Bread – Guitar Man (1972): On Second Thought

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One of the most commercially successful groups of the early 1970s was Bread. Based in Los Angeles, California, the band featured David Gates, Jimmy Griffin, Mike Botts and Larry Knechtel, the latter of whom departed the fold in 1971 and was replaced by Robb Royer.

Songs like “Make It With You,” “It Don’t Matter To Me,” “If,” “Everything I Own,” “Baby I’m-A-Want You,” and “Diary,” had already propelled Bread into superstar stratosphere by the time their fifth album Guitar Man entered the bins in 1972. Due to the soft and syrupy nature of such fare, the band had been branded light-rock crusaders. Although Bread did specialize in the genre, they were actually a lot more mercurial than their best-selling singles suggested.

The band’s albums provided a taste of just how diverse they were, with Guitar Man testifying to be a perfect example of their multiple skills. For instance, there’s the brash boogie bounce of “Don’t Tell Me No,” while “Tecolote” pulsates with raw intensity to tom-tom drumming loud enough to raise the dead, menacingly gruff vocals, and harsh and heavy rhythms.

Freckled with the wail of a harmonica, “Welcome to the Music” adopts a bluesy hard rock pose, and “Fancy Dancer” wiggles its hips, snaps its fingers, and shuffles its feet to a sexy funk beat. Curling and twirling keyboard stunts captained by a progressive rock bent also pepper the riskier moments of the disc. The album also contained a trio of Top 20 hits, including the title track, a ballad dotted with the mellow sigh of a bluesy wah-wah guitar, the sparkling “Sweet Surrender,” and the quiet and melancholic orchestration of “Aubrey.”

A catchy set of songs, Guitar Man (Elektra Records) covers every angle of Bread’s talents with purpose and destination. The way the band incorporated their far-reaching influences, engulfing everything from country, folk, blues, classical, British Invasion styled sounds, soul, and good old fashioned rock and roll, into a radio-friendly pop blender remains impressive. Nimble melodies, concise harmonies, and creative arrangements are delivered in doses throughout the record. Excellent songwriting sensibilities, accompanied by clean and fresh production additionally tightens the collection.

Not long after Guitar Man was released, Bread broke up. The band reunited in 1976 and scored yet another winner, with “Lost Without Your Love” later that year. Come 2006, Bread was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall Of Fame, sealing their reputation as a band whose songs not only touched a lot of people during their heyday, but speak to new generations of music fans as well.

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