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.
That 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 the catchiest song on the album, and the only one not written by a member of the group. Still, viewed in the context of Seventies soft-pop, Strangers on a Train is a pretty decent LP, arguably better than some of the stuff being vended in those days by acts like America, and if it didn't live up to the amazing standards set on that first Left Banke album well, neither did Michael Brown's Montage.
Produced by Camerica Productions
Updated 20 November 2006
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Copyright © 2004 by Charles G. Hill
Cover art by Gary Kroman © 1986