Left Banke - Desiree/I've Got Something On My Mind

Left Banke
Desiree/I've Got Something On My Mind

Released 1967 on Smash
Reviewed by Dave Furgess, 30/11/2007ce

In the USA the Left Banke are remembered for the most part as 1 1/2 hit wonders, of course due to their classic 1966 hit "Walk Away Renee" (which is still in heavy rotation on USA oldies stations, I just heard it the other day!) They are also known to a lesser extent for their other hit single "Pretty Ballerina" (also a drop dead classic.) After that they might has well of just disappeared from the set because the rest of their brilliant records were pretty much ignored. This indeed is a tragedy because their debut album "Walk Away Renee/Pretty Ballerina" (Smash 1966) is one of the strongest debut albums ever issued and can hold it's had proudly alongside other notable 1966 long players such as The Beatles "Revolver", The Kinks "Face To Face" & The Beach Boys "Pet Sounds." Their is not a bum cut on the album and the quality of the material is astonishing.

In some ways I can compare The Left Banke with Los Angeles group Love. Both groups specialized in elegant, sophisticated pop music with classical overtones. Both groups also contained volatile personality conflicts that surely sabotaged any mass commercial potential. Personally I never even knew The Left Banke issued a second album until 1981 when a stray copy of their rare second album "Left Banke Too" (Smash 1967) walked through the doors of a record shop I was working at. I was suprised to see the the group was trimmed down to a trio with original composer Michael Brown nowhere to be seen. However when I played the album I was just knocked out by how good it was, it sort of comes across to me as a USA answer to The Kinks "Something Else By The Kinks" album.

The track that just devastated me off "Left Banke Too" was the song "Desiree'" which I later found out was issued as a single. As good as "Walk Away Renee'" was, for my money "Desiree" knocked the spots off of it. I feel "Desiree" is one of the most accomplished and exhilirating pop records of all time. Like the Beach Boys "Good Vibrations" The Left Banke fill this brilliant single with a career's worth of hooks and ideas into just over 2 and a half minutes. The session time used to create the record is said to have set a record in itself, but who's complaining when the results are this majestic. I don't think I could really describe the song properly, there is just too much going on in the song to explain every detail. It is just a pure adrenaline rush that is similar to The Teardrop Explodes 1981 hit "Reward."

What's truly amazing is that "Desiree" failed to hit and wound up at radio stations D.O.A., I really can't understand how this was possible, although like Love it could have been due to The Left Banke's sporadic touring schedule. The flipside "I've Got Something On My Mind" is a holdover from the group's debut album that is pure class and was covered by a great band from Texas called The Buckle. High praise should be awarded to the great UK label Bam Caruso who during the 1980's did the best job ever in trying to break The Left Banke's music into mass acceptance. As of right now I don't think any of their back catalog is available in the USA. How can that be?

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