|10cc - 'Tenology' (Mercury)|
|Written by Johnny H|
|Friday, 16 November 2012 04:00|
Released to mark the 40th anniversary of 10cc's formation in Stockport in 1972, Universal Music is about to release this five disc (4 CD and 1 DVD) box set, entitled 'Tenology' by the era-defining pop maestros. Curated by the four original members Lol Creme, Kevin Godley, Graham Gouldman and Eric Stewart, 'Tenology' features two discs of singles, one of selected album tracks, plus an exclusive set of B-sides and rarities making up the fourth disc. There's also a DVD thrown in (which unfortunately I didn't get to see as part of my advance copy) which apparently features all the bands promo videos as well as TV performances from Top Of The Pops, BBC In Concert, See You Sunday, Six Fifty Five Special and Pebble Mill, making the overall package appeal to fans old and new.
You might be a little surprised to find out that I'm actually a bit of a closet fan of 10cc myself, not all of it you must understand, but certainly the band's output between their self titled debut album of 1973 and their 1977 album 'Deceptive Bends' (the album recorded after Godley and Creme had left for solo pastures). Throughout these years and the five albums released during this halcyon period (I'm including 'Bends' in this) the band slowly morphed from a glam tinged rock 'n' roll combo with singles like 'Donna' and 'Rubber Bullets' through to out and out prog pop rockers producing timeless classics of the genre such as 'The Wall Street Shuffle', 'I'm Mandy Fly Me', 'Une Nuit A Paris' and 'The Worst Band in the World', before they finally settled into a kind of quirky soft rock knitted jumper groove that suddenly found them more in the Steely Dan or Wings camp for the albums that were to follow.
So during their early years were 10cc actually playing what we now call "post punk" music before punk had even broken big? Well not exactly, but they were certainly a unique and ultimately hugely influential musical tour de force within the burgeoning UK music scene of the early seventies. I actually only got into this period of the band about five years back when a good mate of mine recommended I check out the band's second album 'Sheet Music' (from which the aforementioned 'Worst Band' is taken), largely because he knew I loved Jellyfish and Queen and as he so eloquently put it at the time "these fuckers were doing all that glam rock opera shit long before Mercury and Co - go listen", so I did, and you know what he was bang on the bloody mark. Messers May, Mercury and indeed Manning can all thank the vocal harmonies captured on the first five 10cc albums for their varying levels of success, in fact in the case of the later I have to admit I sometimes slip on 10cc's 1975 album 'The Original Soundtrack' and pretend it is the long lost third Jellyfish album - It really is that good (go take a listen to The Second Sitting For The Last Supper' if you don't believe me).
With 'Tenology' discs 1 3 and 4 basically cover this both interesting and engaging period of the band and in truth here the songs have never sounded better, although having done some extensive Googling I'm still to find out if they've actually been remixed in anyway. Oh well. I would also point out that all but one of the tracks on disc 4 are of outstanding studio recorded standard and will certainly cause an instant knot in the stomach (and lighten the wallet) of any collector looking at this set thinking "I'm not buying that just for a disc of home tape recordings". Alright 'The Recording Of The Dean And I' is a mono sounding early take of what we now know as an EPK but 'Good News' from 1975 sounds bizarrely like a musical template for Styx to follow whilst 'Hot To Trot' from 1977 is what I'd imagine The Allman Brothers might have sounded like having just spent a few months holidaying on Moss Side.
Having already alluded to the fact that there's also a chunk of 10cc's career I don't particularly like, this era can be found on disc 2 of 'Tenology' where things kick off with the band's huge chart smash 'Dreadlock Holiday' from 1978 taking you right through to the 1992 era of the band via the frankly awful 'Welcome To Paradise'. This is effectively where the band slowly morphed from mainstream arena rock act to out and out MOR pap, which by the time you get to the latter track you actually start to wonder when it was that 10cc simply became Jimmy Nail singing second rate Sting songs...No disrespect to Graham Gouldman as an artiste but this stuff really is faceless beyond belief (perhaps a sign of record company pressures at the time?), especially when placed alongside the formative years of the band as it is here.
Even though my review copy didn't come with much in the way of anything other than the 64 tracks I've skipped through above I'm reliably informed that along with the aforementioned DVD of videos and TV appearances the packaging that brings all of this together into the product known as 'Tenology' was exclusively designed by legendary British graphic designer Storm Thorgerson. The set also containing an 8,500 word essay by Guardian writer and lifelong cc fan, Paul Lester.
So what are you waiting for? If you're as curious as I was to find out more about 10cc then there are certainly enough hidden treasures within this set to make the investment worthwhile, plus for any hardcore 10cc fan in your life I guess you'll certainly make it a very happy Christmas for them too with a little bit of 'Tenology' lumpily stuffed into their stocking.
Finally for anyone reading this who still at this point thinks 10cc wrote and sang 'The Lone Ranger' please go back to the top and read this review again, you might just learn something the second time around - just like me (hangs head in shame).
The things we do for love eh!
To pick up your copy of 'Tenology' CLICK HERE