The Left Banke

If it ain't Baroque, fix it!
*special introductory paragraph!
*Walk Away Renee/Pretty Ballerina
*There's Gonna Be A Storm: The Complete Recordings 1966-1969
*Voices Calling

The Left Banke was a '60s New York group that combined pop hooks, gorgeous vocal harmonies and classical harpsichord'n'strings arrangements to create some of the most beautiful young person music this world has ever ignored. Unfortunately the guy who wrote all the songs quit after the first album, leaving the remaining members to turn its follow-up into a heroin-tempoed psych-prog sleeping aid. Then they reunited ten years later and sucked dicks through a straw made of ass and filled with balls!

William Shakespeare

* Walk Away Renee/Pretty Ballerina - Smash 1967 *
Rating = 10

Years ago, back in the days when life was beautiful, the streets were coated in rainbow-colored sugar, and every job was a dream come true on a wonder cloud of human companionship, The Left Banke created one of the loveliest ass-fuckers of an album in the entire Gingerland of warmth. Featuring an angelic combination of beautiful vocal harmonies, regal instrumentation, eminently hummable melodies and uniformly excellent songwriting, this soul-elevating selection of baroque chamber pop is one turd of an ass-fucker.

The genius behind the music was a bright young pianist/organist/harpsichordist named Michael Brown, and the voices that brought his creations to sonically mesmerizing life were George Cameron, Tom Finn and Steve Martin. No, not THAT Steve Martin! Heh heh heh. No, that Steve Martin played guitar on Agnostic Front's Liberty And Justice For... album.

By the way, don't let my stuffy 'baroque' description turn you off. This isn't haughty pompous snore music; it's chamber "pop," using the mid-'60s definition of pop. In other words, young people with catchy ideas and an exuberant zest for life. Nesmith-esque country-pop, bachelor pad lounge-folk, stinging angry fuzz rock and off-the-trails novelty music all make appearances, but the core of the record is the heartachingly gorgeous songcraft of keys'n'sometimesviolin masterpieces like "Pretty Ballerina," "She May Call You Up Tonight," "Barterers And Their Wives," "I've Got Something On My Mind," "Walk Away Renee" and "Shadows Breaking OVer My Head." If you think girls are pretty, just listen to this album!

And you will no longer think girls are pretty. Sad, isn't it?

It's also sad that such a phenomenal record has langoured in near-obscurity for over four decades, saddled with one of the worst album titles in history. Hey record company asshole! I have an even better title for it! For the reissue, let's call it Pretty Ballerina/She May Call You Up Tonight/Barterers And Their Wives/I've Got Something On My Mind/Let Go Of You Girl/Evening Gown/Walk Away Renee/What Do You Know?/Shadows Breaking Over My Head/I Haven't Got The Nerve/Lazy Day!

No, even better -- lets combine it with the second album, put all the songs in the wrong order, and then throw on five piece of shit solo tracks! Christ, no wonder you wanna listen to a kidney bean!

(Assuming, of course, you wanna listen to a kidney bean. If not, please disregard.)

Reader Comments
True. An absolute masterpiece.

But you're being way too harsh with "There's gonna be a storm", which, although it's not perfect, deserves at least 9 stars.

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Too - Smash 1968
Rating = 7

If you know anything at all, you know that things in my life are extremely stressful at the moment. Between my marital separation and a difficult new employer, my brain is under constant siege from anxiety, depression, fear, obsession, sorrow, confusion, rage, hate and feelings of utter failure. But the interesting thing is that I'm becoming accustomed to my awful new life. It suddenly hit me while I was walking around feeling sorry for myself a few days ago: "Life is shit -- and that's hilarious!" Seriously, no matter how bad life can get, I think only physical pain would make me want to pack it in. Because with emotional pain, there's at least always hope, as well as fleeting moments of joy. With physical pain, there is only torture.

Another thing I realized is that the only reason I consider my life a living Hell right now is because I'm comparing it to my life a few years back when everything was great. Taken on its own as a life situation, dealing with a verbally abusive manager and a wife who says things like "You're my best friend.... but I don't want to have sex with my best friend" is... well, it still sucks, let's face it. But compared to, say, having cancer or a broken back, I'm living the Charmed Life of the Bourgeisosiieeisgieosie!

Oh - and to add further jocularity to my uproarious misery, I haven't had any power in 2/3rds of my apartment for the past four hours because of a blown fuse or something. Will an electrician ever come? Who knows? It's a holiday weekend!

Michael Brown and his Three Dog Night-style vocal trio grew to loathe each other shortly after the release of Walk Away Renee/Pretty Ballerina, so the former only appears on two songs on this album. Without his songwriting input, the singers turned on their own creative juice boxes (as well as that of some guy named Feher), and put together a slow, languid album of orchestral psych-prog ballads. Though the songs are almost too cram-packed full of strings and brass, the vocals are still as pretty as a picture (of SHIT!!!) (okay, not really shit) and against every possible conceivable odd, they actually came up with a handful of great songs!

