A-side: Way Of Life
You probably be pleased to find out that I know nothing about The Family Dogg, or indeed Steve Rowland who has his name credited first on this edition of the record. (Just some pointless trivia here - this record is normally credited to just The Family Dogg, but my copy has decided to put Steve Rowland in a place of prominence - don't know why, presumably Steve had had a hit somewhere and this re-release was aimed to cash in on that, who knows?).
I think that the picture on the sleeve tells us everything we need to know about them. A group of four "with-it" looking folks with a dog, and a suavely dressed man who likes he's desperate to get away from the rest of them. (my money's on him being Steve Rowland, it's got to be him or the dog). Interestingly of the two other men in the photo, one has definitely captured the late 60's zeitgeist by looking like Jason King (look it up if you don't know what I'm on about), and the other (the dude with the hat) looks like Captain Sensible, just 10 years too early. Anyway enough of this procrastination, you probably want to know what the record sounds like, unless you've already guessed from the picture!
Way Of Life is a gentle folksy number that you can sway along to easily. It's a bit of a list song - basically saying it takes all types and we should accept one another whoever they are, because that's life and that way we'll all get on. It's essentially a good message, but wrapped up in such twee, naive idealism, that you can't help but look at it slight askance. The song itself manages to re-engage the listener just at the point when you're about to give it up, with a sudden injection of a brassy uptempo bit in the middle, which kicks a bit of life back into the thing, before it then returns to gently sway itself to the end of the song. One further thought before flipping the record over onto the b-side; "Schoolgirls dating, daughters mating" is one of the oddest lyrics that I've ever encountered, I get what they're saying, but that phraseology is distinctly strange, and just a little bit creepy.
In the old days when I made mix tapes for myself, I would make some thematic ones. I'm pretty sure that I made on with place names in it, Arizona was not one of place-named songs that made it to that tape. There's quite a lot going on in this song, but it doesn't all gel together to make a coherent whole. It starts of as West Coast Soft Rock style, and then introduces some interesting psychedelic guitar into the mix. However this fights against the string section - the effect is awkward rather than complementary. The song seems to be going for the epic Jimmy Webb style balladeering, but not quite managing it. The tweeness of the a-side is mirrored by an undercurrent of sentimentality that runs through this song. It's pleasingly time-passing, but not something that would make me wish to pursue anything else by this group, (maybe if the dog split-off and made a solo album the I would go for that.)
Ultimately a bland, if not unpleasant experience, it probably felt relevant and deep for a few months in 1969, but time has left it behind, and it is now little more than an historical curio.
Next time we rock out on the periphery of goth...