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.
- Natasha Washington, The Oklahoman
Country Clay Walker "Say No More" (Giant Records)
Clay Walker, who burst on the country scene in 1993 with the No. 1 single "What's It to You," watched his skyrocketing career go through a light fizzle when he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis three years later. Instead of furthering his country hunk status, he kept in the shadows of Nashville, Tenn., and released a few tolerable singles and albums to keep his name on the charts while he battled the disease into remission.
On his seventh album "Say No More," Walker rehashes much of the same, opting to rip out a few more cozy hair band-type ballads than normal. The title track, a perfect example of the preceding observation, is the album's first single, but it has yet to have any effect on the charts.
Walker has better songs waiting down the track list. Much like his first six albums, Walker achieves more artistic success when he clings to his Beaumont, Texas-roots by sprinkling hard-core country and Western swing into his pop-leaning repertoire.
His cover of the Merle Haggard tune "Rough Around the Edges" and the bass-and-fiddle number "Texas Swing" breathe easier than Walker's attempt at monster ballads. The same can be said for "If You Ever Feel Like Lovin' Me Again" which has such an infectious melody, you'll be humming it by the end of the first listen.
A nice surprise on the album is Walker's rendition of the Latin classic "La Bamba." The country crooner gives an impressive delivery in Spanish and tossed in a couple of nice instrumental solos. In his career, Walker has sold 8 million albums. Once "Say No More's" quality songs find radio, it should add to the figure.
- Ben Scott
Americana Bob Schneider "Lonelyland" (Universal)
Everyone in the Austin music scene knows Bob Schneider - first as the leader of three of the city's most popular bands, and now as a solo artist for two years.
He recently swept the music awards at Austin's prestigious "South by Southwest" music festival, and now he's ready to share his talent. For us non-Texans, here's his debut solo disc "Lonelyland," a lovely little nugget of heartfelt ballads and wickedly clever lyrics.
The opening cut, "Metal and Steel," is a gentle lament of a man who has lost in love and has learned to harden his heart.
Schneider's musical background ranges from grunge to opera, and it's all here, as well as the sassy "Jinky," a tale of the monkey on our back, the jazz-tinged "Bullets," a song featured on the "Miss Congeniality" sound track, "Deep Blue Sea" with its tip-of-the-hat to fellow Texan Lyle Lovett, to "Round and Round," which features both an operatic solo by Sandra Bullock's mother and the voices of two African singers.
My favorite is the bossa nova beat "Moon Song," a lively love song of warm evenings and cold drinks, with some nice acoustic guitar work added.
The caustic "Blue Skies for Everyone" is a nice dash of reality, as is the sad "2002."
Schneider's "Lonelyland" has whetted my appetite for more of this stuff.
- Sandi Davis, The OklahomanArchive ID: 846374