STRANGERS ON A TRAIN
The Left Banke
Relic RRLP 2021, 1978/1986

When I wrote about Montage, Michael Brown's first post-Left Banke project, I noted that the Banke, "with three excellent vocalists fronted by Steve Martin, was clearly more than merely Brown's band, a fact which led to friction, breakup and reunion, and breakup once more." In fact, the title of the second Banke album, The Left Banke Too, may have been intended as a reminder that even with Brown gone, this was still a real band, albeit down to a trio.

Cover artThat same trio — Steve Martin, Tom Finn and George Cameron — reunited in 1978 under the auspices of something called Camerica Productions, and, augmented here and there, cut ten tracks, two of which ("Queen of Paradise" b/w "And One Day", Camerica CS-005) were released as a single, which promptly vanished. Camerica shelved the album, which did not resurface for eight years, when it was exhumed by the British Bam-Caruso label, which had been reissuing the earlier Left Banke tracks. (The UK issue was titled Voices Calling, a title which was changed for the US issue on Relic.)

Whatever its title, the third Left Banke album leaves one overwhelming impression: these were darned good musicians, but competence isn't a match for inspiration, and ten years after "Walk Away Renee," it's fairly clear that Michael Brown, for all his foibles, had the lion's share of inspiration in this band, a fact hammered home by "Queen of Paradise," arguably t