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Getting the Knack (No, Not That Knack!) From Now Sounds

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When The Knack burst onto the scene in 1979 with the album Get the Knack, allegedly the fastest-selling debut LP since Meet the Beatles, was it a case of déjà vu for Dink Kaplan, Larry Gould, Pug Baker and Michael Chain?  The “My Sharona” group was a quartet that came to prominence in Los Angeles, played the Sunset Strip, signed to Capitol Records, and was lauded for a Beatlesque pop style via a massive promotional campaign.  But Kaplan, Gould, Baker and Chain had been through it all before.  They had formed a quartet by the name of The Knack, came to prominence in Los Angeles, played the Sunset Strip, signed to Capitol Records, and were lauded for a Beatlesque pop style via a massive promotional campaign.  So why did that Knack disappear?

Cherry Red’s Now Sounds label attempts to answer that elusive question with Time Waits for No One: The Complete Recordings of The (original) Knack, in stores now.  Perhaps a more distinct name would have behooved our Knack; the British group that would become The Gun had already started as The Knack, too!  But the moniker chosen by the former InMates might be the band’s only misstep, based on the 14 tracks included on this dynamic new collection.  You’ll hear a touch of the Raiders, a dollop of the Buckinghams and a dash of the Byrds, but that’s no knock on a band brimming with enthusiasm and talent: Michael Chain on lead vocals and guitar, Larry Gould on bass, Michael “Dink” Kaplan on guitar and Howard “Pug” Baker on drums.

Over four decades after the band’s breakup, Now Sounds has lovingly created an album that never was.  As with the label’s recent excavation of the recordings of MC Squared, producer Steve Stanley has flawlessly designed an LP jacket that could well have adorned a Knack album in 1967, but this CD release was certainly worth the wait.  (Of course, the CD’s label is also a perfect evocation of 1967 Capitol Records!)  It collects all of the group’s four singles (eight sides) plus extant other material, totaling five previously unreleased songs and one alternate mix, all fresh from the Capitol archives.

There’s plenty more, after the jump, including order link and full track listing!

Chain and Kaplan co-wrote virtually every song recorded by the band, including “Time Waits for No One.”  It’s difficult to believe that “Time” wasn’t even the group’s chosen A-side for its debut single.  From its opening burst of drums and jangly guitar onward, this nugget has all of the ingredients for a hit record: a truly memorable riff, catchy hook, tight playing, and strong, in-your-face vocals.  Instead, “I’m Aware” (“Love opens eyes to the wonders of life/I’m aware!”) was selected.  With its unusual instrumentation including a marxophone, it’s almost as good as “Time,” but not as accessible.  Both sides, however, showed off the band’s prowess which took them far out of the garage!  (An alternate mix of “I’m Aware” has also been included, with a rougher overall feel.)

Each song here is graced with sympathetic production, primarily from Capitol’s Nick Venet, with other tracks produced by Lex DeAzevedo and John Palladino.  And melodies simply abound.  “Pretty Daisy” offers another theory about the loneliest number (“One is a lonely number/Waiting for two/Darling, you know that I am waiting for you…”) decked out with killer brass courtesy Plas (“The Pink Panther”) Johnson and Buddy Childers, and some resplendent harmonies, too.  “Softly, Softly” showcases yet more studio experimentation, adding piano to the mix, courtesy none other than Frank Zappa!  This haunting song topped the Knack’s second Capitol single, from 1967, with further musical contributions from Zappa’s cohorts Ray Collins and Jimmy Carl Black.  It seems the prolific Zappa was in the next studio over, recording what would become the controversial Capitol LP Lumpy Gravy!  “The Spell,” the B-side of “Softly, Softly,” shows The Knack venturing even further into outré, somewhat more psychedelic territory, with its stops and starts, and unusual melodic turns.

The Knack also apparently had a knack for consistency, because there’s not a weak song in this bunch.  Each track embodies the sixties spirit of genre-bending adventure within a commercial pop framework, with another highlight being “Banana Man.”  The quirky track fuses rock and jazzy brass on a country-and-western-flavored melody!  Folk-rock clearly had an influence on “Freedom Now,” the splendid A-side of The Knack’s final single.  The unreleased songs show the band having a mastery of other musical genres, too, making it a mystery how they languished in the vaults for so long.  “Merry Go Round” is a sweet, mid-tempo pop confection, while “No Show Today” is a brisk, aggressive rocker.  “Heart Says, Yes, Pride Says No” was unfinished by the band, but The Complete Recordings offers us a window into the sessions for the song, with five minutes of attempts, studio dialogue and false starts.

Alan Brownstein has mastered these tracks in mono for maximum punch.  Filled with Stanley’s essay and plentiful images, the booklet is another valuable component of this fantastic historical package.  (All that’s missing, oddly, is the discographical information for the four singles.)

Luckily, the band was proven wrong, for time certainly has waited for this Knack!  You likely won’t want to wait, however, to get the Knack yourself.  Time Waits for No One: The Complete Recordings is available from Now Sounds, and can be ordered below!

The Knack, Time Waits for No One: The Complete Recordings (Now Sounds CRNOW38, 2012)

  1. Time Waits for No One
  2. I’m Aware
  3. Pretty Daisy
  4. Softly, Softly
  5. Banana Man
  6. Lady in the Window
  7. The Spell
  8. Freedom Now
  9. The Girl with the Dark Brown Eyes
  10. Merry Go Round
  11. Once Upon a Cheek
  12. No Show Today
  13. Heart Says Yes, Pride Says No (Sessions)
  14. I’m Aware (Alternate Mix)

Tracks 1 & 2 from Capitol single 5774, 1966
Tracks 3 & 5 from Capitol single 5940, 1967
Tracks 4 & 7 from Capitol single 5889, 1967
Tracks 6 & 8 from Capitol single 2075, 1968
Tracks 9-14 previously unreleased

Written by Joe Marchese

September 6, 2012 at 10:08

Posted in News, Reissues, Reviews, The Knack

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