Michael Brown, of the Left Banke and Stories: An Appreciation

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The story of Stories begins with songwriter and pianist Michael Brown, who has passed away after a career that began in the late 1960s with the Left Banke of “Walk Away Renee” fame.

Come the early ’70s, Michael Brown was prepared to cut an instrumental album for the Kama Sutra label but the project eventually blossomed into a full-blown band. And that’s how the underrated Stories was born. For a terrific overview, check out a pairing of Stories and All About Us issued in 2007 from Raven Records. You’ll find their a No. 1 cover of Hot Chocolate’s “Brother Louie,” but also much more.

Initially released in 1972, Stories stands as a logical extension of what Michael Brown and the Left Banke was doing. Riddled with intricate string arrangements and classical piano passages, the album exerts an elegant feel. But amid such long-hair aspirations, a variety of styles cement the album, resulting in a striking set of clever and catchy tunes.

Bursting with good cheer, “Hello People” swells to a mass of gospel-informed harmonies, while “Step Back” and “Saint James” expose the band’s flair for performing power pop rock. Airy and mystical, “Winter Scenes” is absolutely gorgeous, and then there’s the bright and bubbly “I’m Coming Home,” which races along to a crack collision of honky tonk piano thrills and quasi-hillbilly vocals and country-fried riffage. Rigged to maximum effects with radiant melodies, fetching choruses and inventive instrumentation, Stories is best defined as a progressive pop venture.

The band’s follow-up album, All About Us arrived in 1973, and proved to be something of a departure from their debut effort. For instance, the gritty blues based “Top of the City” pays lip service to Free, where “Don’t Ever Let Me Down” adopts a bit of a boogie woogie approach. The album also features the band’s big hit single, “Brother Louie,” which told the tale of an ill-fated interracial romance. Triggered by a soulful, funky temper, the smash song further involved a sprinkling of cool wah-wah guitar pickings.

Although All About Us offered rather different flavors than its predecessor, the record still dispatched a fair share of beautiful pop rock pieces. Stories had not completely abandoned their penchant for crafting and performing songs flickering with detail and strong hooks.

Parked on the same page as contemporaries like Badfinger, Elton John and Raspberries, but equipped with an occasional art rock edge, Stories were a great band. Michael Brown and Co. had the courage to experiment and expand their sonic horizons. Stuffed to the rafters with interesting shapes and designs, Stories and All About Us contain nary a dull moment.

Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson was born the day Ben E. King hit No. 4 with "Stand By Me" -- which is actually one of her favorite songs, especially John Lennon's version. She's contributed to Lance Monthly and Amplifier, and served as Rock Beat International's associate editor. Paterson has also published Inside Out, and Twist & Shake. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Beverly Paterson
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