For this month’s installment of Hidden Gems of the 1970’s, “That 70’s Guy” goes all the way back to 1976 and gives new life to Dinner at the Ritz from City Boy. Technically from my memories, this album ranks in my top albums of 1977 as I purchased it in January of 77. I was unaware of the band up until then. It was when I had heard “Momma’s Boy” on what was considered new at the time – FM radio. FM stations were now starting to pop up all over and my life to that point consisting of only AM radio and 45’s was beginning to change. There was no stopping us now!!
City Boy were “officially” formed in the mid-1970’s and hailed from Birmingham England. Dinner at the Ritz was their 2nd album. The band consisted of Lol Mason on vocals, Steve Broughton on vocals and harp, Max Thomas on keyboards, Mike Slamer on guitars, Chris Dunn on bass and Roger Kent on drums.
Readers of Decibel Geek are probably most familiar with Mike Slamer’s later work consisting of stints with Angry Anderson, Steve Walsh, Terry Brock, Michael Sweet, James Christian as well as a member of Steelhouse Lane and Seventh Key. His brilliant guitar trademarks are found in full force on this album.
Another famous name associated with City Boy is Robert John “Mutt” Lange who produced their first 5 albums. I don’t think I need to name the acts he’s produced over the years.
City Boy – Dinner at the Ritz – Released 1976 on Atlantic Records
- “Momma’s Boy” – what a way to start an album. A killer cut that ranks among the best. This song should – to this day – be played between “Barracuda” and “Carry on Wayward Son” on any given day. It’s a shame that it is not a regular staple of classic rock folklore. Great hook, heavy guitar, smooth flow and fantastic huge powerful vocals leading to one of the best chorus screaming songs around. Please check it out below.
- “Walk on the Water” – another song like “Momma’s Boy” that starts rather calmly but kicks into heavy guitar mode for a brilliant chorus. An absolute great follow up to the opening track.
- “Narcissus” – the first of many epic anthems slowly builds up a combination of keyboards and vocals that intensifies to an all out guitar driven rocker. Does Kansas come to mind? You betcha’. Some nice Slamer guitar work included for free.
- “Dinner at the Ritz” – the title track clocking in under 7 minutes has it all. Catchy chorus, killer guitar, melodic dual vocals and even some saxophone brilliance. This really has a 10 CC’s “How Dare You” era feel to it. Maybe not everyone’s cup of tea but after 40 years they’re really are no complaints here.
- “Goodbye Blue Monday” – starts off side two with what is their best attempt at a catchy pop rock Foreigner-ish type tune. This should’ve been an AM top 40 classic. An upbeat song, an infectious chorus and more of Mike Slamer’s six-string salute to fade this track out.
- “The Violin” – what can I say about this storytelling classic? I still get goosebumps when this one kicks in. A fabulous journey with (of course) some very easy on the ears violin playing throughout. Many nights the lights dimmed at parties while the couples paired off in their own little space of a friend’s rec room. After all, you had 7 minutes plus to make some adolescent moves. Superbly written and played out. A simple masterpiece in my mind.
- “State Secrets – A Thriller” – the final track is played out in 3 multi-layered sections (“State Secrets”, “Heavy Breathing” and “Spring in Peking”). The first is a straight ahead rocker that leads into an even darker more heavier driven layer that leads into the Oriental feel that builds into a fantastic dueling guitar/keyboard soloing finale.
Sorry folks that’s what we had back in the 70’s – albums consisting of 7-10 songs. It’s truly amazing what 35-40 minutes can do to one’s life – forever!
This album has life lasting memories for me. One, in particular, was a guys weekend in Niagara Falls while this album was out. We had a habit over the years that whatever album was the flavor of day/week/month was basically all we played. Well, this weekend’s return home started out with a few snow flurries and ended with us stranded in what has now become the infamous “Blizzard of ‘77”. Yes, trapped in our car, lighting the back seat on fire to stay warm (and alive) eventually being rescued by a tow truck driver and taken to a local school to wait it out. Yep, we experienced that along with City Boy. The night before in our hotel room we were innocently listening to “Momma’s Boy” over and over and carrying on as young men tend to do at that age. One I will never forget.
Dinner at the Ritz was out at a crucial time in my life when being 17 was the start of so much. I felt I had a good musical track record up to that point but there was going to be so much more to guide me through the upcoming even more important years of life. This album ranks very high on my “desert island” list even if that island had to be the size of Manhattan to accommodate them all.
It seems every band in the 70’s was labeled “prog” at least somewhere by somebody. In my opinion City Boy crossed all genres (sometimes even within a single song). From, ok I’ll bite, a bit of progressive, a bit of 70’s pop combined with rock and a dose of hard rock. All connected with fabulous hooks and melodic vocals.
City Boy ended up with 7 studio albums with the last coming in 1981. I may sound like a broken record when I say a band should’ve been huge. But in their case, they really should’ve been, after all, it was the right time for them. Their music was the sound at the time. They had all the ingredients needed to be the next arena rock band – including one of the best (if not the best) producers in the business backing them up. I’ve always felt they fell short of what they could offer the music scene in the late 70’s because of the lack of big AM pop hits that alike bands ELO, Kansas, 10 CC and even early Queen continued to have.
No worries, 40 years later they still have all the hits of this album firmly planted in the musical scrapbook of my life.
“Hey all you creppers, just form a line to kiss my ass. I’m telling you this dude’s got class, just bow your head and raise your glass”
Brian “That 70’s Guy” Ronald