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An intricate, deliberately idiosyncratic record, assembled piece by piece, Boulders perfectly captures Roy Wood’s peculiar genius, more so than anything else he recorded. All of his obsessions are here — classical music, psychedelia, pre-Beatles pop, pastoral folk ballads, absurdist humor, studio trickery, and good old-fashioned rock & roll — assembled in a gracefully eccentric fashion. Some listeners may find that eccentricity a little alienating, but it’s the core of Wood’s music. He wrote tuneful, accessible songs, but indulged his passions and weird ideas, so even the loveliest melodies and catchiest hooks are dressed in colorful, odd arrangements. The marvelous thing is, these arrangements never sound self-consciously weird – it’s the sound of Wood’s music in full bloom. Never before and never again did his quirks sound so charming, even thrilling, as they do on Boulders. As soon as “Songs of Praise” reaches its chorus, a choir of sped-up, multi-tracked Roys kick in, sending it into the stratosphere. All nine tunes unwind in a similar fashion, each blessed with delightfully unpredictable twists. It’s easy to spot the tossed-off jokes on the goofy “When Gran’ma Plays the Banjo,” but it may take several spins to realize that the percussion on “Wake Up” is the sound of Roy slapping a bowl of water. Boulders is a sonic mosaic — you can choose to wonder at the little details or gaze at the glorious whole, enjoying the shape it forms. Wood has an unerring knack for melodies, whether they’re in folk ballads, sweet pop or old-fashioned rock & rollers, yet his brilliance is how he turns the hooks 180 degrees until they’re gloriously out of sync with his influences and peers. Boulders still sounds wonderfully out of time and it’s easy to argue that it’s the peak of his career.

-Stephen Thomas Erlewine,

Roy Wood-BOULDERS (1973)
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