Great Buildings is a near-perfect band for Summer 1981, whose airways are jammed with Beatly harmonies laid boyishly against a quasi-heavy-metal buzz. You know the sound: solid, distortion-level REO / Boston / Foreigner / Styx / Rush / .38 Special / Jouney.
It's that unmistakable, ubiquitous style that won the band a contract with Columbia records, since such good fortune could hardly be attributed to lyrics, originality or even the group's name.
To complain, therefore, that most of the tunes on Great Buildings' debut album sound very much alike would be to imply that any of the above-mentioned megagroups offer something fresh or individualstic. An any drive-time captive who can sing all the hooks but can't name that band will gladly set you straight on that point.
The better approach is to try to figure out why "Apart From the Crowd" hasn't been able to achieve the opposite of its title and elbow its way onto the air.
1. Lead singer/rhythm guitarist Danny Wilde's vocals, while fitting the requirement of McCartneyish sweetness, often comes dangerously close to the outright slavishness that soild the Knack. On fadeouts (of which there are all too many on this LP), he sometimes goes so far as the throw in a couple of Oooh-oooh-ooohs of the sort that marked the Cute Beatle's Chuck Berry phase. This makes the group sound more like Bad finger than REO Speedwagon.
2. Although it often seems that the current titans of airplay would sell their mothers for a hook alone, closer inspection reveals that there's usually a story-line elsewhere in their songs, no matter how naive or dippy. Great Buildings offers fine hooks, particularly in the title track and "Hold On to Something," but the rest of its lyrics seem to have been pieced together from old catalogues. Even in the summer of '81, rock fans like a little meaning.
3. Producers Ed E. Thacker and John Boylan mix drummer Richard Sandford way too loud. Sanford plays way too loud. Snadford does not play too well .
THE ALBUM -- Great Buildings, "Apart From the Crowd," Columbia NJC 36920.; THE SHOW -- Opening for Holly and the Italians, Monday at 8 and 11 at the Bayou.