Once again your rockin’ writer felt the need to resurrect his “Listen Again” series. For those of you just joining us, the “Listen Again” series is a series in which we revisit albums that for one reason or another didn’t receive the attention or acclaim they deserved when they were originally released. Whether it was the recording was ahead of its time, broke away from the artist’s usual style, was poorly publicized or initially misunderstood, the “Listen Again” series urges music fans to listen again. This time we revisit Bread’s The Best of Bread.
For my younger readers—yes they are out there—Bread was an L.A.-born soft rock band that had 13 hits in the Billboard Hot 100 chart between 1970 and 1977. The band roster included: David Gates (vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards, violin, viola, percussion), Jimmy Griffin (vocals, guitar, keyboards, percussion), Robb Royer (bass, guitar, flute, keyboards, percussion, recorder, backing vocals), Mike Botts (drums) and Larry Knechtel (who replaced Royer in 1971) on bass, guitar, keyboards and harmonica. Gates was also the main songwriter.
The songs on this 12-track compilation were written and recorded prior to 1973. Side one of the platter opens on “Make It with You”. This 1970 song was their first top ten tune as well as their sole number one single.
The second selection is “Everything I Own”. This 1972 track is often thought to be a love song. Hardcore fans, however, know that Gates wrote the song as a touching tip of the hat to his late father. It is followed by the popular piece “Diary” which was another stand-out Gates composition.
The next number is “Baby I’m-a Want You”. Oddly, this was put out as a single in 1971 and the recycled as the titular tune for their 1972 LP. It was one of their most successful songs to chart in both the US and UK.
Also on this side is “It Don’t Matter to Me”. This works well enough but is immediately overshadowed by the first side’s sign-off song “If”. This dates back to 1971 and caught the attention of many guitarists due to the then unusual wah-wah/tremolo effect played on the electric guitar during the introduction. (It would soon be covered by many other acts including:, Frank Sinatra, Telly Savalas, Olivia Newton-John and Dolly Parton.)
The flip side opens on the comparatively lesser known “Mother Freedom”. “Down on My Knees” follows and demonstrates what Gates could do writing with James Griffin. “Too Much Love” is next and serves as an introduction to the tuneful teamwork of Griffin and Robb Royer.
The final Gates solo composition, “Let Your Love Go” is also included before two final examples of Griffin-Royer writing: “Look What You’ve Done” and the popular closing cut “Truckin'”. Released by Elektra Records in 1973, the project would climb to number 2 on the Billboard 200 in the US. It would eventually reach multi-platinum status and be re-released on Rhino in 1995.
Indeed, the band would not be forgotten in the new millennium as 2001 would witness the release of an expanded version on which Elektra added several additional tracks including: “The Guitar Man“ which was the title track from their 1972 album and includes the above-mentioned wah-wah effect and the Audrey Hepburn-inspired “Aubrey” another 1972 song by Gates. Also included are the Griffin-Royer work “The Last Time” and the noteworthy easy listening number “Sweet Surrender” also from’72. Gate’s “He’s a Good Lad” and his cautionary cut “Daughter” follow.
Finally, the only Griffin, Royer and Tim Hallinan song, “Friends and Lovers” also appears here as well as the disc’s closing cut being Gates’ later hit “Lost Without Your Love”. Rolling Stone critics found the band to be “downright inspirational”. The group was often praised for its foolproof harmonies, lush melodies, sparkling lyrics, overall immaculate production and an oft’times unchallenged hit-single-writing capacity.
This material led Gates and Griffin to solo careers and even sources such as Allmusic have given it high ratings. The songs on this compilation are truly mellifluously rocking gems. Oh, yes, it is pop music to be sure but it is transcendent pop. If you’ve never listened to Bread’s The Best of Bread, listen to it. If you’ve already listened to it . . . listen again.
My name is Phoenix and . . . that’s the bottom line.