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The Left Banke

This New York group pioneered "baroque & roll" in the '60s with its mix of pop/rock and grand, quasi-classical arrangements and melodies. Featuring teenage prodigy Michael Brown as keyboardist and chief songwriter, the group scored two quick hits with "Walk Away Renee" (number five) and "Pretty Ballerina" (number 15). Chamber-like string arrangements, Steve Martin's soaring, near-falsetto lead vocals, and tight harmonies that borrowed from British Invasion bands like the Beatles and the Zombies were also key elements of the Left Banke sound. Though their two hits are their only well-remembered efforts, their debut album (Walk Away Renee/Pretty Ballerina) was a strong, near-classic work that matched the quality of their hit singles in songwriting and production.

The Left Banke's internal dynamic wasn't nearly as harmonious as their sound, and their history goes some way toward explaining their short career. Initially, the group made some recordings that were produced by Brown's father, Harry Lookofsky. When these recordings failed to interest companies in signing the band, the Left Banke broke up, Brown moving to California with the group's original drummer. A backing track for "Walk Away Renee" had already been completed, and the other members overdubbed vocals in Brown's absence. The song was released on Smash and became a hit, and the musicians reunited to tour and continue recording.

Unfortunately, the group, which showed such tremendous promise, was quickly torn asunder by dissension. Due to the nature of their music (which often employed session musicians), the Left Banke's sound was difficult to reproduce on the road, and one could sympathize with Brown's wishes to become a Brian Wilson-like figure, concentrating on writing and recording while the rest of the musicians took to the road. A variety of guitarists, as both session musicians and ostensible group members, flitted in and out of the lineup; Rick Brand, credited as the guitarist on the first LP, actually plays on only one of the album's songs. Adding fuel to the fire, Brown's bandmates wanted to oust Brown's father as the act's manager. In early 1967, Brown went as far as to record a Left Banke single without them, using vocalist Bert Sommer.

That single ("And Suddenly") flopped, and for a brief time in September 1967 the original members were recording together again. After just one single ("Desiree"), though, Brown left for good. Most of the group's second and final album, The Left Banke Too, was recorded without him. While it still sported baroque arrangements and contained some fine moments, Brown's presence was sorely missed, and the record pales in comparison to their debut. Brown went on to form a Left Banke-styled group, Montage, which released a fine and underappreciated album in the late '60s. He later teamed up to form Stories with vocalist Ian Lloyd.

There were some confusing son-of-Left Banke recordings over the next few years, although the band really came to a halt in 1969, after the second album. Brown, Martin, and unknown musicians made a few recordings in late 1969; then, oddly, the original group re-formed for a fine early-1971 single on Buddah ("Love Songs in the Night" b/w "Two by Two"), although the record itself was credited to Steve Martin. And the original group, minus its key visionary Michael Brown, made an album's worth of ill-advised reunion recordings in 1978. ~ Richie Unterberger, Rovi
full bio

Comments

Only two songs by left banke is walk away renee & ballerina
The red headed stranger on the right looks like a Monkee.
♪♪♪♪♪
949mrbassman
Jeff Winfield, an early guitarist in the Left Banke, was in my gym class at Martin Van Buren High School! Queens was a hot bed of musicians back then. Bob, bassist/voca l i s t to this day.
I like the way I do something better than the way you do Nothing! God bless the Left Banke!
Beside Renee & Ballerina ,I think that She May Call You Up Tonight could have made the charts, too.
kvons1
Decent group for the times, but only a couple songs really worth mention. Can't believe it's been over 40 yrs.---seems surreal.
dido
ttk52
Why is there no mention of the band: Fresh Air? That band formed after the songs Walk Away Renee & Pretty Ballerina were hits, but all of the discord that happened tore The Left Banke apart. Micheal Brown was a fantastic songwriter/k e y b o a r d i s t / a r r a n g e r . Fresh Air recorded a demo as they were signed by Love Records, but they also went by the wayside. All of the negative events didn't 'want' to leave.....to o bad.
for pappa
the bankes b sides is where its at. pretty ballerina is a masterpiece
AOne Hit Wonder indeed, but, what a great one!
Where's your hit Big Joe? That's what I thought..
g741hop
That's ridiculous. Pandora, it's been several months and multiple requests have been made to add a bio for this very important artist. Please do so.
jkeating67
Walk away Renee is the only cut worth listening to. This band sucks and does not deserve a bio.
ask master wfmu dj bob brainen about the banke. hell give ya what ya need. love the BANKE www.wfmu.org look for dj bob brainen
peridot100
http://en.wi k i p e d i a . o r g / w i k i / T h e _ L e f t _ B a n k e
What, no bio, How can this be, How can you continue this organization , when you don't list a bio for a group like the Left Banke. C'mon Pandora, LastFm has one. Why don't you. My god get with it.
14739578
The Four Tops redid this song but this band still is my fav Ver
kdeem99
Love this song wtf no biography
granby607
damn right Jack
It is INEXCUSABLE not to have a biography of one of the most iconic groups of the 1960's!
this album brings back some fantastic golden memories!!
Amazing vocals. Amazing writing. Wished they would have lived up to their potential. They could have done a lot more.
mike messed it up for all of us ! JM
czg1233
they are amazing!
david.grant1
I saw these guys in Newport R.I. at a place called Bambi's back in 1967 OR '68 Loved "Walk away Rene"
It was a pretty good group.
come on. u guys never herd uv the left banke. they r a great band. 2 bad they had only 1 album.

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