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