Have A Nice Decade: The '70s Pop Culture Box Sampler

Various Artists

Rhino Records Promotional, 1998

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/11/1998

No matter how much I expand my musical horizons the longer I do this job, one thing about me will always be true: I am a true child of the '70s, and I will always have a certain nostalgic appreciation for some of the music that was created during this decade. (The whole disco era is excepted, of course - now we call it "house" music.)

Oh, sure, laugh if you want. But I'm willing to bet there's not one person reading who lived through the '70s and its music who, when they hear a song on any of these TV ads for compilations, doesn't find themselves singing along, only to catch themselves in embarrassment. 'Fess up, kids, we're all guilty of it.

Rhino Records, knowing how people drift back to the kitsch that was their decade, have answered the void in many people's lives (you know how long I searched for a 45 of "Black Superman"?) with Have A Nice Decade: The '70s Pop Culture Box, a seven-disc monstrosity containing 161 hits from the decade, along with sound bites and news stories interspersed with the songs. It's enough to make the naysayers puke, and the people who are still waiting to get into Studio 54 dust off their leisure suits.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Rhino was kind enough to send a 17-song sampler from the set to me. They're generous, but not stupid; they had to have known they'd hook critics like myself into wanting to purchase the big version for themselves. The songs on this sampler brought back a lot of memories, and reminded me just how good some of the music of this decade was.

Is there some cornball music contained herein? Damn right - the '70s featured a lot of cornball music. Edison Lighthouse's "Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)" is a song that will send chills up some people's spines, reminding them of such other little wonders like Terry Jacks's "live-for-life" anthem "Seasons In The Sun" (that was called sarcasm, kids) and Coven's "One Tin Soldier (The Legend Of Billy Jack)", all of which are on the full version of the set.

But the songs that even I had forgotten were so good are brought to attention. The Raiders (once called Paul Revere And The Raiders) had a great song with "Indian Reservation (The Lament Of The Cherokee Reservation Indian)", and to be honest, I hadn't heard this song in at least seven years. One listen to it off the sampler, and I re-lived memories of when I heard it at a younger age. Likewise, The Hollies's "The Air That I Breathe," 10cc's "I'm Not In Love" and Looking Glass's "Brandy (You're A Fine Girl)" shine once again.

There are even songs that take on a whole new light over 20 years since they were first unleashed on an unsuspecting public. Gilbert O'Sullivan's "Alone Again (Naturally)" was probably seen as a tale of an unlucky mope in the '70s, but if you closely listen to the lyrics, you can hear a pissed-off bloke who was dealt an unlucky hand in life.

Sure, the selections off this sampler reminded me of a few artists who I could have lived without hearing again (I've never liked Carly Simon, for example), and some songs seem a little too trippy-happy ("Love Train" from the O'Jays, though it's still an entertaining listen), but this is still a fun disc for me to listen to and relive memories. (I do wonder, though, why they chose to put the short version of Foghat's "Slow Ride" on the set.)

I wouldn't mind devoting a whole day listening to the whole Have A Nice Decade box set (not that I'm dropping any hints to our friends at Rhino), even though listening to the whole thing in one shot must feel like watching a retrospective of "Welcome Back, Kotter" and "Maude" back-to-back. But if you can still look back at any portion of the music from the '70s and muster a smile, then Have A Nice Decade: The '70s Pop Culture Box will be an enjoyable listen.

Rating: A-

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© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Rhino Records Promotional, and is used for informational purposes only.