“Walk Away Renee” occupies such an iconic position in my life that I’m unwilling to listen to anyone other than original Left Banke vocalist Steve Martin-Caro singing it — except maybe for Levi Stubbs, who cut a stirring cover with the Four Tops. I mean, I actually worked up a post about the sign that points one way.
But maybe it’s time to modify that position. Holly Cara Price writes:
The last time the Left Banke stepped onto a stage to perform together as a band was 1969, so to say those in the audience at Joe’s Pub last weekend were breathless with anticipation would be an extreme understatement. Two shows had been scheduled — March 5 and 6 — and sold out in a bohemian fingersnap.
Michael Brown is long gone, of course, but two of the original Bankesters, Tom Finn and George Cameron, along with longtime associate Charly Cazalet, who played on the 1978 Strangers on a Train album, make this much more than just some old guys trading on a name. New vocalist Mike Fornatale, who sounds a lot like Steve, secured his connection to the Banke that was by reconstructing the original string charts. By hand, mind you.
Banke lyricist Tom Feher, who showed up at the March 6 performance, noted that the reconstituted band had had the guts to play “Desiree,” a song the original crew never once played in concert. And there’s this:
Also in attendance: Godz founder Paul Thornton, global rocker Alan Merrill and Mary Weiss, who once fell for the Leader of the Pack.
The first song on the only album by Montage, produced by Michael Brown, is “I Shall Call Her Mary,” which I described as “a charming paean to erstwhile Shangri-La Mary Weiss,” and which was written by Brown and, yes, Tom Feher. Tell me there isn’t some karma involved in bringing all this back home. All we need now is to find Renee herself.
Renee Fladen-Kamm is a West Coast-based singer and vocal coach, who has been a member of the Sherwood Consort. Born Renee Fladen in New York City in the late ’40s, she attended the High School of Music and Art (the predecessor to the High School for the Performing Arts, depicted in Fame). It was during that part of her life that Fladen served as the inspiration for Michael Brown to write the song “Walk Away Renee,” recorded by the Left Banke and later redone by numerous other artists across the ensuing decades.
If she could have made it to Joe’s Pub, that would have been perfect.