The Cuff Links: Tracy

The Archies’ Ron Dante sings sweet bubblegum pop as the Cuff Links

Vocalist Ron Dante is the American version of British studio singer Tony Burrows. Though he didn’t duplicate Burrows’ feat of charting hit singles as the lead singer of four different groups in a single year (Edison Lighthouse, White Plains, Pipkins, Brotherhood of Man, all in 1970), Dante’s singing was nearly as ubiquitous. His first brush with fame came with the novelty single “Leader of the Laundromat,” by the Detergents, and he was widely heard singing the famous “you deserve a break today” jingle for McDonald’s. But his biggest score was as the lead singer of the Archies, minting the single-of-the-year (and the national anthem of the bubblegum world), “Sugar, Sugar.” In parallel with the Archies’ ride on the charts, Dante re-teamed with Detergents’ songwriter-producers Paul Vance and Lee Pockriss and cooked up this album under the Cuff Links banner.

The Cuff Links were, like Tony Burrows’ “bands,” a studio concoction rather than a working group. Dante provided both lead and brilliantly arranged backing voices, and as on the Archies’ records, went uncredited. Though he recorded a solo album in 1970, his first real claim to named fame came a few years later as the producer of many Barry Manilow hit records, and later as an award-winning Broadway producer. His anonymous work with the Detergents, Archies and Cuff Links has been sporadically anthologized and reissued over the years, focusing mostly on the hit singles; this CD release reintroduces the Cuff Links first album back to the market, adding a handful of singles drawn from the group’s still-unissued second album, and several more bonuses.

The album is a by-product of the effervescent single “Tracy,” which became a hit just as the Archies’ “Sugar, Sugar” started to fade on the charts. The album was recorded quickly to capitalize on the single’s success, but with songs drawn from Vance and Pockriss’ catalog of co-writes, plus a pair of well selected covers, it’s a great deal more solid than the short time in the studio would suggest. Rupert Holmes (who would later hit with “Escape (The Pina Colada Song)”) was brought in to arrange the strings, and his simple lines perfectly complement Dante’s overlaid vocals. The bubbly tone of the title track is balanced by wistful tunes, including the moving antiwar sentiments of “All the Young Women,” the Left Banke-styled nostalgia of “I Remember,” and the autumnal lost-love B-side “Where Do You Go?”

The two cover songs are given nice twists, with a catchy organ riff and memorable call-and-response vocals on “Put a Little Love in Your Heart,” and an effective Burt Bacharach-styled treatment of Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline.” The songs run deeper than comparable bubblegum tunes written expressly for the pre-teen crowd, but their melodies remain hummable, and the lyrics catchy. Like the music that came out of Don Kirshner’s world, the craft here is superb – just listen how the album’s second single, “When Julie Comes Around,” builds masterfully from a tense organ and drum opening into a perfect mix of electric and acoustic guitars and then builds into a joyous melody in parallel with the lyrics turn from loneliness to happiness; the transitions back and forth between desperation and elation are handled just as perfectly as the song finally plays itself out with a smile.

With the single a hit and the album edging onto the charts, the producers assembled a road band, but Dante declined to tour and vocalist Joe Cord took his place. For the self-titled follow-up album, Dante and Cord split the lead vocals. The album’s first three bonus tracks are drawn from the second album’s singles, “Run Sally Run” (in mono), “Robin’s World” and “Thank You Pretty Baby” (also in mono). The first of the three has a hurried tempo, the second is a terrifically relaxed piece of mid-tempo sunshine pop, and the latter a catchy staccato vocal pop production. Of the three remaining bonus tracks (all in mono), “The Kiss,” “All Because of You,” and “Wake Up Judy,” the middle one was the group’s last single on Decca. The other two are unexplained in John Purdue’s otherwise detailed liner notes. If you love sunshine and bubblegum pop, snap this one up before it goes out of print again! [©2010 hyperbolium dot com]

Ron Dante’s Home Page
The Cuff Links’ Home Page

The Cuff Links touring band:

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