The breezy guitar pop of Feher's "Goodbye Holly" starts the record off on a super-strong note before they replace the drummer with a sloth and turn into a cross between Procol Harum and late-period Easybeats ("Hello, How Are You," "Falling Off The Edge Of The World," "Come In, You'll Get Pneumonia," that sort of thing). Some of these compositions are as beautiful as anything on the first record, but others are just awkward and... well, bad. Turn-offs include "Peter And The Wolf"-style fruit flutes, sub-Bee Gees boredom ballads, sub-Kinks barroom sleaze, and a godawful blue-eyed soul song that sounds like Micky Dolenz trying to do a Box Tops cover.

And slow? CHRIST, the slow! The only song with any energy at all is Brown's terrific baroque-pop classic "Desiree." The rest drop the important 'pop' element from this equation and just go for baroque (PUN NOT INTENDED AT ALL). Somehow they make it work most of the time, but the songs that suck suck some major dicks -- and I'm not talking about some guy in the army named 'Major Dicks'! Ha ha ha!

No wait, the liner notes say "The bad songs literally suck Major Dicks, a twice-decorated Korean War veteran." How did this happen? Lifes like these can't just bake eggs!

Now for some comedy gags:

Why did my wife cross the road?
She was following the chicken, a local divorce lawyer!

How many members of my marriage does it take to change a light bulb?
Two -- one for the bulb in my apartment, and one for the bulb in hers!

What's the difference between Gary Coleman and Dennis Hopper?
Gary Coleman won't be white for another year or so.

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There's Gonna Be A Storm: The Complete Recordings 1966-1969 - Mercury 1992
Rating = 7

You'd think that a CD featuring Walk Away Renee/Pretty Ballerina and Too in their entireties would be a worthy endeavor earning at very least an 8.5, if only through the virtue of adding their grades together and dividing by two. But you'd be wrong. DEAD wrong. Because, rather than using his fucken brain and issuing a CD entitled Walk Away Renee/Pretty Ballerina + Too: 2gether Again!, the CD compiler decided to put all the songs in the wrong order and then scatter in five extra (and mostly awful) tracks that aren't even by The Left Banke. Three of them are by Michael Brown and some guy, one is Brown and Steve Martin together, and the other is Martin singing some other guy's song. Hey CD compiler asshole! While you're at it, why not mix up all the songs on Tweez and Spiderland and throw in some Zwan and Palace Brothers shit, you asshole? Or no, better yet, why not put London Calling and Cut The Crap on the same CD, play all the songs backwards and then have Paul Simonon do a little tap dance on it, huh?!??! Because that's EXACTLY THE SAME THING AS WHAT YOU DID HERE!!!

Of the five non-Left Banke songs, the standout is "Eener Yawa Klaw," with an inspired George Cameron tap-dance that really k

Of the five non-Left Banke songs, the standout is Brown's "Men Are Building Sand," an odd and creative composition that'll have you drinking in its fruity harp 'n' horns verse, gargling its odd ugly chorus, and choking to death on the most awesome bridge since Madison County. Sadly, the other four songs are split between over-orchestrated Davy Jones schmaltz and meandering Procol Harum prog-sleep, contributing nothing to the disc but the false notion that The Left Banke were even less consistent than Too hinted.

So buy it for the first album, but be advised that all the songs are in the wrong order and the CD gets really spotty around track 12.

Because I TOOK A SHIT all over it! Those SPOTS are my SHIT!!! I SHIT SPOTS!!!!

No hang on, that's rectal bleeding.

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Voices Calling - Bam-Caruso 1986
Rating = 2

by Nick Kent, NME

The Left Banke, self-appointed leaders of the "Soft Rock" movement that is overtaking the UK, made national headlines last night with a profanity-laced diatribe during a live taping of Bill Grundy's Today programme. Prodded to 'say something outrageous,' Banke vocalist Steve Martin exclaimed, "Our new album is a bunch of schmaltzy MOR pop and string-drenched ballads. What a fucking rotter."

This is only the latest in a string of shocking, anti-authoritarian acts on the part of The Left Banke. From the band's very beginnings -- when vocalist George "Georgey Rotten" Cameron was hired for simply wearing a Pink Floyd shirt with "I Like" scrawled across the top -- through their recent sacking of founding pianist Michael Brown for 'being able to write a decent song,' the band has surfed a wave of filthy scandal all the way to the bottom of the charts.

Tom "Bill Vicious" Finn is of course the most infamous member of the band, as renowned for beating people with chains as he is for the corny Raspberries-lite material he brought to the band's latest record, Never Mind "Pretty Ballerina"... Here's A '70s Hollies Album. However, rumours that he'd succumbed to heroin addiction after knifing his girlfriend were premature; they had actually just fallen asleep while listening to the album.

Good news may be on the way for music fans though, as all signs indicate that The Left Banke may soon be disbanding for good. Reports from the states indicate that George "Georgey Rotten" Cameron quit the band shortly after asking a San Francisco audience, "Ever get the feeling you've been seated? You have been. Because we're boring."

Love them or hate them, there's never been a band quite like The Left Banke or an album quite as explosively professional and bland as Voices Calling. A veritable cacophony of gross old person pop-rock and toothless CSN-style three-part harmonies, Voices Calling served notice to a whole generation of middle aged men that you don't need any songwriting talent to be in a band. All you need are eight years of free time to search for a record company with poor enough taste to put out your terrible, pointless, boring, shitty reunion album.

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