3/31/12

The Left Banke: a Re-Introduction

The Left Banke have been acknowledged as forerunners of the musical style known as "Baroque Pop." This genre has found a resurgence with new artists including The Shins, The Decemberists, Regina Spektor, plus Belle and Sebastian (who in their interviews have cited the Left Banke repeatedly, as major influences on their music.)

Originally formed in New York City in 1965, the group came to prominence with the orchestral and melodic "Walk Away Renee," which featured a harpsichord and a string quartet. “Walk Away Renee” was shopped to every major label, and turned down by all except Smash, a subsidiary label of Mercury Records. It charted in 1966, reaching #5 on the Billboard charts. The follow up single, "Pretty Ballerina" was cited by Leonard Bernstein (Conductor of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and brilliant composer of many musicals including WEST SIDE STORY and CANDIDE), who played "Pretty Ballerina on piano for his CBS-TV special, INSIDE POP - THE ROCK REVOLUTION, in which he stated, "The Left Banke and 'Pretty Ballerina' are an example of what good pop music can be." 

Two albums were released: WALK AWAY RENEE/PRETTY BALLERINA and THE LEFT BANKE TOO.

Bad management and poorly-planned tours broke up the group in 1968.

Through the years, the music of The Left Banke has gained legions of new fans and a lot of newfound credibility, as evident by Oasis' front man Noel Gallagher's recent comments in the press, where he praises The Left Banke, as "the best f*****g record I've heard in my life!" A wide range of artists have covered "Renee," including the Four Tops, Tori Amos, Frankie Valli, Vonda Shepard, Billy Bragg, The Association, Linda Ronstadt, Marshall Crenshaw, Southside Johnny, Badly Drawn Boy, Bon Jovi, and Rickie Lee Jones. It's performed in the Dolly Parton/Queen Latifah movie, JOYFUL NOISE. In 2008, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked it #220 in their list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. The song is in the movie THE BODYGUARD and on the soundtrack of ADDICTED TO LOVE. "Pretty Ballerina" appears in APOCALYPSE NOW, while Alice Cooper, John Mellencamp, and the Dickies kept the beauty and mystique in their covers of the song in their versions. The Bangles Susanna Hoffs and Matthew Sweet (as Sid 'n' Susie) and also Anne Murray covered "She May Call You Up Tonight."

Late 2009, original Left Banke singer/drummer George Cameron and original singer/guitarist/bassist Tom Finn found each other on Facebook. After Tom created the "Official Left Banke Fan Page" on Facebook, they went out in search of a lead singer, and found Mike Fornatale, a fan and veteran of many New Jersey bands.

Sundazed Records plotted the re-mixes and re-releases of PRETTY BALLERINA and THE LEFT BANKE TOO. The group sold out New York City's Drom and Joe's Pub, and have started hitting the road, first playing the Bearsville Theatre. Albany's METROLAND writes, "one element that I’m sure the band’s ‘60’s shows never had: unrestrained joy. Everybody on stage was beaming for the entire show... I wanna relive what I experienced over and over and over again." HUFFINGTON POST praises, "Each song sounded as fresh as the last time it was played onstage, and if you squinted and didn't look too clearly at the stage or register the drink prices it could have been 1968 again."

In December 2011, The Left Banke participated in the NYU Cantorum, performing "Walk Away Renee" and "Desiree" with the college's choir. The group is working on new songs, which may include contributions from original member Michael Brown. They play songs from the upcoming album live. In addition to George, Tom, Mike, the line up includes bassist Charly Cazalet, guitarist Paul Alves, keyboardist Mickey Finn (no relation), drummer/vocalist Rick Reil, and a cellist and a violinist.

The Left Banke is currently represented by TCI (Talent Consultants International, Ltd.) who is developing the group's Spring tour schedule. The web site: http://www.leftbankeband.com/ offers The Left Banke's history with performance videos, stories, and photos, and its future history including live appearances.

THE LEFT BANKE ON TOUR

April 29: BB KING BLUES CLUB, New York, NY
May 5: PARILLA PERFORMING ARTS CENTER, Rockville, MD
May 6: RAMS HEAD ON STAGE, Annapolis, MD

http://www.leftbankeband.com/

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