Liner Note Author: Jud Cost.
Recording information: Brians Recording Studio (03/1965-01/1966); Columbia Recording StudiosSummit Sound Studio, Dallas, (03/1965-01/1966).
Photographers: Clark Besch; Mike Rabon.
Unknown Contributor Roles: Norm Ezell; Jimmy Wright ; Jim Grant; Johnny Durrill.
This is a straightforward, filled-to-the-gills 25-track best-of for the band remembered by most listeners only for its big hits "Western Union" and "I See the Light." Actually, they released a lot of records during the last half of the 1960s that reveal them as a versatile, polished, yet often derivative group. They were best when putting a thumping beat to accomplished harmonies, catchy pop/rock melodies, and rolling high organ playing, as exemplified by "I See the Light" and "Western Union." They never did come up with other songs as catchy as those, and the other songs on this anthology find them combining lots of influences: Midwestern frat rock, Beach Boys and Association harmonies, and British bands like the Beatles and (on "The Losing Game" in particular) the Zombies. Sometimes the derivativeness comes perilously close to imitation. The folk-rock of "Sympathy" almost duplicates the melody of the Statler Brothers' "Flowers on the Wall" in places, "I Know They Lie" is a little-known lightweight Byrds sound-alike, and "Don't Blame Me" sounds like a tough American garage take on the Dave Clark Five. Their small 1967 Top Forty hits "Sound of Love" and "Zip Code" are here, as are two previously unissued songs of minor interest, "You Can't Win" and "Letters, Pictures, Melodies." Incidentally, this is not merely an expanded version of the 20-song best-of (Western Union) issued on same label (Sundazed) in 1989, 13 years before The Best of the Five Americans. Though five songs shorter in length, Western Union has a half dozen tracks that don't show up on The Best of the Five Americans. More surprisingly, the liner notes, while comprehensive in both CD packages, might be preferable in Western Union, which goes into much more extensive detail on specific songs. ~ Richie Unterberger