CD REVIEWS

Oklahoman Published: April 13, 2001
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Pop/Rock Toy Matinee "Toy Matinee: Special Edition" (Unitone)

Toy Matinee was a one-shot wonder that came out of nowhere in 1990 with some of the smartest songs, slickest musicianship and catchiest of melodies since Fagan met Becker.

And like Steely Dan, this was essentially a two-man music machine consisting of keyboardist-composer-producer Patrick Leonard and the late, unsung singer-songwriter genius Kevin Gilbert.

Beyond that, any similarity to other bands, living or dead, is purely nonexistent. The Matinee was original, tight and radio-ready.

Unfortunately, radio wasn't ready for them.

If their label, Warner Bros., had done its job, the effervescent acoustic-electric sweep of "Things She Said" or the haunting and densely-textured keyboard, guitar and percussion tapestries of "The Toy Matinee" - graced with the effortless perfection of Gilbert's distinctively expressive tenor voice - might have scored high on the Billboard charts.

The lush harmonies, jazzy key and fret explorations and irresistible beat of "The Ballad of Jenny Ledge" is slightly reminiscent of The Dan, but the humid piano-and-drums-driven sound-play of "There Was a Little Boy" is beyond compare, and Gilbert sounds as if he's singing troubled truth straight from his heart.

The rhythmic strut of "Turn It On Salvador," with Gilbert's layered voices soaring over infectious guitar, keyboards and drums, is another tune that could have turned platinum, if this band had been given proper promotional attention. Alas, there's no justice in the major-label world, and the Matinee was over all too soon.

Gilbert went on to produce the Rubinoos' "Paleophonic" album; perform on and produce the various-artists Genesis tribute, "Supper's Ready"; produce Madonna's "I'm Breathless"; program and engineer Michael Jackson's "Dangerous"; and record his own terrific solo album, "Thud," in 1994. He was also nominated for a Grammy for co-writing "All I Wanna Do," a hit for Sheryl Crow.

Then one day in May 1996, his manager found him lying unconscious in his bed. He died eight days later. The cause was never made public.

It's a tragic loss too few know about. But the great Toy Matinee album has just been re-released on Unitone, a Rounder Records subsidiary. Take a listen. Then wonder why this record wasn't a monumental smash.

- Gene Triplett, The Oklahoman

Richard Lugo "Boom" (Elektra/Freeworld)

Ah, the pop boom has begun. Just when fans get over the popularity of Christina Aguilera and 'N Sync comes Hialeah, Fla., native Richard Lugo.

Lugo, hoping to woo the hearts of teen-age girls, releases an 11-track album with "a heart-racing charisma that belies his 15 years."

Not sure if that description fits with his album. While laced with several Latin-spiced gems, pop and rhythm and blues songs, Lugo sounds tired after a while. One single, called "Ven Ven Ven," does add a little jump to an otherwise redundant album.

Will Lugo break the ice of a competitive pop market? Not likely. Although sources indicate he will get his big break touring with O-Town. Perhaps record producer Dallas Austin should have auditioned Lugo with a prospective group.

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