is seen as nothing but a wimp-pop band -- an impression which is justified, but it wipes out the fact that the group was quite good and rather slyly diverse in its early days, particularly on its debut, Bread
. This is effectively the birth of Californian soft rock, as David Gates
and compatriots blend the folk-rock of the Byrds
and Buffalo Springfield with a distinctly British melodicism and a streak of sentimentality borrowed from McCartney. The result is a modest little gem, with more strange turns than you'd expect from their reputation -- including soaring falsettos, spiraling melodies, rough guitars, and, best of all, a set of tightly-written, appealing songs. Only "It Don't Matter Me," which became a hit after
the second album, ranks among their best-known material, but each of the songs illustrates the exceptional craftsmanship of not just Gates
, but Robb Royer
and James Griffin
. As such, this may not seem like the record for casual fans, if judged just on the track listing, but it will convince the pop fans that may have been doubters.