Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Finally acquired Toy Matinee on Vinyl LP..

And included in the sleeve was a very cool, albeit slightly faded-paper Media/Press release. I don't own a Scanner, so I am going to just transcribe it for now.

(image of a boat)                                                            m e d i a  i n f o r m a t i o n
r e p r i s e

                                                                                                                        Reprise Records
                                                                                                                        3300 Warner Boulevard
                                                                                                                         Burbank, CA 91505
                                                                                                                         FAX 818.846.8474
                                                                                                                         Telex 194487

                                                                                                                         75 Rockefeller Plaza
                                                                                                                          New York, NY 10019
                                                                                                                          FAX 212.484.6850
                                                                                                                          Telex 5815718

                                                                                                                          1815 Division Street
                                                                                                                          P.O. Box 120897
                                                                                                                          Nashville, TN 37212
                                                                                                                          FAX 615.329.1739

                        toy matinee 

Kevin Gilbert -- lead and background vocals, guitars and keyboards
Patrick Leonard -- keyboards and background vocals

                                                      With Lots Of Help From:
                                             Brian MacLeod -- drums and percussion
                                                      Tim Pierce -- guitars
                                                          Guy Pratt -- bass

"No strings...no expecttations. We had the opportunity to do an album we cared about simply because we cared about it. The best part about making music is in the doing of it, without the pressure of having to create a hit or meet anyone else's specifications. Our approach from the beginning was that we'd think about selling it after we'd finished...which makes the fact that what we developed was viable on those terms a nice side benefit."

So says Pat Leonard on the origin, direction and raison d'etre of one of the most intriguing and original new groups in recent memory. The story behind Toy Matinee and their dazzling debut album on Reprise Records comprises elements of serendipity, determination and dreams that refused to fade.The

                                              - 2 -

result, on nine utterly original cuts, including the featured cut "Last Plane Out," is a richly-textured musical totality that draws on a great tradition of modern music even as it suggests some intriguing and expressive new possibilities for the next decade.

If the name Pat Leonard sounds familiar, it should. As a songwriter, producer and performer, Leonard has put his stamp on some of Madonna's biggest hits, including much of her 1989 autobiography-in-sound, Like A Prayer. But what Leonard -- and a select crew of co-conspirators -- are up to with Toy Matinee has little to do with that megastar's pop portfolio or even, for that matter, Leonard's writing and producing work for Bryan Ferry's most recent album, the acclaimed Bete Noire. No, something entirely other is afoot this time around.

"Ever since I first started playing in bands," Leonard continues, "I've wanted to pursue a very specific musical ideal. As a musician, the music that most influenced me was played by virtuosos whose songs actually expressed ideas and emotions. From Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd all the way through Genesis, Gentle Giant and Jethro Tull, what turned me on about that music was a certain feeling of risk and adventure. Getting that feeling again is part of what this group is all about. The other part is introducing the feeling to a new audience."

To achieve his long-standing goal and map some new musical turf in the process, Leonard joined forces with Kevin Gilbert, a vocalist, songwriter and musician from the San Francisco Bay Area. Gilbert's own musical roots,

                                                     - 3 -

and reach, set off an instant spark of recognition in Leonard when the two met in October, 1988.

"I'd put together a band called Giraffe," recounts Gilbert, "to perform some of the music I was doing on my own in the studio, which is where I basically spent my adult life. We entered Soundcheck -- The Yamaha Rock Music Showcase and were playing in the Finals in Los Angeles. One of the things the contest promised -- aside from $25,000 and a trip to Japan -- was an all-star panel of celebrity judges. Pat was one of them."

"What Kevin was doing really hit a nerve," continues Leonard. "And, after talking to him and discovering he was into all the same source music I was, I started to think that maybe this could work. There was immediate communication. We were able to completely anticipate each other's moves from the first time we got together and started writing."

