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Old Melodies ...

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The Left Banke - 2 in 1

The Left Banke - 2 in 1

This New York group pioneered "baroque & roll" in the '60s with its mix of pop/rock and grand, quasi-classical arrangements and melodies. Featuring teenage prodigy Michael Brown as keyboardist and chief songwriter, the group scored two quick hits with "Walk Away Renee" (number five) and "Pretty Ballerina" (number 15). Chamber-like string arrangements, Steve Martin's soaring, near-falsetto lead vocals, and tight harmonies that borrowed from British Invasion bands like the Beatles and the Zombies were also key elements of the Left Banke sound. Though their two hits are their only well-remembered efforts, their debut album (Walk Away Renee/Pretty Ballerina) was a strong, near-classic work that matched the quality of their hit singles in songwriting and production.
the Left Banke's internal dynamic wasn't nearly as harmonious as their sound, and their history goes some way toward explaining their short career. Initially, the group made some recordings that were produced by Brown's father, Harry Lookofsky. When these recordings failed to interest companies in signing the band, the Left Banke broke up, Brown moving to California with the group's original drummer. A backing track for "Walk Away Renee" had already been completed, and the other members overdubbed vocals in Brown's absence. The song was released on Smash and became a hit, and the musicians reunited to tour and continue recording.
Unfortunately, the group, which showed such tremendous promise, was quickly torn asunder by dissension. Due to the nature of their music (which often employed session musicians), the Left Banke's sound was difficult to reproduce on the road, and one could sympathize with Brown's wishes to become a Brian Wilson-like figure, concentrating on writing and recording while the rest of the musicians took to the road. A variety of guitarists, as both session musicians and ostensible group members, flitted in and out of the lineup; Rick Brand, credited as the guitarist on the first LP, actually plays on only one of the album's songs. Adding fuel to the fire, Brown's bandmates wanted to oust Brown's father as the act's manager. In early 1967, Brown went as far as to record a Left Banke single without them, using vocalist Bert Sommer.

That single ("And Suddenly") flopped, and for a brief time in September 1967 the original members were recording together again. After just one single ("Desiree"), though, Brown left for good. Most of the group's second and final album, The Left Banke Too, was recorded without him. While it still sported baroque arrangements and contained some fine moments, Brown's presence was sorely missed, and the record pales in comparison to their debut. Brown went on to form a Left Banke-styled group, Montage, which released a fine and underappreciated album in the late '60s. He later teamed up to form Stories with vocalist Ian Lloyd.
There were some confusing son-of-Left Banke recordings over the next few years, although the band really came to a halt in 1969, after the second album. Brown, Martin, and unknown musicians made a few recordings in late 1969; then, oddly, the original group re-formed for a fine early-1971 single on Buddah ("Love Songs in the Night" b/w "Two by Two"), although the record itself was credited to Steve Martin. And the original group, minus its key visionary Michael Brown, made an album's worth of ill-advised reunion recordings in 1978.

Walk Away Renee Pretty Ballerina 1967

The Left Banke - 2 in 1

The Left Banke - 2 in 1

While the rise of folk-rock acts like the Byrds and the Lovin' Spoonful brought 12-string guitars and autoharps into the rock & roll vocabulary, and the Beatles' "Yesterday" and "Eleanor Rigby" opened the door for a more artful use of strings in pop music, the Left Banke pioneered something new with their debut single, 1967's "Walk Away Renee," which incorporated a small string section, harpsichord, and woodwinds to give the song a light yet dramatic Baroque flavor that was unique in rock at the time, and a perfect complement to the song's bittersweet tale of unrequited love. the Left Banke's follow-up, "Pretty Ballerina," was even more striking, and while the group started to fall apart almost as soon as they achieved success, their debut album, named for the two hit singles, was one of the best LPs released in a year full of innovation in pop music. Michael Brown, the group's keyboard player, wrote most of the songs, and with producer and arranger Henry Lookofsky (who was also Brown's father) he helped brainstorm the unusual sound of the Left Banke's material, but vocalist Steve Martin-Caro also played a major role in these sessions; his vocals, which could go from the wistful "Barterers and Their Wives" to the full-on rock shouting of "Lazy Day" at the drop of a hat, are impressive, and he helped write three of the album's best songs, "She May Call You Up Tonight" and "I Haven't Got the Nerve," and "Shadows Breaking Over My Head." Walk Away Renee/Pretty Ballerina is hardly unusual for a rock album of the era in that most of the tracks were dominated by session musicians rather than actual bandmembers, and in many respects, this album was a triumph for the producers and arrangers (among them Steve Jerome and John Abbott, along with Lookofsky) as much as the band, but they also gave this LP a remarkably diverse feel, from the Baroque sound of the hit singles and the formal-dress psychedelia of "Shadows Breaking Over My Head," to the country-rock accents of "What Do You Know," and the straightforward rock of "Lazy Day" and "Evening Down." If the Left Banke's moment of stardom was fleeting, Walk Away Renee/Pretty Ballerina reveals, for a brief and exciting moment, they were one of the best and most innovative American bands in rock & roll.

