The Hungry Years
Released: September 1975
Chart Peak: #16
Weeks Charted: 32
Certified Gold: 12/18/75
The Hungry Years, an agreeable followup to Sedaka's Back, further demonstrates the vitality of the Brill Building tradition of music making which Sedaka exemplified during the fallow half-decade before Beatlemania. One of the least pretentious exponents of early Sixties Clearasil rock, Sedaka's comeback has helped reassert the idea of the pop album as a collection of thematically unrelated material. Like Elton John, who informally promoted his reemergence, Sedaka is far more concerned that a pop album work as entertainment than as "art." The Hungry Years features 11 songs, most of them collaborations by Sedaka with Phil Cody and Howard Greenfield, whose simple tunes, skillfully coproduced by Sedaka and Robert Appère, add up to an enjoyable collection of possible singles for other artists as well as Sedaka.
The best uptempo cuts, "Tit for Tat" and especially "Bad Blood" (with background vocals by Elton John), engage as Elton John-style rockers with a lighter touch. The ballads -- "New York City Blues," "The Hungry Years" and "Stephen" (an adoring fan letter to Stephen Foster's ghost) -- are plaintively appealing but never maudlin. Sedaka doesn't take their nostalgia any more seriously than it deserves to be taken. If Foster's musical style is barely discernible in "Stephen," so too, Sedaka's application of R&B and gospel elements on "Lonely Night (Angel Face)" and "When You Were Lovin' Me" seems intentionally artificial. Sedaka's singing is perfectly consistent with his material -- dry, energetic and detached, allowing just the right amount of pathos.
- Stephen Holden, Rolling Stone, 11/20/75.
Last year's comeback of the year was no fluke, for this set of fresh material is really quite an improvement over the blend of three British LPs that made up Sedaka's Back, The artist is and has been for years one of the finest and perhaps most overlooked pop writers as well as one of its most dynamic performers. With this grouping of rockers and ballads, some of his in-person dynamics come across on record for the first time. "Bad Blood" is a truly classic rock song, while the ballads, backed up by the lush string arrangements of Richard Carpenter and the production of Sedaka and Robert Appere are love songs in the best tradition of pop. Another plus here: We get the best of the new Sedaka but we also find some of the sounds as well as one of the songs that made him such a major star in the '50s and '60s. A child of rock, Sedaka is one of the few who have grown up with the music. Best cuts: "Lonely Night (Angel Face)," "Stephen," "Bad Blood," "Tit For Tat," "When You Were Lovin' Me," "Breaking Up Is Hard To Do" (a completely revamped version), "The Hungry Years" (a beautiful song).
- Billboard, 1975.
Modes of integrity: Sedaka's Back, compiled from two-plus English albums, sounded organic, while this star-time El Lay session sounds homogenized. Neil's voice has changed -- the light girl-groupy moments have turned bitchy and the sentimentality is thick with incipient sobs. Figure best-ofs are his natural element and remember that only, if he goes away can he come back again. C+
- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.
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