1978 – RAK
British pop-rock band Smokie’s fifth studio album is pretty much as predictable as all their others. It kicks off with a sufficiently catchy blues based number, moves onto a bare-bones Queen impersonation, and just continues on its line of latching onto the power of other bands’ popularity from there. This being said, The Montreux Album is certainly a catchy one even if it is entirely derivative. I mean, these boys certainly know how to play and their song-writing abilities, while they only ever focus on the ubiquitous themes of ‘love’ and ‘rock and roll’, are up there with the cream of the pop crop. Of course, however, credit has to be given were it’s due and it’s definitely pertinent that I mention the prowess of Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman who wrote probably the best three songs on the record.
Overall The Montreux Album is certainly solid. The riffs are all there, the solos are tight and not overly long, the lyrics are cheesy but stick in your head, and the playing and production is spot on. It really is just the feeling that all of this music has been played before by much better bands that drags this thing down. I mean, The Girl Can’t Help It and A Few Dollars More are some wonderfully catchy pieces of rock mastery and Oh Carol really hits the spot, even if they sound pretty similar to the tunes already put out by artists like Bowie, and Elton John.
Sadly, none of these high points change the fact that so much of the record is filler material. Mexican Girl, Liverpool Docks, and Light Up My Life , for example, really serve no purpose other than padding out an album full of hits that belong, in essence, to other people. Each is ham-fisted in its own special way and each sounds much more like a cover than it really needs to.
I think that really is my issue with this album (and actually with this band in general): there is almost no actual originality in it at all. Listening to it from start to finish one gets a a distinct sense of Smokie flirting dangerously with the concept of plagiarism, and what makes it all worse is that the constant jumps from stylistic emulation to stylistic rip-off serve to make the flow of the record almost non-existent. I mean, we move from an Elton John homage into some kind of Meatloaf sounding rock tribute before launching Pink Floyd territory, and then finally ending up in the bouncier side of The Beatles.
None of these styles are in any way bad in themselves and the band play each with equal dexterity and skill. It’s just that none of these styles are theirs to play, and they don’t all belong on the same album.
So, in conclusion I have to say that Smokie’s The Montreux Album is really not the finest piece of rock and roll to ever come out of the seventies. It’s played and produced very well, but none of that changes the fact that this album is primarily filler material hiding a few good tracks, and even these rare moments of glory are entirely derivative.
Nevertheless, if you don’t think about it, there’s a bit of fun to be had with its carefree sound of down-to-earth rock. Your dad will probably love it.
And here is the band performing Oh Carol, one of the more interesting and slightly more original sounding tracks from the album.
The two bonus tracks at the end of the 2007 remastered re-release performed with Suzie Quatro are awful. Not worth buying this record a second time for by any stretch of the imagination.
- QUEEN – The Studio Experience Exhibit To Launch In Early December In Montreaux (bravewords.com)
- Elton John- The Diving Board (trayseesit.wordpress.com)