What happens when you combine The Beatles and The Yardbirds/Cream in equal parts, played in 1968 by a bunch of kids from Philly? Something like the first Nazz album. (Many reviews also name-check The Move -- anyone know that stuff?)
Known perhaps mostly for their single "Open My Eyes," whose opening riff nicely turns The Who's "Can't Explain" inside out, and "Hello it's Me" which Nazz guitarist Todd Rundgren would later turn into a hit for himself. The record execs marketed this as a boy band and they never really took off past the singles. This first LP is fun stuff that never quite manages to achieve originality. (Dig especially the note-for-note Yardbirds covers included in the bonus tracks; CD available via the ChrisGoesRock blog.)
Not at all the case with their followup a year later, Nazz Nazz. There are still a few derivative tunes here and there (the blues knock-off "Kiddie Boy" among them), but otherwise this is a perfectly crafted album of pop gems. The opening track, "Forget All About It," has some absolutely exquisite hooks and trebly boy vocals. "Not Wrong Long" and "Rain Rider" do not quite have the drive and edge of early Big Star, but it's almost there. Likewise "Gonna Cry Today" is a weepy, self-pitiful Chiltonesque ballad with just a little bit of sunshiny keyboards. "Meridian Leeward" gets written off as a piece of failed psychedelia but I think it's porcine pilot narrator would make Bob Pollard proud. "Under the Ice" is the "Who's Next," "Live at Budokan" rocker. "Hang on Paul" might in fact be pointing backward to a little "Ballad of John and Yoko" thing going on. "Letters Don't Count" is the sole acoustic entry that makes you wish they did more such. And "A Beautiful Song" is the epic closer, a loose instrumental rocker complete with string section (Jeff Lynne, you listening?) that (surprise!) embeds a pretty little three-minute ditty in the middle.
I know I'm doing a lot of name-checking here, and indeed you can draw a straight line from this through Big Star, Cheap Trick, the dBs, Guided By Voices, Elliot Smith and Sloan. But Nazz Nazz belongs in those ranks as an equal. Don't miss! (Orion awakes has it.)