The Left Banke Too 1968

The Left Banke - 2 in 1

The Left Banke - 2 in 1

The Left Banke had been together for less than a year when their debut single, "Walk Away Renee," became a hit, and once the band began touring steadily, they started to fracture as Michael Brown, the group's 17-year-old wunderkind, songwriter, and pianist, decided he didn't care for life on the road. By the time The Left Banke cut their second album, Brown was out of the picture, as was producer and arranger Henry Lookofsky (he was also Brown's dad), and the lineup was down to a trio: vocalist Steve Martin-Caro, guitarist/bassist Tom Finn, and drummer George Cameron. Not promising circumstances for the creation of The Left Banke Too, but surprisingly it's a fine album that shows the group's second string had plenty of talent and a sound creative vision. The album's tone differs from the debut, with fewer songs as mysterious as the lovelorn "Walk Away Renee" and "Pretty Ballerina," and a production that sounds more like intelligent sunshine pop than the leaner Baroque vision of its precursor. But with the help of outside songwriter Tom Feher, the remaining members came up with some impressive material, including the lush psychedelic pop of "There's Gonna Be a Storm" and "My Friend Today," the engaging uptempo rocker "Goodbye Holly," and a witty tale of low-budget rock star decadence, "Bryant Hotel," which features some rollicking piano and a wailing vocal from Cameron. (He and Finn both stepped up for lead vocal spots on the album, with impressive results.) Brown reconciled with his bandmates long enough to write and produce a single, and both sides were included on Left Banke Too, with "Desiree" sounding like a grander variation on the tone of the first LP. The single was a flop, and none of the songs from The Left Banke Too fared any better, but even though it proved the be the band's swan song, it's a great pop album that confirms Michael Brown wasn't the only gifted songwriter in the group. (Two songs on the album feature backing vocals from one Steve Tallarico, who several years later would tie a scarf to his mike stand, change his name to Steven Tyler, and become the lead singer with Aerosmith.)

The Legend - The Legend (1968)

The Legend - The Legend (1968)

Formed in California in the late-'60s, this obscure band was signed for a one-off deal with the small Encino-based Megaphone label for whom they produced this eponymous album in 1968. Shortly after, The Legend disappeared without a trace, although according to some sources the band morphed into the equally obscure Dragonfly, also on Megaphone.
Serving up a mix of poppy psych originals and a handful of inspired covers (including The Who's "The Kids Are Alright", The Troggs' "With A Girl Like You" and Bob Dylan's "Baby Blue") this album is a rare slice of early, surprisingly radio-friendly, Southern Californian psychedelia.

- Jack Duncan (bass),
- Barry Davis (drums, backing vocals),
- Gerry Jimerfield (guitar, lead vocals),
- Randy Russ (guitar, backing vocals),
- Ernie McElwaine (keyboads)

1.) With a Girl Like You (Reg Presley) - 2:17
2.) The Sky That Is Blue (B. Corso) - 2:47
3.) Zepplin's Good Friday (E. Brooks - S. Romans) - 2:42
4.) Where Oh Where Is Mother (B. Corso) - 3:03
5.) Yesterday's Child (B. Corso) - 2:31
6.) Eyes of the World (D. McGinnis) - 2:27
7.) The Kids Are Allright (Pete Townshend) - 2:53
8.) Cold Wind In August (B. Page) - 2:32
9.) Sunny Day (E. Brooks - S. Romans) - 2:11
10.) You'll Be Sorry Someday (B. Corso) - 2:41
11.) Gigi (Lerner - Loewe) - 2:17
12.) Baby Blue (Bob Dylan) - 5:27

Very rare and clean 1968 first pressing by a formidable garage band that changed their name to DRAGONFLY a year later by kicking up the volume, oh, about by 50 times.... there's some of that DRAGONFLY influence of hard fuzz psych to be found on this platter:

Originally from Colorado, the five-piece LEGEND relocated to Los Angeles and a year later became the mighty Dragonfly, who also recorded for the same "Megaphone" label.

