Tuesday, August 25, 2009

THE LAUGHING DOGS/The Laughing Dogs & ...Meet Their Makers CD review!


There IS a Dog!

Yes, folks, the first two albums by THE LAUGHING DOGS have been officially released on one CD, courtesy of the American Beat label.

I've been a fan of this relatively unknown band for three decades and can still remember the first time I heard each of these fab albums. In fact, I even reviewed the individual albums (then only on out of print vinyl) for All Music Guide.

Now that they've been made available on CD, I get another go round to heap my praises on these two albums... and I'll share my All Music Guide reviews with you right here on this blog!



First off, here's the review I did for the first album (The Laughing Dogs):

"Born out of the New York underground music scene of the late '70s, the Laughing Dogs were a band looking for a good time. With a cache of snappy pop songs chiefly written by main men Ronnie Carle (vocals/bass) and James Leonard (vocals/guitar), the band's sound was elegantly arranged with the help of keyboardist/guitarist/vocalist Carter Catchcart, and fueled by the powerhouse drumming of Moe Potts. None of the members were new to the music scene, so each brought plenty of creative ideas and strong musicianship. By borrowing from the past, the Dogs created a timeless sound that was as exciting as the explosive punk scene, but was also completely different. This was power pop with a raw edge, yet very commercial. If Billy Joel's Glass Houses album was recorded by a band with 'street cred', then that band would have been the Laughing Dogs. "Get 'Im Outta Town" and "Reason For Love" should have been huge radio hits worldwide, both filled with catchy hooks, bubbly harmonies, and real joyous energy. "No Lies" and "It's Alright, It's OK" could have been unpretentious Steely Dan if they had been formed during the new wave era. "Round And Round" mixes classic rock clich├ęs with a White Album flair. That's not Badfinger's Tom Evans and Joey Molland singing the chorus to "It's Just The Truth," but if you close your eyes and pretend....Even the rock and roll basics of "Johnny Contender" and "I Need A Million" are fun. A gem of an album just waiting for you to discover it." (Stephen SPAZ Schnee-All Music Guide)

And here's the review I did for the second album (The Laughing Dogs Meet Their Makers):

First off, the Laughing Dogs are funny guys. The album cover has all four band members being scolded and punished by their real-life mothers (get it?). Based on that cover alone, you've got to love these guys. But you can't read an album by its cover, can you? Fortunately, the music contained within is just as fun, even when it's more commercial than their debut. Dynamic musical arrangements, fabulous harmonies, and great songs seem to be the Dogs' forte, and they use all three very wisely. Though the rawness of the debut is missing here, the sympathetic and warm production allows the songs to breathe, and the songs can be stunning. Pop meets a funky groove with the album opener, "Zombies," with great musical interplay. With originals like "Formal Letter," "Take My Chances," and "Reach Out For Me," who needs covers like "Don't Bring Me Down" (the record company, obviously)? Carter Cathcart's "Not What I Used To Be" sounds like a power pop band doing Motown with Walter Becker producing. When the band slows everything down for a ballad ("Stand Up" and "Two Who Are Willing To Share"), you can't help but reach for the hankies! Like other 'Two Album Deal' bands of this era (ie: Four Out Of Five Doctors, Scooters, Hawks, Sorrows, Electrics, etc), fans are torn between the raw feel of the first album, and the 'label pressure' vibe of the second. Whichever way you choose, you can't lose." (Stephen SPAZ Schnee-All Music Guide)

And finally, here's the CD review (which does contain a few elements from the above... but not much):

"When I first reviewed the first two Laughing Dogs albums years ago, they were only available on black wax… and long out of print. Heck, I was certain that no label would ever be brave or smart enough to actually put these albums out on CD! But, lo and behold, American Beat has risen to the occasion and now you can own these two great Power Pop albums on one CD. Though they never made much of a dent in the charts, the Dogs’ reputation as skilled musicians is legendary. The fact that they would masquerade as The Kojaks (complete with bald caps) and be their own opening act is STILL talked about! But none of this holds a candle to their knack for serving up melodic hooks galore on these two albums.
The quartet’s 1979 self-titled debut was energetic and laced with musical nods to their ‘60s influences, right down to the production. Still, the band were able to maintain their own identity and forge a ‘Laughing Dogs’ sound, especially with album opener “Get ‘im Outta Town” (a sound which they fully explored on their second album). Apart from that lead-off track, album highlights include the Pop-errific “Reason For Love”, “No Lies” and the Beatles-esque “Low Life”.
Their sophomore album, …Meet Their Makers, was released in 1980 and showed a maturity in the band’s songwriting and arrangements. Though the rawness of the debut is missing here, the sympathetic and warm production allows the songs to breathe, and they are often stunning. With originals like "Formal Letter," "Take My Chances," “Zombies” and "Reach Out For Me," who needs covers like "Don't Bring Me Down" (the only lukewarm tune here). When the band slows everything down for a ballad ("Stand Up" and "Two Who Are Willing To Share"), you can't help but reach for the Bic lighter!
This Laughing Dogs two-fer is an essential purchase for any Power Pop and Rock music fan. Although they may have been lumped in with the other New York-based Punk and New Wave bands from the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, the Laughing Dogs were a Rock ‘n’ Roll band at heart and this excellent release proves it." (Stephen SPAZ Schnee-All Music Guide)

And, finally, here's a clip of the band performing the fabulous "Get 'im Outta Town":

So, do you own this CD already? What are you waiting for?
Get Spaz Outta Town,
Stephen SPAZ Schnee

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