Friday, March 5, 2010

Update 12

It's Friday! & the sun's out!
Bn listening this aft 2 The Left Banke's 1st 2 (1966-68) & Happy the Man's 1st -- they're both keepers.
Mucha the Left Banke's stuff sounds like Xcellent lost mid-'60s bubblegum/early-psychedelic pop hits, especially "She May Call You Up Tonight" & "I've Got Something on My Mind."
On their 2nd album, TOO, "Desiree" really WAS a lost mid-'60s coulda-bn hit: EZ 2 C why it WASN'T, tho. Tho the words R great & Steve Martin's singing is Xcellent, John Abbott's kitchen-sink production & the thick mix of the band's vocals, the harpsichord & the horns musta sounded like a real mess coming outta a car radio in 1967. There's a lot 2 hear there, 2 much 2 focus on really -- no wonder "Desiree" peaked at #98. The CD version adds punch 2 the horns, but as a result the group's "la-la-la" vocals on the choruses sound even more lost in the flood -- still great stuff, tho....
"Pretty Ballerina" I'd heard Xactly 1nce B4, it's gorgeous & haunting. The CD repro on "Walk Away, Renee" un4tun8ly softens what was already a tissue-soft song 2 Bgin w/. Now U can't even hear the cymbal smash that leads in2 the chorus. Still gorgeous tho, & it was 1a my fave songs when I was 12 yrs old....
Summa the rest is ... a little odd, like the band was pulling inna lotta diffrent directions: There's the self-consciously rockin(!) "Evening Gown" & "Lazy Day," & the countryish "What Do You Know?" I could do w/o the self-conscious societal criticism in "Barters and Their Wives" & "Men are Building Sand," & "Myrah" is a REAL downer -- they mayB got 2 psychedelic 2 quick. Haven't got thru alla TWO yet, but I'll B going back 4 more.
& what a songwriter that Michael Brown was, eh? (If U haven't heard NE of his later work w/ Stories on albums like the great ABOUT US, U're missing out.)
The CD version of these albums I've got is pretty cheap -- fuzzy photos of the album covers, no songwriting or production credits, just silly period photos & nametags 4 the band, & Red Cap CDs (whoever they R) can't spell song-titles right or even provide a company address -- but it all SOUNDS really good & I'll B listening more.
+ the CD is jammed full: 27 trax, more than 70 mins of music near as I can count, 2 full albums + 6 bonus trax including the "Ivy, Ivy"/"And Suddenly" single Brown released under the Left Banke name, Brown & Martin's "Myrah" single from '69 & other oddities, probly everything U'd ever want. So I can't complain about value 4 the $$$....
Happy the Man's 1st (1977) takes awhile 2 get started. "Starborne" sounds like flowing mood music w/o something 2 focus yr attn, & summa the other trax like "Carousel," "Stumpy Meets the Firecracker in Stencil Forest" & "Knee Bitten Nymphs in Limbo" sound like jumpy, fast-moving outtakes from "Steaming Pipes" on HTM's superior 2nd album CRAFTY HANDS (1978).
But: "On Time As a Helix of Precious Laughs" is WONDERFUL! Every review I'd ever read of these guys useta really zing guitarist Stan Whittaker 4 his kinda robotic vocals, but they work perfectly here (as they do on the blowout "Wind-Up Doll Day Wind" on CRAFTY HANDS). & the song's theme, about how time passes & how love & laffs hold it all 2gether & help it make sense -- well, if yr a nostalgic like me it'll probly hit U right Btween the eyes. & there's a killer flashy middle section w/ lotsa tasty & dramatic gtr.
Everything after that's at least high-quality. & there's lotsa pretty, flowing gtr/keyboard/flute/sax instrumentals. Summa it mayB shows the band trying 2 show how fast & flashily they can play, when I'd like them 2 mayB slow down just a touch. But I'll B playing this 1 a bunch more, if only 4 "Time."
Ken Scott produced, Ed E. Thacker engineered, getting the same clear, pristine sound he later got 4 Group 87 -- & the booklet w/ this reissue claims Arista Records spent $250,000 on production 4 HTM's 1st 2 albums. I think it was worth it....

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