  The material on this album largely predates the psychedelic era and is full of cover versions (The TROGGS "With A Girl Like You", Dylan's "Baby Blue" and The WHO's "The Kids Are Alright". A few cuts, like "Where Oh Where Is Mother" contain some good guitar playing with psychedelic undertones and the album ends with a little sitar solo.   Offering up a mixture of band originals and popular covers (Bob Dylan, The Troggs, The Who), musically the LP has more than its share of charms. Tracks such as 'The Sky That Is Blue', 'Zepplin's Good Friday' and 'Yesterday's Child' showcases a tasty blend of tight, Bealtesque harmonies and catchy melodies. Legend occasionally drifts close to The Left Banke ('Sunny Day' and 'Gigi'). Even more impressive is their harder rock sound, including the fuzz guitar and feedback propelled 'Where Oh Where Is Mother' and their awesome fuzz & sitar powered take on Dylan's 'Baby Blue' (with sitar fadeout). The album vanished without a trace, followed in short order by the legendary DRAGONFLY Lp. 
Their take on The Troggs hit 'With a Girl Like You' is in the same vein as the original vut comes off interesting as the lead singer seemes to have a strange accent. Great tune, with a touch of Mersybeat harmonies and there is even plenty of cowbell   'The Sky That Is Blue' is a breezy, mid-tempo pop-rock song that features some nice vox organ and wonderful group harmony vocals.   Kicked along by some wonderfully cheesy organ, 'The Sky That Is Blue' has one of those classic mid-1960s vibes - imagine something that tried to cross The Young Rascals and The Beatles. Highly infectious with some nice fuzz guitar in the background.   The album's first all-out rocker and one of the album's psych-tinged numbers, 'Where Oh Where Is Mother' is built on an intriguing mixture of fuzz guitar, electric harpsichord, weird studio sound effects, and another display of the band's impeccable harmony vocals. This was another one where the lead singer (Corso?) seemed to display a noticeable accent. 
Pulling a page out of The Beatles songbook, 'Yesterday's Child' is seemingly a stab a writing a socially relevant ballad -- Pretty, but it isn't 'Eleanor Rigby'.   Even though heavily arranged, 'Eyes of the World' is actually one of the album's most interesting performances with some wild lead guitar and an energetic lead vocals. 
While up theere with the WHO's version, their vox-powered cover of The Who's 'The Kids Are Allright' is actually quite good with some chugging drums and a nice, fuzz-drenched lead guitar. The track was issued as a single. 
One of the album's most pop-oriented efforts, 'Cold Wind In August' has a decent commercial tinge with backing harmony vocals that are nice 'Sunny Day' has a pleasant sunshine-pop feel to it with backing vocals that would have made John Phillips day. 
With the band playing at hyper-speed (sounds like they'd ingested meth amphetamines during the recording sessions ...), 'You'll Be Sorry Someday' is simply hysterical. Nice fuzz solo at the tail end of the track. 
Filled with lovely harpsichord, this one grabs attention from the opening chords. The fact that ballad 'Gigi' sounded like a Left Banke outtake does't hurt either. 
So if you're going to do a Dylan cover why not toughen it up and give it a fuzz-driven garage edge? To their credit that's exactly what these guys did on their version of 'Baby Blue'. Along with the totally bizarro sitar closing, the result is one of the album's best tracks and one of the best Dylan you'll ever hear.   With a Girl Like You The Sky That Is Blue Zepelin's Good Friday Where oh Where Is My Mother Yesterdays Child Eyes of the World II The Kids Are Allright Cold Wind in August Sunny Day You'll Be Sorry Some Day Gigi Baby Blue

Lulu - To Sir With Love! (The Complete Mickie Most Recordings)

 For the majority of American listeners, Lulu's career began and ended with "To Sir with Love," the theme song to the 1967 box office hit, though she enjoyed considerably greater success in the United Kingdom, and not without reason. Lulu had a solid, spirited voice that could handle an admirable range of material, and she tended to get good songs that she made the most of with the assistance of some very talented studio help (John Paul Jones arranged much of the material on her 1969 set Lulu's Album). To Sir with Love: The Complete Mickey Most Recordings features 39 tunes recorded during Lulu's tenure with famed British producer Most, and if this consistently leans to the more commercial side of British pop of the late '60s, it's great pop with heart, soul, and no shortage of enthusiasm. On tunes like "Love Loves to Love, Love" and her cover of the Beatles' "Day Tripper," Lulu sounds very convincing belting out tough rock & roll, and she's just as confident handling soulful material with real emotional weight, such as "Morning Dew" and "To Love Somebody." And while she also gets her share of MOR pop tunes here, she handles them flawlessly, and "The Best of Both Worlds" and "A House Is Not a Home" are marvelous, heart-tugging stuff. Lulu and Most had a great ear for material, tackling numbers from the songbook of Neil Diamond, Dan Penn, Harry Nilsson, and Elton John, and even the lesser tracks (we get three versions of the less-than-thrilling "Boom Bang a Bang" -- in English, French, and Italian!) are executed with superb craft and as much feeling as the singer could muster. Lulu continued to make fine records through the 1970s and still performs today, but her early material captured her at her peak, and this thoroughly enjoyable package offers the lion's share of her excellent 1967-1969 work, digitally remastered and sounding spectacular with intelligent liner notes. Fans will love it and those who only know Lulu as the "To Sir with Love" girl will be very pleasantly surprised.

