Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Hot Chocolate - Hot Chocolate (1975)


Released November 1975

This was Hot Chocolate's second album, and it is just as credible and underrated as their debut "Cicero Park". It carried a solid social message in the "What's Goin' On" style that belied their apparent chart pop existence. They were actually much more than just that, as this album proves. It is an impressive mix of social comment, soul rock/disco rhythm, brass backing and accessible funk.


1. Hello America
2. The Street
3. Call The Police
4. Dollar Sign
5. You Sexy Thing
6. A Child's Prayer
7. A Warm Smile
8. Amazing Skin Song
9. Love's Coming On Strong
10. Lay Me Down

"Hello America" is a lively, brassy opener that delivers the message that is prevalent throughout a lot of this album. It has echoes of the previous album's "Disco Queen" in its sound. "The Street" is a haunting, atmospheric soulful number backed by excellent percussion, keyboards and brass. Again, it carries a social message. "Call The Police" is a horn-driven slice of funky soul with a delicious bass line, Hard-hitting comment and convincing vocal from Errol Brown. "Dollar Sign" is an emotive, brooding slow-paced number bemoaning high finance and wealth disparity. The first four tracks have all been "conscious" ones which sets the tone. However, there was still room for some classic pop/soul.

"You Sexy Thing" is next. It is probably Hot Chocolate's signature tune. For many, it is the only song they know from the group. Amazingly it was originally the 'b' side to the ballad "Blue Night", as producer Mickie Most was not convinced it would be hit. Eventually, the single was flipped around and the rest is history. It was number two to Queen's iconic "Bohemian Rhapsody". The track has an infectious, lively disco-ish rhythm but also a catchy chorus ensuring its pop appeal. The other big hit from the album was the stark but tuneful "A Child's Prayer" with its beautiful string orchestration and sincere lyric.

"A Warm Smile" is a laid-back, romantic soul ballad, but it still carries an inherent sadness in both its beat, orchestration and Brown's vocal. It still manages to make its point about "living in a crowded city..." even in a simple love song. "Amazing Skin Song" pulls no punches in its "Brother Louie"-style tale of an interracial relationship. "Love's Coming On Strong" is a soulful love song with some sublime brass parts. "Lay Me Down" is a sort of country/soul/gospel number, if there is such a thing. The last two tracks are probably the least potent on the album, far less so than the first four tracks. So, to an extent, the album drifts away just a tiny bit. Personally, I prefer "Cicero Park" but this is still a solid album. I remember listening to it as a teenager in 1975 and realising that it had something more about it than simply great pop/soul singles.


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