Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Critters – Touch ‘N Go With The Critters (1968)

In 1966, this New York group came off very much like a Lovin' Spoonful Jr., scoring a minor hit with a cover of John Sebastian's "Younger Girl" and then chalking up their only Top 20 single with the very Spoonful-esque original "Mr. Dieingly Sad." The group's soft harmonies and pop folk-rock were in a considerably lighter vein than their Kama Sutra labelmates, though. Much of their material was self-penned, though they also benefited from compositions by Jackie DeShannon and Brill Building tunesmiths Pete Anders, Vinnie Poncia, and Doc Pomus. Recording quite a few singles and an LP for Kama Sutra from 1965 to 1967, their gentle pop/rock was rather lightweight, with the exception of their best singles. After a final Top 40 hit in 1967 ("Don't Let the Rain Fall Down on Me"), principal songwriter Don Ciccone was drafted, and the group struggled on with a couple albums for the Project 3 label before splitting.

[02:17] 01. The Critters - 01 - Touch 'n Go
[01:57] 02. The Critters - 02 - Reason To Believe
[02:14] 03. The Critters - 03 - Because You Came To See Me Today
[02:01] 04. The Critters - 04 - Younger Generation
[02:41] 05. The Critters - 05 - A Moment Of Being With You
[02:46] 06. The Critters - 06 - Let's Love
[02:21] 07. The Critters - 07 - Awake In A Dream
[02:24] 08. The Critters - 08 - Margie Girl
[04:30] 09. The Critters - 09 - Cool Sunday Morning
[01:55] 10. The Critters - 10 - Good Morning Sunshine
[01:56] 11. The Critters - 11 - Sweet Breezes
[02:00] 12. The Critters - 12 - Forget It

This New Jersey quintet's second album, Touch n' Go With the Critters, was the group's first outing for arranger/conductor Enoch Light's Project 3 label, which was devoted to using cutting-edge "enhanced stereo" technology, the best available. By now, only the group's de facto leader, guitarist Jim Ryan (a founding Critter, he had been in the high school band called the Vibratones with Don Ciccone, who sang the lead vocals on the band's impressive hit "Mr. Dyingly Sad"), and bassist Kenneth Gorka remained in the lineup from the band's earlier Kapp period. Nevertheless, the performances as evidenced here are still first-rate, and the amazing stereo production and songwriting are among the best of the group's career. The title song, "Touch N' Go," was written by Alan Gordon and Gary Bonner, the great songwriting team who had been members of the New York-based group the Magicians a few years earlier; they also wrote the Turtles' "Happy Together" and "She'd Rather Be With Me," among others. The "Touch N' Go" track and a handful others, including the Tim Hardin cover "Reason to Believe," were produced by Charles Koppelman and Don Rubin, who also managed the Critters. The remaining tracks were produced by Ryan. There's a nice version of the Lovin' Spoonful's "Younger Generation" (John Sebastian's "Younger Girl"had provided a huge hit already, so why not see if lightning strikes twice?). The Critters were subsequently featured on Light's "Popular Science" series of stereo/quad test LPs, and recorded another album for the label, but hits continued to elude the group thereafter. Ryan later worked with Carly Simon, while Spinella went on to join Steeplechase. Gorka later became the manager of Bitter End in New York City. Darway became inventor in residence at Princeton University. This album is often considered one of the top harmony pop LPs of all time, an East Coast classic highly treasured by collectors.
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