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It's a Game

Bay City Rollers

℗ 1977 Arista Records SPARTY 1009

℗ 1977 Toshiba Records IES 80850 / © EMI Records : Japan

Bay City Rollers • 1977 • It's a Game

By 1977, the Bay City Rollers had been playing the teen-idol game for most of the decade. The group's members were understandably itching to break out of their teeny-bopper pop straightjacket and attempted to make such a change on It's a Game. Sadly, the group lacked the clout to make a full stylistic turnaround, so this album, half-penned by outside writers, represents an uneasy compromise between their classic pop/rock sound and the more AOR-oriented music they aspired to make. The most notable example of this stylistic schizophrenia is their cover of David Bowie's "Rebel Rebel," which goes for a steamy rock & roll sound with its squealing guitar solos and psychedelic backup vocals but cleans up the lyrics to make them palatable for the group's predominately teen audience. "Love Fever" goes for a similarly adult rock atmosphere, but is undermined by bland lyrics and a snarling Les McKeown vocal that overpowers the song. A more successful attempt at AOR is "Dance, Dance, Dance," a song that sets a surprisingly sophisticated lyric about a romance gone bad against a carefully orchestrated disco backdrop. The album's strongest tracks are the ones that became its hits: "The Way I Feel Tonight" is a lush ballad that benefits from a rich string arrangement and one of Les McKeown's most heartfelt vocal performances while "You Made Me Believe in Magic" is a disco-inflected pop song that became the band's last big American chart success. Overall, It's a Game is too diffuse and uneven for casual listeners, but hardcore Bay City Rollers fans will no doubt find it to be an intriguing listen. — Donald Guarisco.