Four years ago or so, I praised the British pop band 10cc over at The American Culture in a review of the quartet’s box set “Tenology,” lamenting the absence of historical context in the four-disc collection. There was much missing that the individual members of the original group accomplished prior and subsequent to the band’s debut, “Sheet Music,” “The Original Soundtrack,” and “How Dare You!” The stellar DVD and a disc of rarities and alternate takes provided some solace, however.
Seems the point was heard. Universal Music Operations has released another four-disc set, “10cc: Before/During/After.” While not perfect when viewed through the thick lenses of this long-time pop-music dork, it seems it’s about as good as it’s ever going to get—unless, of course, fanatics of the band have already filled in the missing pieces on their own.
These Greatest Hits Omit a Few
De rigueur for a career retrospective of any group is a disc of the band’s greatest hits, although it’s been done repeatedly since I purchased my first copy of “100cc” in the 1970s, and the band ceased being a creative entity producing original material a quarter-century or so ago. “Before/During/After” offers the usual 12 suspects in what is actually a CD reissue of the 1979 anthology, “10cc: Greatest Hits 1972-1978.”
There are several puzzling exceptions—the beautiful “Waterfall” and adrenaline-charged “Second Sitting for the Last Supper” are missing, as they were on “Tenology.” While both songs might have not set the Billboard and Melody Maker charts alight, they provide a glimpse of the sheer breadth of the group’s influences and enormous capabilities.
Yes, pastiches such as “Rubber Bullets” and “Donna” are wonderful slabs of pop nirvana, but only tips of the proverbial iceberg of what the band achieved regularly and seemingly effortlessly elsewhere. All told it’s a forgivable oversight, as most of us own the original album releases anyway. Hopefully the appetizer of disc one prompts newcomers to the 10cc universe to familiarize themselves with a rewarding catalog.
Then as now, the chronology of the greatest hits disc is somewhat baffling. Every track follows according to the actual releases from “Rubber Bullets” to “Art for Art’s Sake.” Then it shuffles the order of events to the later and, with one exception, Lol Creme and Kevin Godley-less incarnation of the band: “I’m Mandy Fly Me,” “Good Morning Judge,” “The Things We Do for Love,” and “Dreadlock Holiday” before returning to the original group’s “I’m Not in Love” from the third album, “The Original Soundtrack.” All told, these are forgivable oversights albeit strange for those who own the original releases or other compilations.
The Other Discs Could Have Been Broader, Too
Okay, nothing new on disc one. Before turning to the post-10cc years covered on disc two, discs three and four contain a nice complement to the 2003 import compilation, “Strawberry Bubblegum (A Collection Of Pre-10cc Strawberry Studios Recordings 1969-1972),” despite some significant overlap. The inclusion of several tracks from Graham Gouldman’s pre-10cc solo effort yields a reminder that he penned the biggest hits for the Yardbirds (“For Your Love,” “Heart Full of Soul”), Hollies (“Bus Stop,” “Look Through Any Window”), Herman’s Hermits (“No Milk Today”), and Jeff Beck (“Tallyman”) prior to his Brill Building tenure, writing pop songs for the Kasenatz/Katz organization (Crazy Elephant, Ohio Express).
Additionally, the discs covering the pre-10cc era include three songs wherein the band served as studio musicians for the resurgent Neil Sedaka after recognizing commercial success under the name Hot Legs with a novelty song titled “Neanderthal Man.” It represents guitarist, singer, and songwriter Eric Stewart’s early career with hits he recorded both before and after Wayne Fontana quit as lead singer of the Mindbenders, “One More Time” (before) and “Groovy Kind of Love” (after).
Other groups leading up to 10cc included Fighter Squadron, Silver Fleet, Grumble, Doctor Father, Festival, Ramases, and Frabjoy and the Runcible Spoon. Although mentioned in the liner notes, many of these groups aren’t represented in the anthology, which is a shame.
Disc two’s representation of post-10cc activity by band members is much too stingy. When Creme and Godley departed in 1976 to record the triple-album set “Consequences,” a love-it or loathe-it affair (I’m of the former camp) that featured dialogue rendered by the incomparable Peter Cook and a vocal appearance by none other than Sarah Vaughan. All this in the service of depicting an environmental catastrophe in which Earth can only be saved by music conjured from Creme and Godley’s own string-bending invention for guitar, the Gizmo.
Nothing from that album is included, unfortunately, especially Vaughan’s contribution and some sheer genius comedy from Cook. Also missing are Creme and Godley’s terrific efforts as vocal support to Phil Manzanara, the leader of 801 and Roxy Music guitarist. Other regrettable omissions are tracks from Gouldman’s “Animalympics” soundtrack from the early 1980s and miserly selections from Stewart’s collaborations with Paul McCartney.
Nice try, as they say, but the cigar still eludes the ultimate selection for a 10cc box set. Next time, try skipping the redundant inclusion of songs all 10cc fans already own in favor of a more complete representation of what the group created before and after the genius of the initial quartet. Otherwise, as a four-course meal, you could do a lot worse than “Tenology” for an overview of the band with and without Creme and Godley or “Before/During/After.” It’s just that some of 10cc’s ardent fans will always be left wanting more.