Ohio Express: Chewy Chewy

Sweet second album from bubblegum legends

Alongside the 1910 Fruitgum Company, the Ohio Express was among the purest expressions of producers Jerry Kasenetz and Jeff Katz’s bubblegum ethos. “Ohio Express” was used to name several different musical groups, including singles originally recorded by Rare Breed, a touring outfit originally called Sir Timothy & The Royals, and various aggregations of New York studio musicians fronted by the nasal vocals of singer/songwriter Joey Levine. It’s the latter group that hit with Levine’s “Yummy Yummy Yummy” (a song that plays “God Bless America” to the Archies’ national anthem, “Sugar Sugar”), and followed-up with the title track of this 1969 album. Levine would leave the group shortly after the album’s release, and still another edition of the Ohio Express, comprised of future members of 10cc, released the Graham Gouldman-penned “Sausalito (Is the Place to Go).”

Like the best of the bubblegum groups, the Ohio Express fashioned nursery-rhyme lyrics, earworm pop melodies and sharp studio production into music as effervescent as it is devoid of intellectual calories. If you’re looking for scholarly heft, you need to look elsewhere, but if you want two-minutes-thirty-eight that can lift your mood, “Chewy Chewy” is a good bet. In addition to Levine’s originals, the group covered a pair of 1910 Fruitgum Company hits (“1, 2, 3 Red Light” and “Simon Says,” apparently with reused backing tracks), employing Partridge Family-styled harmony vocals and touches of organ. There’s light psych (“Let it Take You”) and Tommy James-styled frat rock (“So Good, So Fine”), and though “Yes Sir” unashamedly borrows from “Yummy Yummy Yummy,” it shows that the hook still had life in it.

Resnick’s ballad “Fun” provides a few minute’s respite from the relentlessly chirpy bubblegum productions, and the odd bits of dialog laid in between several of the cuts suggest the quick-cutting, non-sequitur humor of Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. The Chewy Chewy album is available as a two-fer with the group’s eponymous Buddah debut, the latter of which is otherwise out-of-print in the US. If you’re looking for all of the group’s biggest hits in one place, opt for the Best Of, which includes “Yummy Yummy Yummy,” “Down at Lulu’s,” “Chewy Chewy,” “Mercy,” and “Sausalito (Is the Way to Go),” but for the group’s devotees, it’s great to have the album cuts readily available. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]


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