Most bands see their failure to become megastars as attributable, not to a lack of talent, but to their record label’s incompetence. That’s an argument unavailable to City Boy.
Having signed to Vertigo in 1974 they were assigned a young ‘Mutt’ Lange to work on their albums. However, despite the future uber producer’s best efforts – acknowledged by the band in the sleeve notes – it wasn’t until fourth album Book Early that they had a hit with karaoke classic 126.96.36.199.
These no-frills reissues highlight these deficiencies. Pleasant as it is, their self-titled 1975 debut (5⁄10) never establishes a firm identity, despite the record’s accomplished nods to funk, prog rock and AOR. With punk on the horizon, the follow up, 1976’s Dinner At The Ritz, (5⁄10), smacks of a band already past their sell-by-date – not least on a syrupy, seven-minute The Violin.
If 1977’s Young Men Gone West (6⁄10) has its moments – notably swaggering glam stomp Bad For Business – it’s not until 1978’s Book Early (6⁄10) that everything finally clicks. A tightrope-taut pop classic, 188.8.131.52 became a Top 10 hit, showing off both Lange’s production genius and the vocal skills of drummer Roy Ward – who he had promoted to centre stage.
Alas, Lange’s subsequent exit after fifth album – 1979’s The Day The Earth Caught Fire – effectively ended their career, despite two more albums.