I was never a big fan of Argent, having been originally unimpressed by my solitary hearing of their debut album on vinyl. I love The Zombies' Odessey and Oracle, however, and for the price offered thought it was worth paying to hear more of Rod Argent's work. My view of their debut album has, as a result, now changed. You can tell that it's just pre-1970s by the lighter sound and harmonies. The first seven tracks won me over, especially 'Be Free' and the playing on 'Dance In The Smoke'. 'Schoolgirl' meanwhile is an obvious retread of The Zombies' last hit, 'Time Of The Season'.
Of the other albums my favourite is probably 'Nexus', which I didn't expect. As the track titles suggest this leans more toward a prog style than the others. The last two tracks on this nail it perfectly. 'Ring Of Hands' is my least favourite. I don't feel the content is good enough, but, as on all of the albums, its main strength is the musicianship on display. Argent didn't noodle as much as the likes of Yes or even Genesis, but they were clearly a formidable unit, whatever style they played. Most of the showmanship comes from Rod Argent himself.
I expected 'All Together Now' and 'In Deep' to be their strongest efforts, not least because the first was their breakthrough album and because both feature their biggest hits. There is a dilemma here, however, as two approaches sit uneasily together. The extended 'Hold Your Head Up', with its twinkling atmosphere, has a prog feel to it, but is then followed by a series of driving, barroom r&b songs. On 'Keep On Rollin'' and 'He's A Dynamo' in particular, the band are hot, but the songs themselves are nothing special. The album then finishes with the twelve minute, ultra-prog 'Pure Love' which jars against the other tracks. Though well-executed as usual, it again is nothing special. 'In Deep' is perhaps more consistent in style, but the same applies: great playing, so-so material.
I'm glad I bought this collection. Argent, like many artists of the era, put the vast majority of later bands firmly in the shade, but I'll be extremely selective with which of the discs I'll listen to.