Starry Eyed & Laughing, Starry Eyed & Laughing (1974)
One of the great pleasures of the internet age is discovering obscure and long-forgotten artists, bands who recorded indie releases before indie was a thing, or who managed a major-label release that quickly flopped, only to be rediscovered by some blogger or record label specializing in re-releasing minor lost classics. This is one of many random albums I stumbled across through these online explorations into the realm of obscure 70s music.
The self-titled debut by Starry Eyed & Laughing is a somewhat bland but also totally pleasant and enjoyable affair offering Southern California Americana in the same vein as the Byrds, CSN, Poco and America (though the band was actually British). To say they sound like the Byrds is an understatement. Lots of bands with jangly Rickenbacker guitars sound like the Byrds, but these guys went the extra mile. The lead singer even sounds like Roger McGuinn on a number of tracks. Throw in loads of harmonies and a few catchy choruses, and it makes for a guilty pleasure I have no compunctions about turning to on a sunny afternoon.
This is largely light and inconsequential, so perhaps it's not a shock that this did not get more traction, though it's certainly no worse (and often better) than deservedly maligned bands like the Eagles (sayeth The Dude, "I hate the f@#kin' Eagles, man"). Indeed, the sound (and the look -- just check out that cover photo!) fall squarely in the genre gently mocked by Fred Armisen and Bill Hader in their Documentary Now! parody tracing the history of fictitious faux-Eagles band The Blue Jean Committee. (And if you haven't seen the pair of Documentary Now! episodes about The Blue Jean Committee, you really need to do so.) And maybe if this had saturated the 70s airwaves in the same way as, say, the Eagles or the Doobie Brothers, I'd be more dismissive; but its novelty makes it sound a lot more fresh. Plus, what can I say, I'm just a born sucker for that Rickenbacker jangle and sunny harmonies. (I'm much less inclined towards the few harder rocking numbers that add a bit of generic Allman Brothers-styled boogie to the mix.)
They had one more album, 1975's Thought Talk, which was a little more polished but largely indistinguishable from this one, as well as a collection of outtakes which, not surprisingly, borrows heavily from the Byrds and Dylan songbooks. All are a little tough to track down unless you want to spend a lot of money, though you can stream a pretty comprehensive compilation on Spotify.
Here's a sample tune for you: