Drugdealer, the project of Los Angeles yacht rock revivalist Michael Collins, reinterprets the less-than-cool sounds of the ’70s—ELO, Supertramp, Chicago, Badfinger, the Moody Blues —for a modern audience. And after peeling back the haze, these songs are nearly as strong as the albums in your uncle’s record collection. But does it elevate beyond mimicry?
After opening with a cinematic instrumental, Weyes Blood lends her vocals to “Honey,” my favorite track. It has a warm Laurel Canyon sound and her voice is always welcome. After that, “Lost in My Dreams” raises the soft rock ante with horns, strings and so much sheen you’ll need to shield your eyes. This song, like many others, adheres so closely to the smooth pop/R&B formula of Chicago, ELO, et. al. that your enjoyment of Raw Honey depends on your feelings about its source material. It’s well executed, but there’s a plasticy slickness, just like on the ’70s originals.
I love Steely Dan, Hall and Oates, and a lot of what’s come to be known as “yacht rock,” but some of Collin’s reference points don’t work for me, however well executed. There’s a variety though, like later in the album when Dougie Poole guests on “Wild Motion.” His rich voice and the sweeping strings adding a touch of Glenn Campbell and Lee Hazlewood’s countrypolitan charm.
Raw Honey is enjoyable, but with a jumble of sounds, tonal shifts and vocalists, I find it messy. With the lo-fi and psych elements of his Drugdealer’s debut stripped, and the pop sheen brought front and center, Collins does an admirable job in reanimating a genre that should probably stay buried under the shag carpet.
Score: 🍯 🍯 🍯/5