If you can shelve your prejudices for a moment, I want to revisit the Osmond’s 1972 album,’ Crazy Horses’ – considered by more astute rock scribes than I, to be up there with many great hard orck albums of the early 70s. Apparently, Ozzy Osbourne, Led Zeppelin, and Metallica are fans of the album, with Metallica at one time including the title tune in their set. It was cited by author Chuck Eddy as one of The Five Hundred Best Heavy Metal Albums in the Universe
In 1972, with their clean-cut image, talent, and energetic pop-rock sound, the Osmonds were touring to crowds of screaming fans in the US and the UK. They even had their own 1972–1973 Saturday-morning cartoon series. 13 year siblings Donny and his sister Marie were soon set to surpass the older brothers in terms of success – with both going on to score a string of hit singles and solo success. Osmondmania was the word, and was only to be surpassed by Rollermania some 4 years later. Crazy Horses was in many ways, an attempt by the band to be taken seriously for their musicianship.
Crazy Horses was the tenth studio album by the band. In terms of chart success, it reached number 14 on the Billboard Top LPs chart on December 23, 1972. Two singles were released in support of the album, “Hold Her Tight” and “Crazy Horses”, both of which reached number 14 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.
Building upon the band’s previous album ‘Phase III’ with its psychedelic overtones , (and spawned the big pop hit ‘Down By The Lazy River’) Crazy Horses saw a reduced vocal role for Donny, who as a preteen had been the group’s co-lead singer but whose voice was beginning to lower because of puberty.
Let’s take a look at some of the tunes on the album. ‘Utah’, a slick, boogie/blues type melodic rocker with a Bolan riff. There’s also the trippy ‘Life Is Hard Enough Without Goodbyes’. If McCartney had of penned ‘Girl’, it would be considered a classic. Same goes for ‘What Could It Be’. Great harmonies. Make no mistake, these cats could ALL sing – and their harmonising was unsurpassed. Don’t forget they were all versed in barbershop. Unlike today’s crop of miming, dancing charlatans – the Osmonds all danced, sang, and played their own instruments.
‘We All Fall Down’ is another straight forward rocker with a pop edge and catchy chorus. Wayne Osmond’s ballad ‘And You Love me’, is stripped back, plaintive, (and with the sound of a frog pond for added ambience), is a highlight. Whilst he ain’t up there with Jimmy Webb in terms of songwriters, Wayne got it right with this one. With its driving funk rhythm and use of wah wah, ‘Hold Her Tight’ is almost Zeppelinesque in parts. I’m sure I’m not the first to notice the ‘Immigrant Song’ comparisons.
‘Hey Mr Taxi’ has a rockin riff and capital groove – with a raucous vocal by Merrill. His vocal at times resembles early Geddy Lee. This is my personal pick as the album’s best cut. Although it’s hard to go past the title track – the irrepressible ‘Crazy Horses’. Great riff, raucous vocal. Merrill again shines on ‘Julie’ with a raspy vocal. ‘That’s My Girl’ is a bit of a filler, yet overall – this albums still stands up.
They recorded an ambitious album in 1973 called The Plan, perhaps best described as a Mormon concept album with progressive rock aspirations. One reviewer suggested that The Plan carried a too-strong religious message—Mormonism is, after all, fairly conservative and not usually associated with the themes of rock-and-roll.
The combination of this album, along with Donny’s voice change the year before, meant that with young fans the Osmonds popularity would soon wane. Another major factor in the band’s decline was the sheer diversity of its output: within three years, the Osmonds had waffled between bubblegum pop, hard rock, and easy listening, and Donny’s solo career as an oldies cover artist further muddled the band’s direction.
Still, Crazy Horses has stood the test of time. Check it out.