Gallery “Nice to be with You”
In 1972 Sussex Records released the first and only lp by the Detroit based pop group Gallery, fronted by singer/songwriter Jim Gold. Nice to be with You was produced and arranged by none other than legendary Motown axe-slinger extraordinaire and fuzzy funk brother Dennis Coffey (who also served as producer on the cult classic psych/folk/funk lp Cold Fact by Rodriguez) and his partner in crime, sleeper soul and funk producer Mike Theodore. Gallery’s sole lp is an entertaining slice of wax with a mostly soft-rock vibe that runs the gamut from country-rock to pop-psych to doo-wop to funk, and back again to pop–all the while standing side by side with soft-rock contemporaries of the time like Bread as well as soft-psych folk rock luminaries like Jim Sullivan. Thanks in no small part to the killer team of Coffey and Theodore, a handful of nice production touches really add to the tunes and result in album that stands a cut above many of the soft-rock releases of the time.
The boys kick it off with “Island in the Sun”, a sunny pop tune complete with harpsichord, glockenspiel, marimba, and pedal steel riffs with a Southern Pacific vibe. Things really start to get interesting with the next track, “Louisiana Line,” when acoustic guitar and twangy Telecaster give way to a funky country-rock tune with even more tasteful touches on the pedal steel guitar. Sounding like a slightly funkier version of Poco, the song calls to mind several of the more upbeat tunes on Ian and Sylvia’s excellent funky rural lp Great Speckled Bird, as well as “Move Over” from Bread’s self titled 1969 lp. “Louisiana Line” stands out as one the premier cuts on the album with a funky backwoods beat, an extremely catchy chorus with three part harmonies, and tasty Telecaster twangin’. “Ginger Haired Man” mines similar territory as “Louisiana Line,” featuring bluesy harmonica blowing, and yet another irresistibly catchy chorus.
On the other side of the spectrum, “Gee Whiz” is a 50′s throwback flavored with a touch of doo-wop that calls to mind the the pop-country of the Everly Brothers and their classic tune “All I Have to Do is Dream,” as well as the ubiquitous “Earth Angel.” “I Believe in Music” pairs a tasty tremolo guitar riff and cowbell with a pre-disco/later day Motown sound full of tambourines, slinky Stratocasters doin’ the disco dance, and of course, syrupy strings. Midway through the song a bold synthesizer make a well appreciated yet extremely unexpected appearance. “Big City Miss Ruth Ann,” the third and final single from the album, sounds like a more polished take on the roadhouse rock of fellow Michigan natives Riley.
The million selling (!) title track, “Nice to be WIth You” is disappointingly sappy, suffering from just a touch too much sentimentality and over-production. On the same token, “Lover’s Hideaway” and “He Will Break Your Heart” are throwaway tracks that lack lyrical depth, catchiness, and punch. If there’s one bum note concerning Nice to Be With You’, it would be that Side B lacks overall when compared with Side A. Furthermore, several of the tracks on Side B seem to make fervent use of blatantly recycled tropes from Side A. Still, the album as a whole is such an entertaining listen in the forgotten early 70s soft-rock vein that no slight lack of killer tracks on Side B is gonna keep this gem off your table.
All things considered, Nice to Be With You is an enjoyable listen by a talented young band that incorporates a handful of early 70s sounds. One minute Gallery recalls the classic pop-psych of Buffalo Springfield; another moment they recall a slightly less greasy Grandma’s Roadhouse; then they step back in time and channel the timeless sound of 50s AM pop; when you’re least expecting it they all of the sudden sound like the Bee Gees after they discovered that disco beat! The bottom line is this–if you’re into vintage pop music, Nice to Be With You has certainly got something that will undoubtably float your boat.