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This review is from: Hot Chocolate: Box Selection, Their 8 RAK Albums 1974-1983 (Audio CD)
Hot Chocolate's albums are not so much underrated as completely ignored. This isn't surprising given that they were on Mickie Most's RAK label where the Holy Grail was the hit single. With their foremost labelmates being Mud, Suzi Quatro, Smokie and Kenny, it's a fair bet that RAK never released anything seriously regarded as a classic. In HC's case, it's a shame as their output shows they were capable of music of some depth. From 1969, when they had a brief association with Apple, until 1974, however, they only released singles. As with many artists, this collection of their eight albums reveals a band shifting gradually from an intense, studious approach to the so-called pop sell-out.
The first three albums featured have that aforementioned depth, during a period when they augmented many of their tracks with strings which added an epic, atmospheric quality to their music. Songs with a conscience sit alongside love songs that are hot, no milk or sugar. 'Every 1's A Winner' is the album on which they made an obvious switch toward commercial appeal, and contains their no. 1 hit, 'So You Win Again', a song I've never liked. The title track, however, and 'Put Your Love In Me' show that they could combine the best of the old with chart appeal.
After this, they seemed to lose their way a little. 'Going Through The Motions' is in that much reviled musical style, disco pop. HC were actually pretty good at it; a surprising number of the tracks in this collection show a flair for melody alongside the dance grooves. 'Class' is worse and somewhat bizarre, containing horror versions of Police and Elvis Costello standards, while 'Brand New Christmas' isn't what you might think. It's a throwback to their earlier stuff, the message being that we need a new Jesus, while the track is in two distinct styles.
The last two albums are straight pop, the unfeasibly tight production dating them to the early 1980s. They probably won't appeal to longstanding fans, but I didn't take an interest in HC until I heard their 'greatest hits' album around this time and 'Mystery' was the first of their original albums I heard. For me, they're enjoyable on their own terms, but as Errol Brown commented at around that time, the soul of the band had long disappeared.
The two hit collections are still worthwhile even if you buy this. Although it contains a lot of singles, the band continued to release non-album singles during this period, in addition to their pre-'Cicero Park' output. Overall, I think this is a satisfying collection, and very good value for the price.