Albums from the Lost and Found: Hollywood Situation

by Jeff Fiedler

Albums from the Lost & Found is a regular feature on thegreatalbums.com in which contributor Jeff Fiedler reviews and helps us rediscover great pop albums that seem to have been lost to time.

The Hudson Brothers are one of the more intriguing forgotten pop bands of the ‘70s. They scored two Top 40 hits in the mid-‘70s (“So You Are a Star” and “Rendezvous”) and even briefly had their own prime-time variety show and a Saturday-morning series, The Hudson Brothers Razzle Dazzle Comedy Show, both on CBS, and a syndicated sketch-comedy series entitled Bonkers! a few years later.

The band called it a day in 1981 after years of bouncing from label to label (having put out one album each via Playboy, Casablanca, Arista, and Elektra, as well as a pair of full-lengths on the Elton John-owned Rocket label), but their names still pop up in print every so often. Bill Hudson married Goldie Hawn in the late ‘70s, and their two children, Kate Hudson and Oliver Hudson both went on to become notable actors, Kate in film (Almost Famous, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days) and Oliver on television’s Rules of Engagement. (Bill would later marry Cindy Williams of Laverne & Shirley fame, though the two have since divorced.)  Mark Hudson stayed in the music industry, going on to become an in-demand co-writer, record producer, and engineer in the ‘90s for the likes of Aerosmith (he co-wrote “Livin’ on the Edge” and co-produced their album Just Push Play), Hanson (co-writing their hit “Where’s the Love”), and Ringo Starr, who employed Hudson as his producer on five different studio albums (a great move on Ringo’s part, since it resulted in what were easily his best records since the early ‘70s.)  

1974’s Hollywood Situation, the trio’s first and only outing on the then brand-new label Casablanca (whose only other prominent acts at the time were Kiss and the all-female Fanny), doesn’t appear at first glance to be anything too special and actually looks helplessly dated with its front and back cover photos of the band in action on their variety show. The packaging was certainly a deliberate attempt to capitalize on the brothers’ television exposure, but you have to imagine that the album would have been much better received by rock fans if they’d gone with a more traditional cover. If you weren’t familiar with the band’s story, you could be forgiven for looking at the cover and assuming that the music on this disc was no hipper than that on, say, a Donny and Marie album. In reality, though, the Hudson Brothers – all talented multi-instrumentalists who both wrote and produced all the material here – are rock guys at heart whose music seems to be heavily influenced by The Beatles and early power-pop acts like Badfinger.   

Naturally, once you put the disc on, you’re likely to be quite surprised at just how much hipper the music contained within the grooves is than the cover it’s packaged inside. The title cut is a tasty, muscular guitar rocker reminiscent of Rick Derringer’s “Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo,” while “Strike Up the Boys in the Band” plays out like a fusion of Johnny Rivers’ “Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu” and the Beatles’ “Mean Mr. Mustard.” The rollicking “Ma Ma Ma Baby” sounds like Paul Revere and the Raiders doing a late-‘60s-hard-rock makeover of “Da Doo Ron Ron.” The handclap-laden rocker “Three of Us” vaguely recalls Badfinger’s “No Matter What,” if slightly less metallic in its guitar sound, while “Cry, Cry, Cry” distinctly sounds like it could have easily been an outtake from Big Star’s #1 Record.

Best of all is the Top 40 hit “So You Are a Star,” as perfect a Beatles knock-off as anyone concocted in the ‘70s. It boasts a distinctly McCartney-esque melody, and the light psychedelia of its verses, coupled with a great, singalong chorus accented by a bed of harmonies and tambourines, makes the song seem like a lost artifact from Magical Mystery Tour or Yellow Submarine.     

The album’s lone flaw is that it takes a near-seven-minute musical break on its second side to feature a comedy sketch (“The Adventures of Chucky Margolis”) from their variety series. It’s amusing, but it doesn’t fit, either, and temporarily halts the momentum of the album. The series’ theme song, the chugging synthesizer-driven near-instrumental “Razzle Dazzle,” is also included here as the closing track, but it doesn’t feel nearly as out of place and the song is as fun a way to end this disc as it was the ideal way to end each episode of their show.