The Second Disc

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Precious Dreams: Cherry Pop Rediscovers Cock Robin

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Cock RobinWho killed Cock Robin?

Fans might have been forgiven for wondering that when Peter Kingsbery and Anna LaCazio went their separate ways after the release of 1989’s First Love/Last Rites, the band’s third album. Yet, in 2006, Cock Robin returned with a new album, and since then, they’ve sporadically recorded and toured. Now, Cherry Red’s Cherry Pop imprint is celebrating the legacy of the San Francisco-formed band with deluxe, generously expanded reissues of Cock Robin’s first and second albums, 1985’s Cock Robin and 1987’s After Here Through Midland.

Songwriter/bassist/keyboardist Peter Kingsbery, originally of Texas, formed Cock Robin with California native Anna LaCazio, bolstering the group with English guitarist Clive Wright and Pennsylvanian drummer Louis Molino III. Signed to Columbia Records in the U.S. and parent CBS internationally, Cock Robin enlisted Steve Hillage – a veteran of genres from progressive rock to dance – as producer of the band’s eponymous debut. Hillage brought the goods in terms of contemporary, synth-driven eighties new wave luster, with the twin lead vocal approach of Kingsbery and LaCazio adding dimension. Kingsbery’s varied musical background was an asset in creating songs that would endure; a student of classical music in his youth, the multi-instrumentalist had toured with country-pop dynamo Brenda Lee and would go on to sing on Tim Rice’s musical-theatre concept album Tycoon. In addition to the core band members, Cock Robin featured contributions from guest musicians including ubiquitous percussionist Paulinho da Costa and Hillage himself on guitar.

Yet from the start, Cock Robin had difficulty cracking the lucrative U.S. and U.K. markets. Most unexpectedly, the band became sensations elsewhere in Europe! The pulsating “The Promise You Made” gave Cock Robin its only British hit when it reached No. 28 in May 1986. Though it failed to chart in the U.S., the track beautifully blending Kingsbery and LaCazio topped the chart in Belgium, was a No. 2 hit in the Netherlands, and also went Top 10 in Germany and France! In America, “When Your Heart is Weak,” a Kingsbery solo mixed by Val Garay (Kim Carnes, The Motels), peaked at No. 35 Pop; it missed the U.K. chart, but went Top 10 in Germany and France. The album’s third single release “Thought You Were By My Side” was a Top 5 hit in Belgium and the Netherlands, and just missed the Top 20 in Germany. Though it only reached No. 61 in the U.S., the album went Top 10 in France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands, setting the stage for a sophomore effort.

ACock Robin - After Here Through Midlandfter Here Through Midland arrived in 1987 on Columbia, with engineer-turned-producer Don Gehman taking the production reins from Hillage. Gehman had scored big hits for John Mellencamp with the likes of “Jack and Diane” and “Hurts So Good,” and also helmed R.E.M.’s Lifes Rich Pageant in 1986. He brought a somewhat grittier texture to the album, again penned entirely by Peter Kingsbery and anchored by an autobiographical title song. Cock Robin itself was slimmer this time around, though, with Wright and Molino having left the band. To compensate for their departure, more session musicians were enlisted including Tim Pierce (Foreigner, Rick Springfield) and Denny Fongheiser (Belinda Carlisle, The Rembrandts). Producer Dennis Herring (Elvis Costello, Camper Van Beethoven) supplied guitar on “The Biggest Fool of All,” and Brian Kilgore added congas to “Precious Dreams.” Wright couldn’t stay away for long, though; he supplied guitar for the uptempo “Dreams,” as well.

Gehman didn’t radically alter the band’s sound, however, blending guitars and synths on the sparkling “Just Around the Corner,” which missed the charts in the U.S. and U.K. but continued Cock Robin’s winning streak in Europe with Top 20 placements in France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. The second single, “The Biggest Fool of All,” was inspired by country epics like Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode to Billie Joe” and Gene Pitney’s Bacharach/David-written “24 Hours from Tulsa.” It, too, charted in those four European countries, with its best showing a No. 23 placement in Belgium. Third single “El Norte” took its name from the 1983 Oscar-nominated drama; it didn’t make any chart impression. After Here impressively made the Top 10 in a host of European countries, among them France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Norway, The Netherlands and Sweden despite stalling at No. 166 stateside. Some of the album’s tracks like “Every Moment” looked forward to the more “adult contemporary,” sophisti-pop approach Cock Robin would take on their third album (and final release before disbanding), 1989’s First Love/Last Rites.

