Thursday, November 10, 2011
Toy Matinee - S/T
I found this GEM (and I do mean GEM!) Back in '91 on cassette. I'm from the Quad Cities of Iowa/Illinois, and was a frequent shopper at Co-op Records. The guys all knew me and knew I KNEW my music. I was looking for something different, something interesting, something not mainstream, that I could sink my teeth into AND be able to call my own (always loved finding great music and then turning others onto it, like a music guru). The Co-op dudes knew I was a Beatles collector and fan as well as a follower of Steely Dan. I had respect for Madonna's pop sensibilities, but much preferred intelligent lyrics and word play within an easily digestible, but intricate movements in a song. They showed me a cassette of Toy Matinee.
Toy Matinee was a short-lived American art-pop band, and also the title of their only album. Their sound was an array of mixed influences, including progressive rock, AOR and pop reminiscent of both the Beatles and the Beach Boys. I was ADDICTED the very first time I heard the very first chords on LAST PLANE OUT - the very first song on the album! I knew, immediately, that this should have been a much bigger record than it had been. Lots of pop hooks that, in no time at all, you'd be singing along with, not to mention bopping your head. This was classy, intelligent power pop from mostly unknown masters! THE BALLAD OF JENNY LEDGE spent a few minutes in rotation on stations in Los Angeles and San Fran, but didn't really make it out of Cali. The radio show MARK & BRIAN were big fans of Toy Matinee and good friends with Kevin Gilbert. They had them on live many times!
My favorite track is the title track, TOY MATINEE. Amazing feel to it! It kind of comes out of nowhere on the album, but fits! If it weren't there, the collection wouldn't feel right. I won't go into each track (although I could!), because I want to tantalize you with just a few teases of this record. I'd like you to experience TOY MATINEE the same way I did. Something fairly old (especially now, released in 1990), but was new to me (and it will be to you!).
Now some facts:
TOY MATINEE was formed by producer/composer/keyboardist Patrick Leonard in collaboration with singer/lyricist Kevin Gilbert. Backed by a group of session musicians (drummer Brian MacLeod, guitarist Tim Pierce, and bassist Guy Pratt), and with guest appearances from several other musicians including Julian Lennon, the duo recorded just one self-titled album which was released on Reprise Records. Pat Leonard was a known producer in the biz, having produced and co-written with Madonna. Kevin Gilberts was also a recent engineer on a Madonna record, which is how Pat and Kevin began their collaboration. They both had plenty of experience in recording studios and in songwriting technique, so the fact that they both started working on a project together, seemed destined. The album was engineered and produced by Bill Botrell. Thematically, it covered a rather broad ground; two tracks were dedicated to Czech poet and political figure Vaclav Havel and painter Salvador Dali, and "Queen of Misery" is about Madonna.
After the release of the album, it didn't take long before Pat lost interest and left Kevin to promote it on his own. Kevin was an accomplished composer, singer and instrumentalist who played keyboards, guitar, bass guitar, cello, and drums. He also spent time producing and engineering for bands including his own in GIRAFFE. Kevin needed a touring band to promote the album, so he brought in his then girlfriend, Sheryl Crow on keyboards, friend and guitarist Mark Bonilla. From there, he promoted the album in many live shows in and around the L.A. area, as well as many live spots on KLOS on Mark & Brian's show.
I remember see this in a Disc Jockey Records, when it was released with the album flat promoting it on cassette and CD. I, of course (like so many young idiots), ignored it, since I hadn't heard anything about them. Soon after, it was gone and forgotten, and found in many discount/cut-out bins.
I am a HUGE fan of listening to things most have never heard, and finding good reason to promote it myself, to anyone who'll listen (right now, that's YOU!). I've worn out SOOO many copies of this on different formats: cassettes (went thru 3 of them), CD (2 of them), and then again in 2001 and 2008 - remastered and offered as two different "special editions" featuring original demos, remixes, etc.
Sadly, after this endeavor failed to take off, and a few great solo Kevin Gilbert releases (that had no promotion and went no where), Kevin dealt with severe depression, and distrust as well as disillusionment with record companies (much like his friend, Julian Lennon), and felt maybe he didn't have what it took to make it. He was asked to join a musician's think-tank/writer's group with friends David Baerwald (of David and David fame), Bill Bottrell, Sheryl Crow, David Ricketts, Brian MacLeod and Dan Schwartz. From these sessions, Sheryl Crow's TUESDAY NIGHT MUSIC CLUB was written and recorded. Kevin co-writing (some say he wrote most of the album), as well as playing keyboards, guitar and drums on RUN BABY RUN, ALL BY MYSELF, and bass on ALL I WANNA DO. LEAVING LAS VEGAS was also reportedly written by enlarge by Kevin, and given to Sheryl after her vocals fit better with the feeling of the song (she was coked up during the session).
In 1994, Pat Leonard collaborated with MR. MISTER front man, Richard Page, and released the album MEANWHILE under the name 3RD MATINEE.
In 1996, Kevin Gilbert was found dead in his apartment, hanging from a belt. Coroner's reports said it was death from "acute autoerotic asphyxiation". Tapes to a newly recorded album were found nearby. Fans, like myself, believe it was the depression of a musical genius that was never realized by the mass public. A live recording of the touring band of TOY MATINEE, recorded at the famed TROUBADOUR club in L.A., were eventually released by Kevin's family. To this day, Sheryl Crow has given very little, if any, credit to her ex-boyfriend, friend, co-writer, Kevin Gilbert.
If you want something refreshing, new AND old, pop but not schlock, intelligent and aurally satisfying, TOY MATINEE is what you've been looking for, for some time now. As you listen, smile and give some much deserved kudos to Kevin in heaven. Then check out Kevin's tribute website, http://www.thedebster.com/gilbert/ , and check out eBay and Amazon to find more from a musical master at his craft.