Review: "The Complete Hit Singles" - The Buckinghams

The Buckinghams hold a unique place in rock history that is not normally recognized.

Regularly labeled as "sunshine pop", the band actually was a forerunner of horn based rock bands such as Blood, Sweat and Tears and, especially, Chicago. Hailing from the same hometown, the band formed in 1965 and, in early 1966, signed their first record contract. Their first few singles failed to hit but, in late 1966, Kind of a Drag went to number 1 on the Hot 100.

While Kind of a Drag included the opening horn flourishes, their sound really began to take shape when they met James William Guercio who would go on to produce Chicago through most of the 70's. The band signed with Columbia records and Guercio honed the horn-rock sound that he would eventually take with him into the next decade while producing for the Buckinghams in the late 60's.

Verese Sarabande has collected fifteen of the group's releases on the new set The Complete Hit Singles. While "complete" might be a slight exaggeration, the album does include fifteen of the seventeen singles released by the band, only omitting their 1965 release Sweets For My Sweet and the 1985 reunion single Veronica.

That's not to belittle the set as the fifteen singles gathered here are the real essence of the band's sound, starting with their covers of James Brown's I'll Go Crazy and the Beatles' I Call Your Name and running right through their final Columbia single, 1970's I Got a Feelin'.

Of course, right in the middle of that run of singles are the classics for which the band is best known including Kind of a Drag (1966 / #1), Don't You Care (1967 / #6), Mercy, Mercy, Mercy (1967 / #5), Hey Baby (They're Playing Our Song) (1967 / #12) and Susan (1967 / #11).

Also included in the set is a booklet with a seven page essay on the band's history by Clark Besch. A special tip of the hat to designer Steve Stanley whose front and rear cover evoke albums of the 60's right down to the statement on the back on stereo records playing fine on mono players. Even more nostalgic is the actual CD front which is a direct copy of the red Columbia label.

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