Meet The Hard Pack - R.J. Reynolds

This is a free country, and there was a time where a company, no matter what they sold, could market their product in any way they wish. Suffice it to say, these days, between public opinion and over-reaching government officials, don't expect the Marlboro man to cut an album anytime soon.

This cassette contains twelve songs, all of which are about or are loosely based around smoking and Camel brand cigarettes. I can't find much information or the name of the actual band who recorded this. I suspect that tidbit of information is kept secret as a condition in their contract. The songs are various blues styles; pretty much like every other hack blues group of the time, their blues style is akin to the riding on the coat tails of The Blues Brothers. Very generic. Very repetitive. To be fair to the band, if I was paid to wright an entire album about a controversial product I would be half-assing it as well.

According to the backside, this tape was published in 1993. It seems pretty easy to figure out why many people in congress wanted to see the death of Joe Camel. This cassette doesn't blatantly market to children but there is an image RJR were going for: The cool guy was the one who smoked Camel brand cigarettes. Kids like to be cool. Every kid wants to be 'that guy'. But kids don't like Blues. I'm guessing their target age were those in the early-20's. It would be the perfect thing to hand out on a college campus, right?

I picked six songs to share to best illustrate the abortion of a marketing campaign this tape is. Who was in charge of Public Relations down there in RJR? The poor guy had to smoke a carton a day in order to counteract their level of stress.

But first, let's meet the band!

Bustah on Guitar, Eddie on drums, Floyd and Sax and Max humin' the Harmonica. I feel for Floyd and Max. You'd think they would at least try to smoke while playing. Oh, and to reach back to the Blues Brothers reference, check out Max! There's also a piano player. I can only assume that's Joe himself.

The first track on this cassette proves strong in setting the mood of this entire album:

Track 1: Don't Give Me No Cheap Cigarettes

What an picture this song paints. I can't tell you how many times I've been playing 8 ball in some smoke-filled dive in west Texas, after sinking the eight ball I reach in my pocket only to find I'm out of my full flavored Camel brand cigarettes. Oh, how stressful the emotion of being without fills my body. It doesn't help some greenhorn offers me a generic store brand cigarette. Luckily it was 1976 and there were plenty cigarette machines handy.

K, that's enough sarcasm for now. Off to the next song, which is another dammit when that happens kind of song.

Track 5: Empty Lighter Blues

Such a spoiled society we are, right? There's people in other parts of the world, if they're unable to start a fire, they could very well starve or die from bacteria in uncooked meat. And here's a song about having to reach over to the next guy to borrow a lighter, or at the worst, go without a fag till he's able to get a match. Seriously, if not having a spark is such a problem, maybe you should look into cutting down on your smoking.

Track 2: Born To Be Smooth

There are a lot of token words and phrases peppered throughout this album and "Smooth" is one of the most frequently used. This isn't the only song about smoothness:

Track 8: Mr. Smooth Character

Which has to be the worst song on the entire album.


Track 10: It's Got To Be Smooth

Don't mean to be critical but wouldn't it be difficult to walk a mile for a Camel while suffering from emphysema? Talk about an ironic bitch.

Track 05: Down in New Orleans

What's this? A song not about smoking? I suppose, but of course they had to sneak in something about a pack of Camels. It's so cheesy it's funny. And I was wrong earlier; THIS is the worst song on the album. There are a couple other songs that don't appear to be blatantly about smoking Camel cigarettes: track 11, Oasis Lady and 12, Meet The Hard Pack. By the time I got to these songs my mind was so numb I couldn't hear anything but noise. I don't wish to listen to them again but something tells me Camel cigarettes or smoking in general are in there somewhere. Like, Oasis Lady is the chick who gave him a Camel when he ran out.

Now I'm wondering how many people will feel the need to smoke after listening to these songs. Especially, how many non-smokers.