Hometown Frolics/Terry Cashman
At a glance, it seems like a strange decision to issue a double CD that combines a 1976 album by Tommy West with a 1976 album by Terry Cashman (along with plenty of bonus tracks by each artist). With knowledge of them and the recordings' history, however, it makes some sense, as Cashman and West had collaborated on many records, as performers and songwriters, prior to these LPs, and in fact done several albums together billed to Cashman & West. The material on these 1976 LPs was originally planned as another Cashman & West album, but it was decided to record separate solo projects when it became apparent that they were going in different stylistic directions. This package by Ace/Chiswick adds historical liner notes, though it's far afield from the kind of music Ace usually reissues. West's LP, titled Hometown Frolics (whose ten songs lead off disc one), was by far the more serious of the two LPs in tone. In many respects, it's a typical mellow mid-'70s singer/songwriter album, though perhaps a bit more downbeat and ruminative than the norm. There are slight echoes of Paul Simon, Brian Wilson, and even a speck of early solo George Harrison, though several cuts have a pronounced country feel and Western/cowboy lyrical themes. It's amiable, but a little blah, and West has the kind of slight vocal presence found in numerous songwriters who might be more used to having their compositions sung by others than they are to singing the tunes themselves. The rest of disc one includes ten bonus tracks, among them the single version of "I Know"; original/demo versions of a few of the LP's other songs; and a few previously unreleased cuts of uncertain vintage, though the ones on which West does all the instruments and vocals sound like they must have been done long after the mid-'70s, such is the mechanical feel of the percussion.
Cashman's self-titled album occupies the first half of disc two, and is much more blatantly lightweight and poppy than West's Hometown Frolics. It's similar to West's effort, however, in that it's amiable but undistinguished, though Cashman took the approach of crafting somewhat retro (even in 1976) pop
ock tunes that incorporated nostalgic homages to the simpler times and styles of early rock & roll and doo wop. Cashman was still canny enough to use some elements of the mid-'70s singer/songwriter sound in his framework, like the acoustic guitars and orchestration on "There I Go Again," though overall, his outlook is considerably more chipper and romantic than West's. "New York City Blues" has a wistful piano base not far removed from Eric Carmen or early Billy Joel territory. The eight bonus tracks on Cashman's disc include four previously unreleased cuts, among them one of the better songs on the compilation ("Song for Jane," most likely an outtake from the self-titled LP) and a demo version of the album's longest song, "Back to the Dawn." The other four songs are from the early '80s or mid-'90s, and are mostly odes to baseball that are excruciatingly sentimental even as such things go.