A budget-priced 10-track collection of favorites from Looking Glass. All original recordings.
Looking Glass (New Jersey): Larry Gonsky, Elliot Lurie, Jeff Grob, Pieter Sweval.
Arranger: Larry Fallon.
Chances are, most listeners familiar with "Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)" have no idea that the Looking Glass is the band that recorded the song. It was one of many instant smash hits from unknown artists that crowded the AM airwaves in the early '70s. Like almost all of their peers, the Looking Glass never had another major hit, although "Jimmy Loves Mary-Anne" climbed its way into the Top 40 a year later. Instead, all their rage and glory was in "Brandy," an irresistible soft rock tune about the sweet waitress whose heart was broken by a sailor. Whenever the group was written about -- which wasn't often -- there were hints that the band was heavier than "Brandy" made them out to be, and since neither of their two albums were in print and no concert recordings existed, it seemed like a reasonable claim. That is, until Sony Music Special Products' ten-track budget-priced compilation Brandy (You're a Fine Girl) -- what else could it have been called? -- was released in 1998. True, Collectables had previously issued a Looking Glass collection in 1996, but their discs aren't always widely distributed, so this was the first time many listeners had the opportunity to hear something besides "Brandy." Anyone expecting a shock, like heavy rock, will be disappointed -- most of the remaining nine songs are firmly in the soft rock and introspective folk-pop vein, thereby refuting almost all of the rumors of hard rock. It is entirely possible that the compilers skewed the disc toward "Brandy" also-rans, but the one hard-rocking tune -- "Sweet Jeremiah" (if you glanced at the track listing, you may have expected the laid-back "Dealing With the Devil" to be the hard culprit) -- is simply polished bloozy boogie that may have sounded heavier on-stage, but comes across as toothless on record. Come to think of it, that isn't a bad thing -- "Brandy" was appealing because it had a breezy, melodic charm, and it's enjoyable to hear the group trying to re-create that feel. They do on occasion -- particularly on "Jimmy Loves Mary-Anne," which is nearly as good as "Brandy" -- but also on "Highway to Hollywood," "Are You Dreamin' (Money in My Pocket)," and "City Lady." That may not be enough to make Looking Glass a great forgotten band, but it's enough to make the compilation worthwhile for all huge fans of "Brandy." [Brandy (You're a Fine Girl) was reissued by Collectables in 2004.] ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine