The Left Banke – Strangers On a Train
For those who don’t remember the 60s this baroque pop band famous for 2 great 1966 hits “Walk Away, Renee,” & “Pretty Ballerina” will be surprised how the band developed. In 1978 they reunited for cuts that would emerge in 1986 (US) as Strangers On a Train (Drops Feb 25-Omnivore) & in the UK as an import Voices Calling (I had the vinyl).
There were 2001 sessions & 6 wonderful new songs emerged. The remastered reissue was produced by Daniel Coston, Scott Schinder & Grammy Award-winning Cheryl Pawleski. A culmination of the band’s songbook. Provided from the 1986’s LP — 9 originals, 1 cover + the 6 bonus’ (written by founding member Michael Brown).
To be honest, I liked this stuff when I purchased the LP years ago with the blonde-haired darkly dressed young Gothic girl on the cover. But noticed quickly — they matured. The music was pop-oriented but not as intensely melodic as the ‘66 music. All well-played & recorded but don’t expect “Walk Away Renee,” & “Pretty Ballerina,” encores. Some have a more biting edginess. But plenty of beautiful moments remain.
When a fairly melodic pop group suddenly re-emerge with a more mixed bag it’s a surprise. I had that when The Walker Brothers of The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore, returned in 1978 with a far darker showcase on Nite Flights. Stunning work but not what they were famous for.
The Left Banke just projected more intense music with pop sensibilities on this effort. That’s to be expected. “Heartbreaker,” is fairly simple but peppy & instantly likable. The lead vocalist sounds almost like Steve Perry. Impressive. The ballad “Lorraine,” is done with sincerity. “Hold On Tight,” has crunchy guitar & aggressive unified rock vocals with drive – not typical of the band of 1966. “I Can Fly,” falls back on the Baroque style with good ensemble singing.
Throughout they demonstrate their skill on lead guitar, drums & showcase. They surprise a listener with their almost Beach Boy/late-career Beatles harmonies on “Yesterday’s Love.” Their best, however, will be found in all 6 bonus tracks. Jewels. “Until The End,” is quite special. On this demo “High Flyer,” Steve Caro almost sounds like John Lennon. No kidding.
On the first 10: Steve Martin Caro (vocals), George Cameron (drums/vocals), Tom Finn acoustic guitar/piano/mellotron/vocals), Charly Cazalet (bass/vocals), Jimmy McAllister (electric guitar). Guests: Hugh McCracken (guitar), Anthony Jackson (bass), Cornell Dupree (electric guitar) & Michael Kamen (piano).
Tracks were produced originally by Mike Corbett (Long Island) & the balance Joe Ferta (NYC/1978). On the 6-bonus unissued songs the musicians: Steve Martin Caro, Michael Brown, Johnny McAllister, Tom Finn & Jon Ihle (drums). Recorded in 2001 in Florida.
For purists & loyal fans, this is satisfying if they accept that the band at this time matured in their musical endeavors. Great discovery.
Color image from the band’s Twitter. The 56-minute CD: Available @ https://omnivorerecordings.com/shop/the-strangers-on-a-train/