Rick Springfield - Beginnings (Real Gone/Capitol) 

Before the soaps, there was a kid from Australia learning the ropes

Before Rick Springfield's stint as the MILF-fluttering Dr. Noah Drake on General Hospital, and nearly a decade before hitting on "Jessie's Girl," the '80s pinup fronted a band (Zoot), went solo, and debuted with this in 1972. What's unexpected is Beginnings is shockingly good, but you'd never guess from the cover, which depicts the 21-year-old as a perfect-skinned ass-magnet with a mane for the ages, like David Cassidy. (To promote the album, Capitol Records' marketing team targeted pubescent girls, a gaffe that surprised the era's critics and radio programmers.) 

The music is lovingly stroked with strings, horns and baroque-pop arrangements that recall pre-disco Bee Gees and post-Rubber Soul Beatles. The guitars sound like Badfinger, and Springfield's songs are well-arranged and conceived, with casual nods toward country, folk-rock and even gospel (!?). Themes touch on innocence lost ("Mother Can You Carry Me"), suicide ("The Unhappy Ending"), self-doubt ("Why?") and, of course, love for a girl who's miles away ("I Didn't Mean to Love You"). Springfield played all guitars, banjos and harpsichords, and added organ and piano. The album's engineer was the guy responsible for Elton John's cinematic sound while the string arranger did the same for Cat Stevens. 

The album peaked at No. 35 on Billboard, and its banjo-driven single ("Speak to the Sky") even hit Top 20 in America and his Australian homeland. But radio yanked it over misinformation involving inflated sales to teens, and Springfield vanished from the charts — despite three more albums — until 1981. 

This is the album's first-ever CD reissue and it features great, natural sound and gatefold packaging, so winks to Real Gone Music

More by Brian Smith

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