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Bruce Eder [allmusic.com]
This album -- which was released in England as And Other Bits of Material -- is rather better than one might have expected. Paper Lace itself was one of those pop/rock bubblegum outfits that seems to rise to the upper reaches of the charts a little more often in England than they do out of the U.S. -- in the 1960s the field was epitomized by Freddie & the Dreamers and Herman's Hermits, and a bit later by most of the acts associated with songwriter/producer Tony Macaulay, including Marmalade. In the case of the Nottingham-spawned Paper Lace, as a recording act they worked through songwriter/producers Mitch Murray and Peter Callander, and the results are enjoyable, and also surprisingly diverse, mostly because of the producers' apparent willingness to reach well beyond their own songbag. The Murray/Callander material is catchy enough -- so much so that the two hits, ''Billy, Don't Be a Hero'' and ''The Night Chicago Died,'' could be described as nothing less than diabolical in their use of clever hooks and choruses; the composing duo's ''Love-You're a Long Time Coming'' is also a masterful piece of pop/rock. But Murray and Callander also allowed in a brace of work by other songwriters, including Irving Berlin, whose ''Cheek to Cheek'' (part of Paper Lace's original cabaret act) is cleverly updated to a '70s disco-pop number that works amazingly well, dressed up with enough multi-layered harmonies that the Four Seasons might've listened with envy over what was done with it. There's also a pleasantly updated version of Vanity Fair hit ''Hitchin' a Ride'' (written by Murray and Callander), but equally enjoyable are the '70s style pop renditions of Brian Hyland's old hit ''Sealed with a Kiss'' and the Neil Sedaka co-authored ''Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen.'' And among the highlights of more recent vintage are the surprisingly low-key ''Mary in the Morning'' and the generically-titled ''Love Song,'' an acoustic number that doesn't resemble too much else on the album; and, finally, ''Bye Bye Blues'' is the same kind of music hall-influenced pop/rock (complete with jagged guitar break) adaptation that recalls pieces like ''Leaning on a Lamp Post'' by Herman's Hermits; along with the two hits and the acoustic guitar-driven ''Dreams Are Ten a Penny,'' it seems to say most what this band was about, which isn't bad. It goes without saying that none of this was intended as groundbreaking music, or meant to stretch anyone's listening envelope (although ''Cheek to Cheek'' comes close to doing that), but it is extremely pleasant and accessible mainstream pop, seamlessly executed and universally appealing, though one can get the feeling listening to much of it that these could all have been commercial jingles in another incarnation. As to the band, it's always difficult to evaluate groups who record under the aegis of songwriter/producers -- it's always questionable how much of the playing is being done by the group members (as opposed to session musicians) on records like this, though the vocals, lead, and harmony alike, are good enough; and if this is the group's actual sound (or one they could adopt), then they should have lasted a lot longer, and it's amazing that no one tried to put them into a Monkees-style TV show.