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10CC

10cc

 

Prog Related

3.42 | 45 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

maani
Special Collaborator
Founding Moderator
4 stars [N.B. My ratings for 10CC are based on their subgenre, NOT re prog as a whole.]

10CC has much in common with its contemporaries, Supertramp and Queen. All three were formed by musicians who attended British art schools (hence the term "art rock"). All three are comprised of particularly excellent musicians. All three consistently use full instrumentation, including piano, plus the occasional sax, flute or percussion. All three create exceptionally creative and intricate 4-part harmonies and lush arrangements, and have an incredible mastery of the recording studio. And all three are highly "intelligent" bands, drawing on both well-known and obscure references from musical history, world history, literature, psychology, pop culture, etc., combining them with a satiric, sometimes sardonic, sense of humor. It is thus a pleasure to see 10CC join their two closest brethren on PA.

Obviously, 10CC is not a "prog" band as we generally define that term vis-à-vis such groups as King Crimson, Yes, Genesis, Marillion, IQ, Dream Theater, Spock's Beard et al. There is little that might be called "symphonic" in their work, few odd (much less shifting) time signatures, only a handful of extended solos, etc. Rather, they create what has been called "progressive pop," remaining largely within the standard verse- chorus formula and "basic" instrumentation, but "fritching" it just enough - often in truly interesting, effective, even superbly creative ways - that it can no longer be viewed simply as "pop" or "rock." And with 10CC, whatever style they are writing in, whatever subject they are writing about, they miss nothing: every detail (musical, lyrical, vocal) is perfect, not a note is out of place, nothing is missing, and there is no filler.

Special note must be made of 10CC's lyrics. These guys are about as literate a group as you are going to find in rock - in any genre. Their mastery of language, and its "appropriateness," is extraordinary, and the literary and other references, and the puns and double entendres, often fly at such incredible speed that they go right over your head - until a few minutes later you find yourself laughing hysterically.

Finally, despite the fact that this is not particularly "intricate" music, 10CC's albums are definitely best listened to with headphones to get the full effect of their arrangements and production.

The PA description of the band tells you all you need to know about the illustrious history of its members. However, it omits one - extraordinary - fact. Not only does Eric Stewart (perhaps the most underrated and under-appreciated guitarist in all of rock music) play guitar, piano, synth and sing, and compose and arrange - he also serves as engineer, and mixed and mastered all of 10CC's albums. Oh, and did I mention that he built Strawberry Studios with his bare hands - including the 48-in, 24-out mixing console - before he was 24 years old?! We are talking raving genius here. And he was only one of four.

So, what of 10CC's debut album? Given their "niche" in progressive pop, it was smashing. As an important aside, it is absolutely CRIMINAL that the order of the songs was changed for the CD re-issue (which was done simply to put the four "hits" up front). In this regard, I STRONGLY urge you to program the disc to play in the original order, as follows:

Johnny Don't Do It. With their tongues planted firmly in their cheeks, 10CC begins their career with an homage to the 50s and early 60s, which starts in brilliant form with this quasi-doo wop anthem a la Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Opening with a cheesy Farfisa organ effect, it launches into a classic 50s I-VI-II-V progression (including hokey violins), a stereotypical 50s-style "good girl/bad boy" story, and includes a short rhythm guitar break using a spine-tingling effect that harks back to The Beatles' "Revolution." Simply one of the best opening songs on any debut album.

Sand in My Face. With a nod to The Beach Boys, 10CC take the famous Charles Atlas ads and create a hysterical scenario involving the weakling at the beach. With Gouldman on dobro, and Godley and Crème doing some of their wickedest parody, this is early 10CC at its very best. "Dynamic tension" indeed!

Donna. Another nod to Frankie Valli, this is the only song on the album that does not stand the test of time, even for 10CC.

The Dean and I. Here is the first indication of where 10CC was eventually headed. Opening with a quasi-prog vocal figure, the simple, funny, upbeat story is told over a subtly moving non-standard chord progression, and includes 10CC's first use of chromatics ("round and round and round.") - something they would become particularly fond of and use to good effect throughout their career. Best pun: "Church bells, three swells - the Dean, his daughter and me."

Headline Hustler. Opening with a neat drum and guitar figure, this send-up of the sensationalist press features Stewart on Harrison-style slide guitar, and a radical (for its subgenre) bass figure from Gouldman in the choruses. Although deceptively simple, this is definitely not "your mother's rock and roll."

Speed Kills. The first "experimental" track by the group. Opening with another odd drum and guitar figure, this bizarre blues builds steadily, and features excellent four- part harmonies, a credible high-pitched guitar solo from Stewart, and some neat harmony rhythm guitar from Stewart and Creme.

Rubber Bullets. Perhaps 10CC's best-known song (after I'm Not in Love and The Things We Do for Love), this straightforward homage to the early 60s features a "jailhouse rock" story with some great harmonies, neat effects and simple but tasteful guitar work from Stewart. Simply a joy to listen to just for fun. Best line: "We've all got balls and brains, but some's got balls and chains."

The Hospital Song. Huh? Excuse me? What is this? Strangely enough, it is a Zappa- esque composition with a "Flo and Eddie"-style vocal, a strange chord progression, and truly weird effects. It might not be "prog," but it sure aint "rock."

Ships Don't Disappear in the Night (Do They?). Another deceptively simple, quasi- experimental quasi-prog song. (Interestingly, despite their more "standard" songwriting backgrounds, it is Stewart and Gouldman who contribute the three most experimental songs on this album.) And remember: "You better be nice to Vincent Price."

Fresh Air for My Momma. An absolutely gorgeous ballad from Godley and Creme (which shows the direction they would be going), with one of Godley's most beautiful vocals over a constantly-changing chord progression. The song also has some excellent Stewart fills, and lifts a short passage from one of the songs on the Hotlegs album. A beautifully fitting close to a brilliant debut album.

[N.B. As for the bonus tracks, they all appear on a compilation album called 100cc, which has one of the band's best pre-10CC songs, called "18 Carat Man of Means." Of the five here, "Waterfall" is the best.]

maani | 4/5 |

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