The Paley Brothers – The Complete Recordings

The Paley Brothers
The Complete Recordings
[Real Gone Music]

Nobody believed Joey Ramone when he was declaring that he was the lead singer for a bubblegum pop act. That was mostly because of more traditional Teen Dreams trying to redeem the sound back in ’77. Rick Springfield made an important contribution with Wait For Night, but it would take a few more years before things worked out for him. Reggie Knighton should’ve gotten just as famous.

The Rubinoos were the rare indie act to make it into the teen mags, but their amiable pop lacked personality. And then there’s the sad story of The Paley Brothers – whose healthy blonde looks entranced Tiger Beat editors and Andy Warhol. They’d been banging around Boston since 1972, too, and could namedrop past work with the likes of The Modern Lovers and Lenny Kaye.

The Paley Brothers signed to Sire Records, and easily looked like the squarest act in that legendary label’s ‘70s stable. The 1978 debut album cover looked like a pin-up poster. A lot of people figured there was some kind of high concept about to happen. Then they listened to the first side of the record, and didn’t bother to get to the second side.

That’s understandable. Side one of The Paley Brothers was pretty lame. The five tracks sound like The Rubinoos were given Fleetwood Mac’s budget and spent it on a concept album about the unexpected depth of surf music – as couched in unspectacular pop songs. The label probably thought of side two as the tracks that indulged the Paleys, and it’s a lot more exciting as collection of quirky pop played with emerging punk energy.

The Paley Brothers landed on the Rock ‘n’ Roll High School soundtrack on a track with The Ramones, but there wouldn’t be a second Sire album. As everybody probably expected, The Paley Brothers went on to knock around Hollywood and do lots of industry work.

But now we have The Complete Recordings of The Paley Brothers, and it’s an important document for everyone who used to insist that Jonathan and Andy deserved a lot better. The album has 26 tracks, which is more than enough to swamp the first side of The Paley Brothers. The opening track of “Here Comes My Baby” sounds like the Paleys trying to write a theme for yet another ‘70s Happy Days spin-off. Fortunately, that’s followed by “Meet the Invisible Man” as a legitimate lost power-pop classic. There are a few more of those in the mix, as well as plenty of neat tunes from the Paley’s wanderings after that major-label debut. There’s also two impressive live tracks from the band opening for Shaun Cassidy in 1978.

Those five songs from the debut’s Side A are scattered throughout to really maintain the quality – and if a few of those songs sound better than before, it might have something to do with the Paleys sneaking in some alternate versions. Nothing wrong with that. Bubblegum is a genre that can always stand some revision.

Besides, longtime Paley advocates deserve every break they can get in championing the brothers. Advocates for the Keane Brothers won’t ever get as lucky. Those guys were even too square for Dinah Shore. The Hudson Brothers went disco in ’77, too, so this is really the Year of the Paleys.