Reviews and Suggestions

Deep Grooves: Stories – Stories/About Us (Raven)

This album answers the oft-not-asked musical question ‘what (or whom) do the ’60’s baroque pop hit song Walk Away Renee by The Left Banke and the ’70’s funk hit Brother Louie by The Stories have in common?’.

The answer is moody svengali-like songwriter/pianist Michael Brown and, weirdly enough, he was apart of both groups, though the masterful songwriter had little to do with Brother Louie, which was a cover of a song originally done by an obscure English band. Nonetheless, after two albums of thoroughly enjoyable Baroque-influenced Badfinger-esque pop, The Stories finally scored a monster hit with their version of a tale of interracial love between the sexes. By then the mercurial Brown had split from the band due to the album’s producer having too much control in the studio, but Brown’s touch is all over both albums, his genius there for all to behold. Brown founded the band after splitting with The Left Banke after the cliched “musical differences” alienated him from his bandmates and drove him to record singles all by himself with studio musicians instead of the band yet still issuing them under the Left Banke name. Seems he felt since he wrote and produced the songs, he WAS the band. The other bandmembers begged to differ but continued working with him off and on to this very day, yet none save Brown was a member of The Stories.

Brown spent some time in a band named Montage but wasn’t an official member of the band, just a “helper” who performed on all the tracks. Needless to say, his presence was felt and the band broke up after Brown grew bored with working with them. His next move was to create an instrumental album featuring his compositions but Brown was derailed when he met singer Ian Lloyd, who sparked his creativity. Soon Brown and Lloyd were talking about an album and Lloyd called in several of his old bandmates and The Stories were born. While the band’s eponymous-titled first album is a decent slice of Badfinger-esque rock and roll, the album didn’t really set the sales charts alight. A minor hit and the good reviews the album garnered gave their label the confidence to go ahead with the next one, and so the band made it’s masterpiece.

About Us saw the band galvanize everything good about their first album into a heady mix featuring the catchy Badfinger rock melded with the baroque overtones of The Left Banke’s best songs. Simply, a great album. Too bad Brown didn’t stick around long enough to see it completed. For unknown reasons, the label brought rock vet Eddie Kramer in to produce half the tracks on the album. Kramer, who by all accounts is a very good producer, was nonetheless too hands on for Brown’s taste and Brown bailed. All but two cuts have Brown’s playing on them and the best part of the story is Brother Louie wasn’t originally on the album. The song was recorded as a B-side as an afterthought and immediately became a worldwide hit. The song was subsequently tacked on to later pressings of the album.

Though the band (without Brown) recorded a third album, it stiffed and the band broke up. The two albums and an extra single A-side are included here for completist’s sake. You could do worse power-pop wise than to pick up this album. It’s pretty strong stuff and if the band would have had a better break, they could have been huge for sure. Very much worth your money. Pick it up!