of pace and a lot of fun.
Detroit 442
A fast paced rocker, this is a cool tune. I’d put it in the upper half of the disc for sure and the instrumental section is quite tasty.
Cautious Lip
I’ve always thought of this cool number as one of the highlights of the set. It’s got a decidedly plodding feeling to it and combines some bluesy slide guitar with more standard Blondie sounds.
Once I Had a Love (AKA the Disco Song) (1975 Version)
The first bonus track on the set, this is not nearly as disco as the band would eventually do it when it became their huge hit “Heart of Glass.” Here it has more of a stripped down funky arrangement. 
Scenery
This is a good song, but not great. It’s just not overly special. Then again, it is a bonus.
Poets Problem
Another average cut, this is decent, but nothing great.
Detroit 442 (Live)
They end the bonus tracks with a live version of the cut from the main part of the album. It’s definitely more raw and hard rocking in this live telling. It’s still a great tune.
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