Candy-O would always have trouble justifying itself against the band's assured debut - how many "difficult 2nd albums" have there been, after all? But I like it - it has a lot of strong songs and a sense of personality and 'consistent whole' that the band would find hard to relocate until "Heartbeat City" in 1984. Even when the music fails to inspire, Ric Ocasek's angular, impressionistic lyrics are always a delight.
Highlights for me are "It's All I Can Do", "Double Life", the classic segue of "Shoo be Doo"/"Candy-O", the almost deliberately ironic mechanized feel of "Nightspots" and "Lust for Kicks" with its woozy synth sounding like it's had a little too much to drink. Lyrically "Got A Lot On My Head" is pretty much any young man's status report and the band deliver a frenetic backing to Ocasek's typically concise lyric.
I agree with the other reviewer's comments about Roy Thomas Baker's production on this album being less open than "The Cars" from the preceding year. There's a massive amount of midrange energy in David Robinson's snare drum that tends to clobber the listener over the head and rather hides the genius in the songs. Interestingly enough, RTB would change his studio approach for the band's next album, "Panorama", which sounds a lot less claustrophobic. This CD, badged as "US import" by Amazon, was mastered by Joe Gastwirt in 1999 for HDCD and is pretty faithful to the original master tape (as much as any of us can tell). It is manufactured in the U.S.A. by Warners. For UK listeners, it's a big improvement on the Strawberry-mastered vinyl that Elektra released here in 1979 and has a lot less dynamic range compression than, say, the Steve Hall 1997 remaster of "It's All I Can Do" for The Wedding Singer film soundtrack. I have to say though, that for once the compressed version actually sounded better to me - a terrible admission!
There are no lyrics in the booklet, so those with previous editions of the album may want to hang on to those if you're upgrading to the superior sound quality of this 1999 CD.