Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Hot Chocolate - Cicero Park (1974)


  

Released June 1974

This was Hot Chocolate's debut album. It was surprising as they had been having hit singles for three or four years, intermittently. This was when they started to prove themselves as a serious band, however, and it is a bit of a shame that the group are always thought of as just a singles band, because this was actually a pretty credible funky soul album. Also, as albums seventies chart acts go, it is also up there as one of the best. Issues of race, social deprivation, dangerous urban living and even suicide are dealt with. For a British multi-racial group this was quite ground-breaking. The album is really quite underrated.

TRACK LISTING

1. Cicero Park
2. Could Have Been Born In The Ghetto
3. A Love Like Yours
4. You're A Natural High
5. Emma
6. Changing World
7. Disco Queen
8. Makin' Music
9. Funky Rock 'N' Roll
10. Bump And Dilly Down

The opener, "Cicero Park", is a haunting number concerning urban decay and ecological decline. It features what was to be an archetypal Hot Chocolate rumbling, almost tribal drum sound. There was also some CCS-style flute. Indeed, the CCS horns (RAK label stable-mates) were employed on this album. "Could Have Been Born In The Ghetto" is an evocative, almost blaxploitation, Curtis Mayfield-esque song. It features some excellent guitar and a superb vocal from Errol Brown. "A Love Like Yours" is a melodic number with echoes of some of their early seventies chart hits, like "I Believe (In Love)", "Love Is Life" and "You'll Always Be A Friend". It sits a little incongruously with the previous material on the album, though. "You're A Natural High" is a sweeping string-orchestrated but also funky number, which admittedly, is a bit of a strange mixture.

The huge hit single, "Emma", was a heartbreaking, emotive ballad about a young girl's suicide. "Changing World" is one of the best tracks on the album - a piano led slow, melodic number offering hope for future racial tolerance. "Disco Queen" was also a hit single and is suitably upbeat in a danceable disco/rock sort of way. It features some killer guitar in it too.

"Makin' Music" is a lively piece of poppy funk, again featuring prominent strings. "Funky Rock 'N' Roll" is an irresistible drum, horns and bass-powered number featuring a "glam rock" drum sound and some kicking horns. "Bump And Dilly Down" continues in the same vein but with more of an earthy, funky approach. This has been a varied and at times culturally adventurous album for its time. Recommended.

B+

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