After producer James William Guercio
steered the Buckinghams
in a quasi-experimental direction with their previous album, the group continued to try out material too ambitious for the 45 rpm format on their third LP. The big difference this time around was that they wrote almost everything, instead of playing songs by Guercio
and other outside writers. Some bands blossom given the room to stretch; others, when given the opportunity, prove that they're better off when constrained within the limitations of commercial singles. The Buckinghams
, as laudable as their ambition was, fell into the latter category. The over-arching horn and string arrangements (still by Guercio
), and occasional bouts of quasi-psychedelic weirdness -- not to mention the arty reprises of three songs -- couldn't disguise that these were, at heart, ordinary pop/rock songs trying to be something better and different. The two hit singles, "Hey Baby (They're Playing Our Song)" and "Susan," proved all of the above points by being the best (and most incongruous) cuts on the album, even as they were the least ambitious. Sundazed combined Portraits
with the group's second LP, Time & Changes
, on a single-disc CD reissue.