We have much more on these reissues after the jump!

Cherry Pop’s impressive reissues, produced by Vinny Vero, include a number of bonus tracks for both titles. Cock Robin adds eight additional tracks, six of which are new to CD: single versions, B-sides, remixes and alternate versions. Saxophone great David Sanborn is featured on the instrumental and dance mixes of “When Your Heart is Weak.” After Here Through Midland boasts another eight bonuses – three non-LP B-sides plus remixes and alternates. Five of these are premiering on CD including a rare non-Kingsbery composition, the B-side “Blood of a Saint” written by LaCazio and Wright.

Both titles have been newly remastered by Andy Pearce. The booklets include complete lyrics, discographical annotation, new liner notes from Larry Watts, and entertaining and illuminating track annotations by Peter Kingsbery. (Among the tidbits you’ll discover: he laments the eighties production on “El Norte,” and the music video for “Thought You Were On My Side” almost broke up the band.)

Cult favorites here in America and onetime superstars in Europe, Cock Robin couldn’t ask for a more stellar reissue campaign than this. Both titles are available now from Cherry Pop, and can be ordered at the links below!

Cock Robin, Cock Robin: Expanded Edition (Columbia BFC/CK 39582, 1985 – reissued Cherry Pop CRPOP152, 2014) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

  1. Thought You Were on My Side
  2. When Your Heart is Weak
  3. Just When You’re Having Fun
  4. The Promise You Made
  5. Because It Keeps on Working
  6. Born with Teeth
  7. Once We Might Have Known
  8. More Than Willing
  9. A Little Innocence
  10. When Your Heart is Weak (Single Mix) (Columbia 12-inch single, 1985)
  11. Have You Any Sympathy (Columbia 38-05720, 1986)
  12. Peace on Earth (CBS U.K. single 650029 7, 1986)
  13. Once We Might Have Known (Remix) (Columbia 38-06143, 1986)
  14. When Your Heart is Weak (Dance Mix) (Columbia 12-inch single, 1985)
  15. The Promise You Made (Extended Version) (CBS U.K. 12-inch single TA 6764, 1986)
  16. Thought You Were On My Side (Extended Remix) (CBS Netherlands 12-inch single A 12.7099, 1985)
  17. When Your Heart is Weak (Instrumental) (Columbia 12-inch single, 1985)

Cock Robin, After Here Through Midland: Expanded Edition (Columbia BFC/CK 40375, 1987 – reissued Cherry Pop CRPOP153, 2014) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

  1. Just Around the Corner
  2. The Biggest Fool of All
  3. El Norte
  4. I’ll Send Them Your Way
  5. Another Story
  6. Coward’s Courage
  7. Every Moment
  8. Precious Dreams
  9. After Here Through Midland
  10. Open Book (Columbia 38-07123, 1987)
  11. Blood of a Saint (Columbia 38-07639, 1987)
  12. For Dear Life (CBS Netherlands 651249-7, 1987)
  13. Just Around the Corner (Extended Remix) (CBS U.K. 12-inch single 650824 6, 1987)
  14. The Biggest Fool of All (Dance Mix) (CBS Netherlands 12-inch single 651035 6, 1987)
  15. El Norte (Reinforced Dance Mix) (CBS Netherlands 651249 6, 1987)
  16. El Norte (El Club Mix) (CBS Netherlands 651249 6, 1987)
  17. El Norte (Los Bonus Beats) (CBS Netherlands 651249 6, 1987)

Written by Joe Marchese

October 15, 2014 at 09:52

Posted in Cock Robin, News, Reissues

4 Responses

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  1. Splendid review. Thank You!

    tom

    October 15, 2014 at 11:44

  2. These are two wonderful albums of sophisticated pop. I hope Cherry Pop will someday give the same treatment to “First Love Last Rites” as well. It should be noted that this album wasn’t released in the US until late 1990, with their wonderful cover of Conway Twitty’s “It’s Only Make Believe” added to the tracklist and serving as the first single.

    John

    October 15, 2014 at 15:37

  3. Thanks for the great review, Joe. Looking forward to picking up these remasters!!

    Spencer

    October 16, 2014 at 08:45

  4. Thanks for a wonderful review. I appreciate the support!

    Vinny Vero

    October 19, 2014 at 20:26


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