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DREAMS SO REAL (Buy CDs by this artist)
Father's House (Coyote) 1986
Rough Night in Jericho (Arista) 1988
Gloryline (Arista) 1990

This tuneful Athens threesome, produced on its first album by Peter Buck, uses a bit of piano and close vocal harmonies — the Kingston Trio and Buffalo Springfield come to mind — to differentiate itself from That Other Local Band. Although guitarist/singer Barry Marler does favor Buck, Dreams So Real's light, airy pop doesn't really reflect an R.E.M. influence at all. (Cover your ears when "Capitol Mall" comes on.) In any case, Father's House is too mild to truly matter: while the summery ambience is pleasant enough, the songs are insubstantial and many of the performances rush along in an overeager blur.

Moving to a major label, the trio toughened its sound and commercialized its approach for Rough Night in Jericho, putting stronger rhythms behind the ringing guitar strums and arena-ready drama into the vocals. The melodies are okay, but the dynamic delivery exaggerates the weakness in Marler's lyrics.

Gloryline wisely backtracks a little, simplifying the drums to a snappy backbeat and tempering the electric intensity with a folkier sensibility, acoustic guitar strums and more effective use of guest keyboards. Dreams So Real are still caught between two conflicting impulses — big-league rock power and carefully detailed grassroots richness — but this album puts them on the way to finding a singable solution. Cindy Wilson of the B-52's guests on one track.

[Ira Robbins]