Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Bach Rock, or Baroque 'n Roll
The Left Banke, a mid-1960s American pop band, was best known for its string, woodwind, and brass arrangements. Critics coined the term baroque rock to characterize the sound. Several much more famous 1960s groups, such as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Moody Blues, and, during the 1970s, Electric Light Orchestra (note these were all British rock groups), each experimented with string, woodwind, and brass instrumentation, and other contemporary American bands, such as Blood, Sweat & Tears, the Buckinghams, and Chicago, concentrated successfully upon brass as the cornerstone of their music. But the Left Banke captured a classical sound melded with rock-and-roll in an especially captivating fashion.
The Left Banke has unfairly been relegated to the ranks of "one-hit wonders" because its only top 10 single was "Walk Away, Renée" (1966), which peaked at #5 on Billboard's Hot 100 Singles chart. A second single, "Pretty Ballerina" (1967), reached #15 on Billboard's Hot 100 Singles chart, so that made the Left Banke at least a TWO-hit wonder.
But there was so much more to enjoy. If you listen to the group's entire music catalog, you will discover terrific music well beyond a couple of hit tunes. Want to listen to some sample music? Sure you do. We begin, naturally, with the two hit singles but move quickly to other representative material that holds up quite well after nearly half a century.
"Walk Away, Renée" (1966)
"Pretty Ballerina" (1967)
"Sing, Little Bird, Sing" (1968)
"I've Got Something on My Mind" (1967)
I was hoping to find "What Do You Know" (1967) or "There's Gonna Be a Storm" (1969) on YouTube, but, alas, to no avail. "What Do You Know" is a Rockabilly-styled number that is my personal favorite. "There's Gonna Be a Storm" has some sweeping string movements that evoke the mood of the mid- to late-1960s quite effectively.
If you can find the Left Banke's 1992 compilation CD, There's Gonna Be a Storm: Complete Recordings, 1966-1969, at a reasonable price, you should snatch it up. That's assuming you like the music, of course. Scowl-Face bought his copy around 1996 when he first discovered Amazon.com and online purchasing.
Visit the Left Banke fan website for more information about the group, its music, and other tidbits.
Cauli Le Chat
MPL Roving Reporter
Old Pop Music News Beat
P.S. What does a pop band do when album or single sales are slow? Sell out, of course. Here's the Left Banke's Coca-Cola commercial music from the late 1960s.