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HUXTON CREEPERS (Buy CDs by this artist)
12 Days to Paris (Big Time) 1986
Keep to the Beat (Big Time/Polydor) 1988

This quartet from Melbourne, Australia plays gritty Stonesish rock and harmony-laden Byrdsy folk-rock on their first American LP, which might easily be mistaken for the work of an American "heartland" band. The Huxton Creepers could use a more mellifluous singer than Rob Craw — gruffness when he strains is a problem — but his guitar interplay with Paul Thomas, supported by a fluid, strong rhythm section, makes 12 Days an unfailingly engaging record. Guest Hammond work (on one song — a second, indicated on the back cover, was somehow omitted from the US LP!) by ex-Procol Harum organist Chris Copping is more eyebrow-raising than ear-opening.

The follow-up is an equally inoffensive collection, highlighted by the high-spirited and eminently catchy "Rack My Brains" and "Visually." Craw's vocals tend to venture into perilous adenoidalism, but the rest of the band is still sharp, the material fresh. Though these two albums are hardly essential, Huxton Creepers traffic in the kind of commercial rock that has made stars out of lesser (and less-talented) mortals.

[Ira Robbins/Doug Brod]