The Association

Greatest Hits (Warner Brothers '68, '87) Rating: B+
The Association had a nice run from 1966-68, with a string of hits that are still played today, "Never My Love," "Along Comes Mary," "Cherish," and "Windy" being chief among them. The problem with this band is that these songs fairly reek of that flowery era, though that might not be such a bad thing if like me you appreciate the way this music harks back to that more innocent time. If nothing else the band certainly had nice harmonies, and Curt Boettcher (also known for his own projects Sagittarius and the Millennium) provided state-of-the-art production, cramming these songs with lush details that remain interesting after repeat listens. Sure, these songs are sugary, syrupy, saccharine, sweet - add your own adjective - but they're awfully pretty provided you're in the right frame of mind. Besides, there are some lighter up-tempo tracks ("Like Always," "Time For Livin'"), attempts at rocking out ("Enter The Young" and especially "Six Man Band"), and unclassifiable experiments ("Requiem For The Masses," which features adventurous martial rhythms, a Neil Young-ish lead vocal, and choir-like harmonies) that somewhat belie the band's critical reputation as anonymous studio pros who offered nothing other than simpering boy-loves-girl wimpery. Anyway, "Everything That Touches You" may indeed be a lovey-dovey hippy song, but it's a lovely lovey-dovey hippy song that has anthemic qualities as well, and "No Fair At All" likewise has an inviting lushness provided you can get past its white bread purity. Still, while I felt it was my duty to point out some songs that will be unfamiliar to most listeners, these guys are remembered today mostly for their hits, which are far and away the best songs on the album. "Never My Love" is my personal favorite, and it's beyond-beautiful (I used to think it was The Zombies, and it does sound a bit like them), while "Along Comes Mary," with its trippy up-tempo groove and memorable hand claps, should be on any short list of great songs about marijuana. "Cherish," probably the band's most famous song, is another excellent ballad best known for its "and I do, cherish you" outro, while "Windy" is catchy and light in a similar vein as what the Mamas and the Papas were doing at around the same time. Again, in order to best appreciate this album you should be ready to be displaced to the late '60s, as critics who call this music "dated" certainly have a point, but "dated" and "bad" aren't necessarily the same thing, and by and large these are good songs performed by true pros (Boettcher wasn't above using top session men, a practice that wasn't uncommon at the time). Unfortunately, the band has been poorly served by their record company, as their original recordings have yet to see a cd release in the U.S. So, depending on where you live, your Association options may be very limited, though Rhino released a considerably more comprehensive 2-cd set called Just the Right Sound: The Association Anthology in 2002 (which quite frankly is overly generous). Still, this 13 track Greatest Hits album is the best-known collection and it's a solid starting point.

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