The Left Banke – Walk Away Renee / Pretty Ballerina (1967): Forgotten Series

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Formed 1965 in New York City by 16-year old songwriter, keyboardist and harpsichord player Michael Brown, the Left Banke were not the first band to mate classical music with pop rock aspirations. But they were the first group to do so with such a concentrated awareness.

The Left Banke’s debut, Walk Away Renee / Pretty Ballerina, is an absolute masterpiece. All original material, equipped with an earnest sensitivity, propels the project. Lead singer Steve Martin Caro’s flowering vocals are nothing short of majestic, while the music is technically developed and freighted with imagination.

As its title indicates, Walk Away Renee / Pretty Ballerina (Smash Records) was coined after the band’s two back-to-back hit singles, which expectedly appear on the collection.

A Top 5 winner in the autumn of 1966, “Walk Away Renee” recites the pain of unrequited love in a convincingly aching pitch that rips right through the heart. In early 1967, “Pretty Ballerina,” which also pines for romance amid a gorgeous orchestral sheen, peaked at No. 15 on the national charts.

Spiked with a jazzy edge, “She May Call You Up Tonight” and the psychedelic-kissed visages of “Shadows Breaking Over My Head” lock in as other delights heard on the album. Not entirely dedicated to symphonic pop sounds, Walk Away Renee / Pretty Ballerina also exposes a heavier side of the Left Banke in the mold of the fuzztone-laced “Lazy Day” and “Evening Gown,” which grooves to an assembly of powered rhythms and spinning harpsichord exercises.

Radiating with melody, polish and detailed attention, Walk Away Renee / Pretty Ballerina owes evident nods to the Beach Boys and the Zombies. But the album does carry a decidedly unique feel, implying the Left Banke had enough freedom to experiment and create at their own will.

Personnel changes quickly claimed the band, and although further brilliant efforts were released, Walk Away Renee / Pretty Ballerina holds steady as their finest moment.

Following his exit from the Left Banke, Michael Brown became involved in a few different bands, including Montage, the Stories and the Beckies. He sadly passed away in 2015, but his legacy lives on. The Left Banke were greatly influential, paving the way for bands like Procol Harum and the Moody Blues to expand on the concept and make classical rock a viable force.

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
Beverly Paterson

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