Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Best Albums You Never Heard

By Kurt Torster

Kyle Vincent “Trust” (1993)

I’ve never shied away from admitting my unabashed love of 70s AM Gold type pop. Even though I lost a bit of touch with it throughout the 80s and the earlier part of the 90s, I’ve come to look at it now as a sort of musical comfort food. With no sense of irony, I can listen to something like Bo Donaldson & The Heywoods or Shaun Cassidy like I am listening to The Beatles.

This love affair started in the mid-70s when my family lived in Germany for about a year when I was 10 years old. Since I didn’t speak the tongue, short of being in school during the day at the Air Force base in Wiesbaden, my only friend was an AM Radio that pumped out one glorious pop hit after another. Every Sunday was like a holiday when Casey Kasem would count down the top 40 on Armed Forces Radio, where I kept a notebook writing down the hits as they came in. Eventually I went so far as to create my own charts, counting them down to myself in an effort to combat the loneliness. Man, what I would give to see those notebooks now. On second thought...

As we returned to the US and my tastes eventually shifted into something a little more riffy, I never did lose touch with those softer pop roots. I’d imagine it explains a lot of why I was never really turned off by things like Air Supply or Rick Astley in “my” decade.

When I got my writing on in the late-90s, one of the people I frequently corresponded with was A&R guy Jonathan Daniel, whose own bands will feature prominently in the future. He wanted to turn me on to an artist he was working with, Kyle Vincent (one time singer of the poptastic 80s band Candy), who would set my 70s Pop senses tingling. This fantastic self-titled major label disc released in 1997 wound up spawning two minor hits in “Arianne” and “Wake Me When The World’s Worth Waking Up For.” Suddenly, it seemed that I didn’t need to hide my “Time/Life Sounds Of The 70s” collection anymore. I had company in my AM Gold closet…

Well, turns out that a few years before, Kyle recorded an album for MCA in 1994 called “Trust,” that wouldn’t see release until later on in 2007 (retitled “A Night Like This”). Falling somewhere on the musical spectrum between 80s Rick Springfield and 70s Barry Manilow, the album serves as a time capsule of a rather care free and happy period of time that would be changing rapidly.

Listening now, I’m still awestruck at how good Kyle’s vocals are. They are so clean and crisp and in the proper mixture, served as a finely tuned instrument on its own. And, although the production reeks of the early 90s, the songs as well hold up remarkably well and show that a well crafted song can bludgeon its way through any amount of gloss.

Whether it’s the straight up arena rock of the title track or the infectious “Something To Remember My By,” HUGE Eric Carmen-like power ballads “Maybe It’s Better” or “Wherever You Are Tonight” or the simple radio pop of a song like “What Am I Gonna Do” and “Now I Know,” Kyle’s heart-on-sleeve writing style takes the material many steps above what was going on at the time.

Kyle is still pumping out amazing softer styled rock to this day. His “Wow & Flutter” album is highly recommended and could easy have taken this place of this album for a column all on its own. He did gig for a spell with the Bay City Rollers (!) and also performs cover sets of 70s music with the Have A Nice Day band. A vastly underrated musician who really is seemingly all alone in the musical world.

[As I finished the article, I asked Kyle himself to give me some thoughts on the album and the era around it. When he sent me is just priceless, enjoy!]

Kyle: I have mixed feelings about the days of the Trust album. As the album itself was eclectic, so were the sessions. One day I'd be in a top Hollywood recording studio watching Jerry Hey conduct an incredible orchestra playing the little notes I had written for them, and another day I'd be singing a vocal track in Clif Magness' bathroom in Calabasas.

So many great artists contributed to the 'album that never was'. The title track was a groovy R&B number that featured the percussionist who played on the Spinners' hits, female backing singers that sang on some of the biggest Soul hits of the 70s, and of course the producer was Steve Levine, best known for his work with Culture Club and the Beach Boys.

Sadly, the record company suits were just impossible to work with. They would come into a session at the end of the day, BMW keys jangling in one hand, and toss out ridiculous comments that had nothing to do with anything. They signed me because they loved my demos and the songs, but when it came time to actually record those songs for the record, they complained that they couldn't decide if I were George Michael or Bryan Adams. I would tell them, "Uh, can't I be both and double my fan base?" They didn't see it that way.

There were 3 producers. Me, Clif Magness, who was coming off some huge hits with Wilson Phillips, and Steve Levine. On the tracks I produced, I hired all my favorite players. I called in Freddie Washington on bass, Michael Jackson's drummer JR Robinson, Madonna's drummer Jonathan Moffett, Rick Springfield's guitarist, and one of the Brothers Johnson on bass. I called up saxophonist Gerald Albright to come down and play a solo, and he did. And then I had Gerry Beckley from America sing and play guitar and Fender Rhodes keyboards.

What incredible sessions those were. The creative part of the record making was all joy, especially the day David Bowie was in the adjacent studio and we got to just hang out for a while. [a clip of that is on my Facebook page].

The biz part of it was mostly aggravating. The label must've promised me 100 times when the record would be released. They gave every excuse, "We're waiting to find the right slot for it to drop. We can't drop it when Bobby Brown's coming out. We'll drop it in a month". It ended up being dropped off a cliff and never being released. I was on tour with Barrry Freaking Manilow, playing in front of tens of thousands of people per night, and there was no record in the stores. I didn't even have t-shirts. Nothing. I remember one night after a show I went to the hotel office and borrowed their typewriter and typed up mailing list cards, one by one, so I could have something to hand out to people after my shows. To this day many of my faithful fans came from those little cards.

I could write a book on all the good and bad that went on behind the scenes during the Trust sessions, but overall it was an amazing experience, I learned a ton, met some great people, and am incredibly proud of the musical results.