Monday, January 31, 2005
Some day you're going to be on Jeopardy, trailing as the show's end approaches, and as the new categories are being posted you'll hear Alex Trebek say, "Things about Steve Kipner," and a wave of relaxation will flood through your body is you realize you're about to win it all. And that's why you read this blog.
We previously met Steve when he was a member of Skyband (or, if you're just coming to this blog, you met him when you heard a little tune he co-wrote called Genie In A Bottle or possibly another one called Physical). Just before Skyband, he was involved in a short-lived group called Friends who released one self-titled album in 1973 on the MGM label. As you can see above, Steve's excellent taste in band names and cover art didn't start with Skyband (it didn't start with Friends either, but we'll get to that some other day).
On Friday, I posted what's probably the standout track from the Friends album, their cover/rewrite of The Easybeats' Good Times. Kipner and Co. gave that song a mostly new set of lyrics, a new title (Gonna Have A Good Time), and a new set of writer's credits. Here's the original track. I go back and forth on which one I prefer. The Easybeats version is rawer and the vocals have more personality, but I think that the Friends version's lyrical changes work well, and I prefer the way Friends do the chorus. If you've ever listened to a rock radio station on a Friday, you've almost certainly heard the Easybeats song Friday On My Mind, at least via a cover version.
Hey, this is the first Kipner project we've encountered thus far where the credits actually tell us who's who in the band (don't forget that he was in the mysterious Fut as well). You can click the photo below to get a close-up:
...and while I'm slightly dubious about some of the claims made on the back cover (were Tin Tin really produced by "the Bee Gees" and did Steve really co-write "Toast And Marmalade For Tea") there's no denying that his bandmates are one Darryl Cotton (formerly of Aussie band Zoot, home of one Rick Springfield) and Michael Lloyd (famous producer and former member of The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band). I didn't post them, but inside the gatefold of this album there are lots of photos of Steve, Darryl, and Michael singing, strumming, being friends, and running down the sidewalk as if they're auditioning to be in The Monkees.
So what was my reaction on first hearing all this musical talent?
"God, what crap!"
I wasn't completely right, but lets say right off that Friends were no Skyband, and nothing on the album has the same energy as the Easybeats cover, which really sticks out like a sore thumb. For the record, this has never come out on CD, and was apparently pulled from stores early on when Michael Lloyd left MGM.
In the end, I've softened my opposition, and actually enjoyed this album quite a bit, but I wouldn't mock anyone who didn't feel the same way: my taste has been pretty strange lately. I'm posting some of the tracks I like best below, with brief comments. Of the Steve Kipner projects I've heard thus far, though, this is probably the weakest.
Glamour Girl - the album opener sets the AM radio, early 70's tone of the record. Is that an ARP I hear? Kind of sugary, but I've come around to it.
She Knows - apparently every Steve Kipner album has to have one homage to a former musical era. This album actually has two. She Knows is like one of those Paul McCartney or John Lennon "50's songs" and I like this one a lot. The backing vocals remind me a lot of McCartney's Ram album.
Would You Laugh - and back to the sensitive stuff, sort of like the Bee Gees collaborating with solo Paul McCartney. Probably one of the best soft tracks on the album. Nice bridge!
Applecart - Starts out really promising, like it's going to be It Don't Come Easy, but then it turns into the song that the Rutles rejected in favor of Ouch! Ok, I ended up liking this one too.
Deep River Blues - and here's the song that Paul Williams rejected in favor of the entire soundtrack to Bugsy Malone. My wife said, "It's really stupid, but actually somewhat catchy." I'm guessing that we have Paul McCartney to blame for this one.
I've Known You So Long - has that Rhodes piano that's going to be behind every 70's schmaltzy ballad, but retains a tiny bit of 60's toughness. You can totally hear the space at the end of the song where the DJ should come in and back-announce it.
I wish I could end on a higher point, but I posted that higher point on Friday. Fans of soft pop should definitely check this out. It has a lot going for it as far as production and playing, and the singing is fine, but most of the material is -- let's be gracious -- kind of B- to B level.
As best as I can tell, the Easybeats were a big influence on this (Friends is an Easybeats album title) and I don't know them well, nor do I know Zoot, so I may be missing some obvious references.