Best Of Dr Hook
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The tracks on this album are from between 1972 and 1974, and 21 of the songs are the work of the late Shel Silverstein, either solo or as a collaborator, so you know this is the real article and the distillation of the group's best classic work - and the sound is good as well: The guitar, piano, bass, and brass get lots of bite on "Queen of the Silver Dollar," the mocking lead guitar on "Cover of the Rolling Stone" is crisp and bright, while the steel guitar is up close and personal on "Sylvia's Mother" like it never was on the radio. And the vocals were never more fun than they are here. This is best part of the group's entire output for the three years represented. If the two biggest hits don't do it for you, then "Hey, Lady Godiva" is worth the price of admission by itself, and the handful of non-Silverstein songs actually make a good contrast - they're not far removed from the satirical nature of his work, if less sophisticated in their appeal.
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for one thing, Kirschner's contribution to The Monkees has been blown WAY out of proportion. this alleged "creator" of the band/tv series didn't actually do much more than supply a handful of songs. so little did he have to do with the development of the concept, in fact, that the pilot had been filmed months before he was contacted, and the series had just been picked up.
on the other hand, when Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show detached from poet/songwriter Shel Silverstein, it backfired spectacularly. the band was something special at first, when it served as vessel for Silverstein's cheekier side. (he's also the man behind "The Unicorn" and "A Boy Named Sue.") upon losing Silverstein, as well as the latter half of their name, the band became an inflamed cyst of soft rock at it's wussiest. sure, this version had more hits, but said hits were diabetes-inducing mush "Sharing The Night Together" and schmaltzy psuedo-disco like "Sexy Eyes." you might almost say that, as simply Dr. Hook, they became what The Monkees would've been if Kirschner'd had his way.
yes, i realize that's a rather ironic thing to say about a band whose first charting hit, "Sylvia's Mother," is a consummate country-pop tearjerker. well, at least that song isn't overproduced cheese of the "Sexy Eyes" variety. and lest you doubt, yes, Silverstein wrote it.
their most famous song, if not necessarily biggest hit, is "The Cover Of Rolling Stone," which indeed landed them on the cover as well as putting them on the map. so significant is it, in fact, that it regularly turns up on greatest-hits packages devoted to later songs, despite sounding light-years out of place.
"Cover" displays a cynically satirical take on the music scene that recurs in Silverstein's songs for them. for instance, it mentions one Cocaine Katie, relatives of whom Penicillin Penny and Acapulco Goldie got songs of their own. to say nothing of the notorious "Freakin' At The Freaker's Ball." such songs give drug humor an element of class that hopelessly eluded Cheech & Chong.
another rock-themed gem is the bittersweet would-be love story "Roland The Roadie & Gertrude The Groupie." the band rebukes, with tongue firmly in cheek, history's most famous streaker via "Hey Lady Godiva." "Carry Me Carrie" might seem like a heroic gesture, if you didn't know it was poking fun at "He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother."
not that "Sylvia's Mother is the only sincere song by any means. there's a few other such poignant ballads, my favorite of which is "Queen Of The Silver Dollar."
another interesting thing to note: this compilation features their first album in it's entirety!
i don't know nearly as much about Dr. Hook as i do about The Monkees, so i couldn't say how or why their collaboration with Shel Silverstein dissolved. maybe it was mutual, maybe it was as acrimonious as the situation between The Monkees and Don Kirschner. i don't know. what i do know is that a once unique band was the poorer for it.
the earliest incarnation, the one subtitled The Medicine Show, now THAT'S what the Dr. ordered.