Culture > Music

Bubblegum's back

Music | Rereleased Osmonds albums are a pleasant surprise

Issue: "NextGen worship," July 26, 2008

Having recently undertaken a 50th-anniversary tour in Europe, the 1970s bubblegum sensations the Osmonds are finally seeing their recordings reissued by the London-based Glam/7t's label.

Most of the albums, longtime staples of used-record stores and garage sales, have not stood the test of time. Crazy Horses (1972) and The Plan (1973), however, have. Stylistically panoramic and (still) infectiously exuberant, both albums (now available together on one CD) will pleasantly surprise anyone prone to dismiss the Osmonds as a Mormon Partridge Family.

The Plan, in particular, deserves consideration by anyone interested in the history of Christian rock. Sometimes referred to as a "Mormon concept album," The Plan's Mormonism is actually quite subtle. With the exception of "Before the Beginning" ("Before the beginning, we were living / oh so far away from here. / And we called it home but didn't stay"), only those familiar with that religion's tenets will hear in songs such as "The Last Days," "Goin' Home," and "Are You Up There?" anything other than evangelical echoes. As for "Movie Man"-easily the most psychedelically creepy song ever recorded by an allegedly teeny-bopper act-its refrain of "It's in living color, it's a picture show, / even what you're thinking everyone will know," would've struck eschatology-obsessed Jesus People as consistent with descriptions of Judgment Day.

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Released as it was at the end of the Osmonds' run, The Plan did not sell well and was the first Osmonds album besides their 1964 collection of prepubescent barbershop quartets, Songs We Sang on the Andy Williams Show, not to make Billboard's Top 40. In retrospect, however, it was-and in some ways still is-considerably ahead of the music of its Christian contemporaries.

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