Despite the fact his band won the competition (going on to land the Gold Prize at Yamaha's International Band Explosion in Tokyo), Gilbert immediately turned his full creative energies to the fledgling partnership with Leonard. "I'd been harboring the notion that through music you can make real statements about how you see the world," he explains. "I wanted to write songs you could sink your teeth into, music you could listen to over and over and treasure, albums that weren't only collections of 'hits.' I was three years old when most of the groups Pat mentioned were in their prime. I was into Peter Gabriel and Talking Heads, but the impulse was the same and it all came together when Pat and I started writing and demo'ing material. We were tracking...."

                                                           - 4 -

It was a track that quickly crossed the path of another key player in the Toy Matinee saga. "Once we realized what were getting I wanted to bring Bill in as producer," explains Leonard. The 'Bill' in question is Bill Botrell, who had most recently worked with Leonard on both Like A Prayer (as engineer) and on Madonna's I'm Breathless album (co-producing several tracks written by Stephen Sondheim). But Botrell's dossier stretches back considerably further, with credits that include Electric Light Orchestra, Dave Edmunds, Atlantic Starr, the Pointer Sisters, Tom Petty, the Traveling Wilburys, Thomas Dolby and, currently, co-production on Michael Jackson's upcoming album.

The idea of using an "outside" producer, when one with Leonard's credentials was available, may seem odd, but the reason was simple. Botrell, too, had caught the vision. "Bill kept the whole thing in perspective," continues Gilbert. "He was a reality check, reminding us that we were there to do more than just have a good time. He's got an amazing grasp of music history and really brought it to bear as the album was developing, helping us to key in on the spirit and mood we were after from song to song."

Key also to the Toy Matinee strategy was the concept of a full-realized band. "This is not my vanity project," insists Leonard. "I turned down everything except I'm Breathless to focus my attention on making this music happen. I even took singing lessons. My aim was to create a complete musical identity from distinct elements and then disappear into that identity. I wasn't after a bunch of session guys following my lead."

                                                         - 5 -

That guiding principle led to a singular line-up of supporting players, assembled with active participation from Botrell even as Leonard and Gilbert continued to develop and hone material. "I had worked with our drummer Brian MacLeod, who used to play with Wire Train, on some projects in the Bay Area," Gilbert reveals, "and Pat knew our bassist Guy Pratt, who plays for Pink Floyd, from Pat's work with David Gilmour. But our guitarist, Tim Pierce, was a real surprise. He was the first guy we auditioned. It was just obvious we didn't need to go any further. He's got extensive studio credits, but what he gave us was the music he had kept for himself."

With the Toy Matinee line-up in place, recording began in earnest in the summer of last year. "It was basically five guys in the studio with very little overdubbing," reveals Leonard. "We recorded the basic tracks, stepped back for a month, and then Bill and Kevin and I went back in to start fine tuning. We thought of ourselves as being on a mission of the highest integrity, sometimes spending three days on a single track. We were trying to make all the intangibles -- the feelings and subtle shades of meaning -- come together. It's a very demanding task and we were working to very high standards."

The result is an album that resonates on several distinct levels, interwoven into a seamless musical whole. Serious intent coexists with pure delight of ensemble playing. Moments of clarity mesh with engaging ambiguities. Sharp and surprising melodic turns segue into unforgettable hooks. Toy

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Matinee by Toy Matinee is, in short, the cutting edge of a whole new vision of popular music as championed by some very dedicated and talented musicians. "There's a new generation that has nothing to compare this music to," asserts Gilbert. "What's fresh for them is the idea that music can expand and develop without losing its relevance. These days, that's a breathtaking concept."

"The influence and inspiration behind this music is a decade old, not twenty minutes old," concludes Leonard. "it's great to realize that there's a wide audience of people out there hungry for music that can move them in many different ways. But even if there weren't, this is still what we all plan to be doing for the foreseeable future."


Note: I should still write up my Champions of Nothing in Milwaukee, WI comments/review soon, and in doing this, it may get me even more motivated.