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FABULOUS POODLES (Buy CDs by this artist)
Fabulous Poodles (UK Pye) 1977
Unsuitable (UK Pye) 1978
Mirror Stars (Park Lane/Epic) 1978
Think Pink (Park Lane/Epic) 1979
His Master's Choice: A Personal Best of the Fabulous Poodles (UK Sequel) 1995
BOBBY VALENTINO
You're in the Groove, Jackson (UK Big Time) 1992
You're Telling Me (Vireo) 1995
LOS PISTOLEROS
Trigger-Happy (UK Track) 1999
Cult 45 (UK Track) 2001

Produced by John Entwistle of the Who, the Fab Poos' self-titled debut delivered the group into the realm of Deaf School and Stackridge in a tiny and all but indescribable niche of clever English pop groups of the '70s. Despite the silly name and occasional descent into smutty lyrics, the songs here are varied and well-crafted, with more of a humorous attitude than funny lyrics put in the mouth of singer Tony de Meur. (The group's songwriting always involved John Parsons, a virtual member with no performing role.) Twinges of the Kinks shine through at various junctures, especially when the dapper quartet puts on its rock and roll shoes for such not-quite-manic workouts as "Bike Blood." Meanwhile, Bobby Valentino's violin and mandolin imparts a rural, Ronnie Lane-like feel to most of the tracks. Entwistle plays bass on three tracks and modestly all but buries himself in the mix.

Mirror Stars is an American condensation of the band's first two British albums (using the cover of the second), omitting some of the better songs in favor of such farcical indiscretions as "Tit Photographer Blues," "Roll Your Own" and "Cherchez la Femme." The mustachioed Valentino's resemblance to Clark Gable adds a bit to in the cinematic nostalgia of "B Movie."

Think Pink is a quantum leap — in terms of material, production (by Muff Winwood) and general verve — beyond the first two albums. It kicks off with an exhilarating whoosh of harmony in the form of the Everly Brothers' obscure (in the US, not the UK, where it has been extensively covered) "Man With Money." That sets an imposing standard for the 10 songs that follow; several are almost up to it. With the addition of Chris Skornia on keyboards, the Poos sound complete and more confident. Valentino seems more concerned here with creating textures with tunes than churning out cornball violin lines. "Bionic Man," with neo-twangy guitar and instrumental dynamics, is very much in the mode of contemporaneous Kinks. "Any Port in a Storm" could have been written under the influence of cheap vino and 45s by the Crystals; "Anna Rexia," an ode to the fashionably underfed, is a potpopurri of vintage Chuck Berryisms. "Suicide Bridge" rewrites "Secret Agent Man."

After the Fabulous Poodles closed up shop, drummer Bryn Burrows went on to play with Freur and the Underworld, while bassist Richie C. Robertson took up for a time with Barrence Whitfield and the Savages. De Meur worked as a stand-up comic under the name Ronnie Golden, while Valentino became a hardworking session player, appearing on records by the Bluebells, Tom Petty, Billy Bragg, the Style Council, Big Country and many others. He also leads a western swing band called Los Pistoleros with Martin Belmont (ex-Rumour) and pedal steel great BJ Cole.

[Ira Robbins/Kurt Loder]