Pilot: From The Album Of The Same Name (1974)

I've never understood why Pilot has failed to garner the level of respect of like-minded 70s power pop bands like Badfinger and the Raspberries. And no, the Scottish band is not in the same league as Badfinger, but they mine the same McCartneyesque orchestrated pop territory, and at least on this, their debut, fairly successfully.

Pilot are probably best remembered as the one-hit wonder behind "Magic." And let's face it, while the power of that song may have been diluted by overuse in recent years on movie soundtracks and commercials, it's a pretty fantastic pop song. It was popular when I was first discovering Top 40 radio as a pre-teen, so perhaps I have some nostalgic bias, but I do think, pop culture saturation aside, it's objectively great, an era stand-out.

And although nothing else on the album is quite as memorable, there's still plenty of decent music here. It's at times a bit baroque, reminiscent of the Beatlesque prog-pop of Klaatu, though it also strays a bit into mawkish middle-of-the-road easy listening pop (a tendency that would plague later releases). But when they hit that sweet spot, it's perfectly enjoyable. Opener "Just a Smile," after a bit of opening cheese, launches into a Badfinger-worthy pop tune, hand claps galore. "Girl Next Door" and "Over The Moon" (with a hint of 70s moog) are perky piano-driven little numbers, shades of the recently deceased Emmit Rhodes; and "Don't Speak Loudly" comes closest to replicating the infectious hooks of "Magic." A few songs don't age well -- their stab at harder rock on "Never Gives Up" is a little cringe-worthy, though they still manage to salvage it with an exuberant chorus; while the dooby-doobies of the Abba-esque "High Into The Sky" are just plain mortifying.

As should be obvious, I don't necessarily hail this as a great album; Big Star it's not, and it's a bit dated. But for fellow fans of 70s pop willing to overlook the cheesier sentiments of the era, Pilot's debut deserves a lot more love.

(Vocalist/bassist David Paton, who got his start with a pre-fame Bay City Rollers, went on to be the long-running bassist for the Alan Parsons Project, and has more recently contributed vocals to Japanese power pop band Beagle Hat on the simply magical baroque pop classic Magical Hat.)

Here's "Magic":
...and an audio rip of "Don't Speak Loudly":
Here's a lengthy concert clip with a number of songs from the album: