‘Icky,’’pallid,’ ‘unctuous’ says a Record Collector reviewer somewhat unkindly about Family Dogg: A Way of Life: Anthology 1967-76 whilst Shindig cloak a lack of enthusiasm behind an acknowledgement that the Dogg were a ‘solid’ music machine who seem to have avoided any obvious pitfalls. So a case of best let sleeping Doggs lie, then.
The alleged Dogg unctuousness is maybe that actorly smoothness I mentioned in my review. That, and a desire to be taken seriously, especially as Rowland, in particular, was very much the music industry insider. I think Rowland, Hammond and Hazlewood were looking for a credibility steal from the likes of Simon, Dylan and Rodriguez (the latter somewhat retrospectively). The fact that both albums were gatefolds tells us something about what the group were striving for as does the choice of socially conscious material. If there is unctuousness, it’s pretty much pierced by tracks like Jesus Loves Me and, well, Family Dog (not that I’m saying they’re actually funny or anything…).
Those Dylan covers were never going to go down well with Bobsessives. But I really dig that ‘of matchsticks yeah!’ vocal response in Love Minus Zero. What could possibly be unctuous about that? If you want to hear Dylan as yawn-inducing cabaret, try Hollies Sing Dylan, where the only thing Blowin’ in the Wind is the smell of scampi in a basket (I say that as a Hollies’ fan and in the knowledge that the band could produce barn-storming Dylan covers, as a 1968 live at Lewisham Odeon recording of The Times They Are a Changing testifies).
As for the arrangements, weren’t they part of what the well-dressed late ‘60s pop song was all about? When you listen to Steve Rowland’s vocal in ‘A Way of Life’, you just know that man wears a cravat.
Yesterday’s inventiveness is today’s pretentiousness. It’s a dog eat Dogg world out there.