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Album Review

Clocking in at less than 26 minutes, Buddy Buie produced and arranged this set of 11 songs, four co-written by the producer and lead guitarist J.R. Cobb, the team that would eventually become mayor components of the Atlanta Rhythm Section. ARS would have a Top 20 hit with "Spooky" in 1979, but it was this version which launched Classics IV, a Top Three January hit, to start off 1968. Their name sounding like some kind of automobile, lead singer Dennis Yost would get his name added front and center on the marquee by the end of the year when the group hit again with the Top Five "Stormy," not on this album. What is here are covers of John Stewart's answer to Neil Diamond's "I'm a Believer" — a unique look at the Monkees' number one "Daydream Believer," renditions of "You Are My Sunshine," Wayne Carson Thompson's "The Letter" which Al Stoffel's stiff liner notes call "hard rock" (it isn't), a laid-back Zombies-esque take on the Hollies/Herman's Hermits' classic "Bus Stop" without Colin Blunstone's genius, and the original tunes which show some songwriting skill, but are hardly memorable. The Strawberry Alarm Clock-inspired "Book a Trip" emerges as the best of the original bunch, but pales next to "Spooky." Only four members of the quintet are shown in the back cover photo, and like Bobby Hebb's Sunny album, there's a woman on the front cover, not the artist. "...A raving James Brown and a mellow Johnny Mathis" is how Al Stoffel describes "a group sound that concentrates on the vocals more than instruments and centers on a lead singer who sounds like a different guy on every song." That's because unless Dennis Yost, who is not even credited on the album jacket or in the liners, is a true chameleon, it is a variety of singers. "You Are My Sunshine" and "The Letter" go for a Mitch Ryder sound, predicting the style future Atlanta Rhythm Section singer Ronnie Hammond would force upon us. Glen Campbell and Jimmy Webb should've sued for this lame rendition of "By the Time I Get to Phoenix," in fact, the vocal is so insincere the girl the singer is leaving would no doubt send a Thank You note by the time he did get to Phoenix. Dreadful. It does sound like Dennis Yost on Little Anthony's "Goin' Out of My Head," as the eerie, atmospheric backing vocals from "Spooky" find their way here and onto "Just Between You and Me" as well. "Mary, Mary Row Your Boat" is not the Monkees' "Mary, Mary"-meets-Every Mother's Son, but it does sport more decent backup vocals. Classics IV had the opportunity to be as hip as the Box Tops, but unfortunately, this album feels like a pastiche, and like the group, misses the mark. Classics IV would eventually be defined by their hit singles and Dennis Yost's middle of the road voice, four of their five chart songs happening in less than a year-and-a-half after "Spooky"'s debut.


Formed: 1965 in Jacksonville, FL

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Anyone who doesn't have a clear image of the Classics IV can be forgiven -- they went through so many shifts in personnel and sound (not to mention a name change after they'd started recording), they were little more than a name attached to some excellent (and very good-selling) records of the second half of the 1960s, without a personality or identity to grab onto easily. Although they're considered a late-'60s phenomenon, owing to the chronology of their hits, the group can trace its roots back...
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Spooky, Classics IV
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