One of the great joys in col­lect­ing retro music is dis­cov­er­ing a good “one-off” album.  This expres­sion refers to a sit­u­a­tion where the record­ed out­put of a group or per­former is lim­it­ed to a sin­gle album.  This can hap­pen for any num­ber of rea­sons: bad chem­istry with­in a band, an inat­ten­tive record com­pa­ny, a group split­ting up over the loss of a key mem­ber, etc.  Rock his­to­ry is lit­tered with tales of such casu­alties and the orphaned albums left in their wake tend to be of vari­able qual­i­ty (in oth­er words, a lot of performers/groups end up only putting out one album for a good rea­son).

That said, the “one-off” gen­re does con­tain gems with­in worth hunt­ing down and the lone epony­mous album by the Reggie Knighton Band is one of them.  Imagine quirk­i­ly imag­i­na­tive song­writ­ing  along the lines of Sparks’ glam-era clas­sics mar­ried to a thump­ing, gui­tar-and-har­monies-fueled sound rem­i­nis­cent of vin­tage Queen, com­plete with a Cinemascope-size 1970’s are­na-rock pro­duc­tion from Queen’s orig­i­nal pro­duc­tion mae­stro, Roy Thomas Baker.  That’s exact­ly what you get on The Reggie Knighton Band — and the result is pure ear can­dy for 1970’s rock obses­sives.

But first, a bit of back­ground: Knighton was a musi­cian and song­writer who spent the first half of the 1970’s eking out an exis­tence on the edge of the pop music scene, includ­ing a stint in the Grass Roots dur­ing their last days.  However, he even­tu­al­ly dis­tin­guished him­self with writ­ing catchy pop-rock tunes with an eccen­tric and wit­ty lyri­cal slant and land­ed a con­tract as a solo artist.  After a well-liked but poor-sell­ing solo debut effort, Knighton was encour­aged by his man­age­ment to assem­ble a band to give more musi­cal heft to his work.  They also lucked out by land­ing Baker to han­dle the pro­duc­tion for the new group’s debut.

The result was The Reggie Knighton Band. It’s the kind of album that sneaks up on you: open­ing track “Breaking Up Inside” creeps into focus, start­ing with a moody rhythm-gui­tar line that flow­ers into a pump­ing, stac­ca­to rock­er with a daz­zling falset­to-har­mony hook on its cho­rus.  The lyrics have only a touch of quirk­i­ness.  Once this song sells you on the group’s chops and sound, Knighton real­ly starts to play with the gen­re on the next track, “Rock ‘N Roll Alien.”  The band rocks the song out with thud­ding drums and reg­gae-inflect­ed gui­tar hooks while Knighton deliv­ers a suit­ably impas­sioned are­na-rock vocal but the lyrics off­set the song’s rock mus­cle with a tongue-in-cheek nar­ra­tive of an alien invader who yearns to play rock music and seduce earth chicks.

After that, you’re aware that you are in for an unpre­dictable expe­ri­ence where catchy tunes and atten­tion-grab­bing riffs lock you in for bizarre lyri­cal flights of fan­cy.  Subsequent song sub­jects include an Elvis obses­sive who feels kin­ship with his idol because of said idol’s worst, most eccen­tric habits (“The King And I”) and an unfor­tu­nate soul who finds job secu­ri­ty and steady mon­ey as a high­way cop, only to lose all his friends over his five-oh sta­tus (“Highway Patrol”).  The lyrics nev­er descend into nov­el­ty-song inani­ty because Knighton is pos­sessed of gen­uine wit and a knack for clev­er word­play (sam­ple from “U.F.O.”: “U.F.O., you and I/We just don’t see eye to eye”).

Best of all, Knighton mar­ries his odd­ball nar­ra­tives to strong, well-con­struct­ed melodies with plen­ty of musi­cal sub­stance.  The best exam­ple of his fusion of quirk and songcraft is “Clone In Love,” which takes a tongue-in-cheek nar­ra­tive about a clone’s real­iza­tion that any love he receives is coun­ter­feit and makes it play like a gen­uine rock bal­lad thanks to a love­ly melody that under­scores the humor with heartache-y melod­ic hooks.

Finally, it helps that The Reggie Knighton Band sounds great.  Knighton anchors his songs with strong rhythm-gui­tar riffs and lead gui­tarist Brian Ray dri­ves them all home with flashy solos.  As for the rhythm sec­tion, Kurtis Teel’s bass lines have both pow­er and a nice­ly melod­ic under­tow while Glenn Symmonds puts in a pow­er­house per­for­mance behind the drum kit, offer­ing a dis­play of can-bash­ing that works in lock­step with the gui­tars to give the album a con­vinc­ing hard-rock iden­ti­ty.  Just as impor­tant is Baker’s pro­duc­tion, which lay­ers the songs with great details (boom­ing drum sounds, soar­ing har­monies treat­ed with flang­ing and echo) and applies a com­pressed style of engi­neer­ing to the sound­scape that lends it a coiled inten­si­ty.

Simply put, The Reggie Knighton Band is one of the great “one-offs” from this era.  The band behind it drift­ed apart due to dis­in­ter­est from its label and man­age­ment but the work they left behind is too mem­o­rably odd and melod­i­cal­ly strong to be for­got­ten.  Rock Candy Records has put togeth­er a fine CD for it that impres­sive­ly repro­duces its punchy sound on the com­pact disc for­mat and adds a great set of lin­er-notes that use band inter­views to tell the tale of their sad­ly trun­cat­ed career.  Any 1970’s rock archae­ol­o­gists will def­i­nite­ly want to dig this gem out.