A Closer Look is a compilation album by Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel, released in America in 1975. It features material from the original Cockney Rebel line-up, as well as Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel line-up.
Despite gaining a number of hits across Europe and the UK since 1973, Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel had yet to break the American market by 1975. The band had gained a cult following in the country, but hadn't seen any commercial success. In 1975, the band's label EMI attempted to break the band into the American mainstream by releasing the compilation A Closer Look. This release coincided with the band's first tour of America later in 1975, when they toured as a support act for The Kinks.
Although the album failed to generate commercial success for the band, it did provide a sampler of this group's work up to that point. The ten tracks on the compilation were taken from the band's first three studio albums; The Human Menagerie (1973), The Psychomodo (1974), and The Best Years of Our Lives (1975). One notable omission was the UK Top 5 hit "Judy Teen". The album was mastered at Capitol Mastering.
The album failed to enter the US Charts. However, "Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me)", a UK number one hit, would make an entry on the US Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #96 in March 1976. It lasted within the Top 100 for three weeks. This was Harley and the band's only charting entry in America.
The album's was released on vinyl in America through EMI Records, with Capitol Records handling the manufacturing. It featured an inner sleeve with lyrics and was mastered at Capitol Mastering.
In attempt to gain interest in the compilation in the UK, the 6 December 1975 issue of Melody Maker magazine featured a black-and-white advert promoting the album. The advert stated the compilation was available from EMI International as a "special import".
The album was later given its first CD release in 2001. This release was issued as a double-album set by BGO Records along with the 1976 album Love's a Prima Donna.
All songs written and composed by Steve Harley.
In the 26 November 1975 issue of the Milwaukee Journal, the album was reviewed by journal staff member Pierre-Rene Noth, who commented: "The latest US release by Harley and his Cockney Rebel band is "A Closer Look" on EMI. It's a "best of" collection from his previous three albums, which were among the best kept secrets the record stores ever had. Harley, a former journalist, does an unusual cabaret style rock marred in the past by great inconsistency. One wow number, then two duds, one wow number, then three duds... This "best of" selection finally provides Harley with what he needed most - some severe editing. In the process, "A Closer Look" becomes a unique album by a unique artist. Since almost no one on these shores has heard what he's done in the past, it's not hard to consider this a brand new album by a brand new artist. Included are "Mr. Raffles," "Sebastian," "Psychomodo" and "Tumbling Down," which are particularly enthralling."
In The Miami News of 28 May 1976, music critic Jon Marlowe spoke of the compilation, writing: "All his previous albums ("The Human Menagerie", "The Psychomodo", "The Best Years of Our Lives", and a greatest hits package called "A Closer Look") have been filled with classic material such as "Tumbling Down" and "Cavaliers"."
AllMusic writer Donald A. Guarisco retrospectively reviewed the album, writing: "A nice sampler of this group's glory days, "A Closer Look" divides its time between the two sides of Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel: short pop tunes that blended clever lyrics with hook-filled tunes and lengthier, often orchestrated epics that allowed songwriter/vocalist Steve Harley to give full rein to his arty ambitions. In the pop arena, the most memorable highlights are "Come Up and See Me (Make Me Smile)," and "Mr. Raffles". As for the epics, the most impressive ones are "Sebastian," and "Tumbling Down". Although it omits some crucial hits like "Judy Teen" and was released too early to include anything from the excellent "Love's a Prima Donna" album, "A Closer Work" remains a solid introduction to the career of an underrated but very worthwhile group from the artier side of glam rock." Guarisco also highlighted "Make Me Smile" and "Mr Raffles" by labelling them the album's two AMG Pick tracks.Steve Harley - vocals (all tracks), producer (tracks 1-3, 6-8, 10)
Alan Parsons - producer (tracks 1-3, 6-8, 10)
Neil Harrison - producer (tracks 4-5, 9)
Jean Paul-Crocker - cello, bow bass, electric violin, mandolin, electric guitar (tracks 4-5, 9)
Milton Reame-James - organ, electric piano, harpsichord (tracks 4-5, 9)
Paul Jeffreys - bass guitar (tracks 4-5, 9)
Jim Cregan - guitar (tracks 1-3, 6-8, 10)
Duncan MacKay - keyboards (tracks 1-3, 6-8, 10)
George Ford - bass guitar (tracks 1-3, 6-8, 10)
Stuart Elliott - drums (all tracks)
Roy Kohara - art direction
Chuck Ames – design