Picks and Pans Review: 70 Years of Hits

updated 08/18/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/18/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Frank Yankovic

True, it is the era of the crossover: Rock to country career moves, say, or jazz to fusion are commonplace. These two albums, however, seem to represent a crossover try that is doomed to failure. Polka to pop is a nice idea, but can anyone imagine the kids on American Bandstand dancing to Cleveland, a Polka Town or Goodbye, Sarajevo? It has been a while between hits for Yankovic—35 years or so, in fact—but at 70, he does have a devoted following of people who don't argue with his billing as the "Polka King." On I Wish I Was 18 Again, he tries such country tunes as the title track, Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain and Silver-Haired Daddy of Mine, which Gene Autry co-wrote. He also revives My Melody of Love, the half-Polish song that Bobby Vinton got a pop hit out of in 1974. The problem is that Yankovic has always been an abysmal singer and a not-much-better accordion player. These shortcomings haven't bothered him in the polka business because of his honest, unpretentious style and the fact that he has usually had a skilled backup accordionist in his band. The Beer Barrel Polka and Just Because (that most recent hit, from around 1950) on 70 Years of Hits attest to the durability of those qualities. They still work for him on such tracks as Who Stole the Keeshka, where exuberance and the stomping polka rhythm create a mood that has as much to do with spirit as it does with music. That track is even being released as a single, but it's not likely to crack the Top 40, which is too bad. Think how much fun it would be to see Weird Al Yankovic (no relation) try to think of a parody for that one. (both Smash/Polygram)

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