Lulu - To Sir With Love!  (The Complete Mickie Most Recordings)

The Lettermen - Jim, Tony and Bob (1962)

The Lettermen  - Jim, Tony and Bob (1962)

The Lettermen's close-harmony pop songs with light and easy arrangements made them quite a successful group with adult audiences during the 1960s, when changing styles and tastes made many older listeners feel just a bit left behind in the music world. Formed in 1960 by singer Tony Butala, along with two students from Brigham Young University, Jim Pike and Bob Engemann, The Lettermen recorded without success for about a year until they signed to Capitol Records. The group's first single for Capitol, "The Way You Look Tonight," did very well on the pop charts, and its follow-up, "When I Fall in Love," reached the Top Ten in late 1961. Though the group only reached that plateau one more time, with the 1968 medley "Goin' Out of My Head/Can't Take My Eyes Off You" (the same year Jim's brother Gary Pike stepped in for Engemann), successful album sales to adult listeners and popular concert tours kept the group going long after many of their similar contemporaries had died off. Another Pike brother, Donny, replaced Jim in 1974, and The Lettermen formed their own Alfa Omega Records in 1979, sporadically releasing albums of new material even into the 1990s. Jim Pike and Bob Engemann later formed Reunion (with Gary Pike and Ric de Azevedo), a group that released several albums for Collectables. Butala toured The Lettermen well into the 21st century, proving popular with older audiences. He also founded a Vocal Group Hall of Fame outside Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The Lettermen  - Jim, Tony and Bob (1962)

The Lemon Dips - Who's Gonna Buy ? (1969)

 The Lemon Dips are a relatively unknown Garage-Rock band from the U.K. They are described as having a psychedelic influenc...

Collection of psychedelic / freakbeat vocal and instrumental tracks issued by the music library label. Three of them, 'Who's Gonna Buy', 'I Am Your Man' and 'Unpack Your Bags' were featured in the film "Haunted House Of Horror". All De Wolf recordings comprised material penned by song writers Peter Renno and Johnny Hawksworth and played by session musicians. Information taken from The Tapestry Of Delights Revisited, 2010 Borderline Productions.

The Lemon Dips - Who's Gonna Buy ? (1969)

The Lemon Drops - Crystal Pure (1966-69)

Anyone who likes the Leaves, the Seeds et al will love the early cuts by this band, a hard-luck Chicago outfit who couldn't turn a local wave of popular enthusiasm into something bigger, despite some good songs. Their later stuff was more self-consciously psychedelic, but it's still very well done, with superb playing and harmonies. The Lemon Drops were Jeff Brand (bass), Bobby Lunack (rhythm guitar), Gary Weiss (drums), Eddie Weiss (rhythm guitar), and Danny Smola (vocals), who began rehearsing in the Weiss home when they were between 14 and 17 years old. With lead guitarist Ricky Erickson in tow and later an official member, they cut their first record, "I Live In the Springtime," for Rembrandt, a local label co-owned by one of the Weisses' elder siblings. "I Live in the Springtime" got an enthusiastic reception locally, and was played as far away as New York. The bandmembers became celebrities among the local kids when they were thrown out of school for their long hair. By that time, they were on their second single, the angry anti-Vietnam rocker "It Happens Everyday," and soon after had a new lead singer, Dick Sidman. The band slipped easily into the psychedelic blossoming of the Summer of Love, adding more overt flower-power references to their mix of sounds. It looked as though RCA was interested in the group, but a mix-up prevented the tapes for their third single, "Sometime Ago"/"Theatre of Your Eyes," from getting to the company in New York on time. A potential contract with Uni Records came to nothing, and their third single, as well as a dozen tracks cut live in the Weiss home in January of 1968, went unheard. A few more songs were cut on behalf of Buena Vista Records, but the death of the label head scotched the deal, and a potential contract with Alden Records fell apart, along with the group, following an acid party at the owner's Los Angeles mansion in the summer of 1969.

The Left Banke - 2 in 1The Legend - The Legend (1968)Lulu - To Sir With Love!  (The Complete Mickie Most Recordings)The Lettermen - More Hit Sound Of The Lettermen !The Lettermen - The Hit SoundThe Lettermen - College Standards (1963)The Lettermen  - Jim, Tony and Bob (1962)JOHN LAMERS - THE STORY OF... with Cees & His SkylinersThe Lemon Dips - Who's Gonna Buy ? (1969)The Lemon Drops - Crystal Pure (1966-69)

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