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Slices of Bread: David Gates and James Griffin’s Solo Records, Reissued and Remastered

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David Gates - Elektra AlbumsBread occupied a unique place on the Elektra Records roster.  The so-called “soft rock” band shared a label with the likes of Love, The Doors, The Stooges and The MC5, and regularly visited the charts with such signature songs as “Make It with You” (No. 1, 1970), “It Don’t Matter to Me” (No. 10, 1970), “If” (No. 4, 1971), “Baby I’m-a Want You” (No. 3, 1971), “Everything I Own” (No. 5, 1972) and “The Guitar Man” (No. 11, 1972).  All of those staples were written and sung by David Gates, the band’s de facto leader who was going through a true purple patch after toiling in relative obscurity as a songwriter for most of the 1960s.  But songwriter, singer and multi-instrumentalist Gates wasn’t the only songwriter in Bread.  The team of James Griffin and Robb Royer even received an Academy Award for their song “For All We Know,” co-written with Fred Karlin for the 1970 film Lovers and Other Strangers and later popularized by the Carpenters.  Indeed, the band originally was intended to showcase both Gates’ and Griffin’s songs, but Gates’ mellow ballads were invariably chosen as single A-sides…and became hits on multiple charts.  Bread broke up in 1973 with tension high, though a brief 1976 reunion led to one more LP.  During that hiatus and after, both Gates and Griffin took to solo recording.  Edsel has recently reissued all four of David Gates’ Elektra albums as one 2-CD set with the straightforward title of First/Never Let Her Go/Goodbye Girl/Falling in Love Again, while Hux Records has delivered James Griffin’s two Polydor albums on one disc as Just Like Yesterday: The Solo Anthology 1974-77.

For 1973’s First, David Gates was joined by Bread members Mike Botts (drums) and Larry Knechtel (piano/bass) along with such stellar session men as Larry Carlton, Russ Kunkel and Jim Gordon.  The LP wasn’t Gates’ first solo work, however; he had recorded singles under his own name as far back as the late 1950s.  One could be forgiven for mistaking a number of the album’s tracks for Bread songs, with Gates’ reassuring vocals and always-impeccable songcraft keeping the ballads squarely in Bread territory.  But on First, Gates (also acting as producer and arranger) melded rock and folk influences (not to mention folk-rock!) and tackled an 8+ minute orchestral suite of two linked compositions, “Clouds” and “Rain.”  Despite compelling material like the opening track “Sail Around the World,” the jazzy, electric piano-driven “Lorilee” and the Bread-esque ode “Ann,” First peaked at No. 107 on the Billboard 200, bested by the No. 2 chart peak of The Best of Bread!  1975’s Never Let Me Go again welcomed Knechtel and Botts and emphasized the group’s style even more than First had – no surprise, considering that most of the group was playing on the record.  The title track, a bit reminiscent of “Baby I’m-a Want You,” scored a Top 30 hit for the solo Gates, and Gladys Knight and the Pips picked up on “Part Time Love.”

Following Never Let Her Go, Gates, Knechtel and Botts reunited with Griffin.  (Robb Royer had left Bread after 1971’s Manna, and was replaced by Wrecking Crew veteran Knechtel.)  Bread’s “reunion” album Lost Without Your Love yielded the group’s final Top 10 hit with the title track, again written by Gates.  But with Bread’s reunion a short-lived one, Gates plunged into more solo work, and was rewarded with his biggest-ever solo hit with 1977’s “Goodbye Girl.”  The theme to Neil Simon’s film comedy The Goodbye Girl, it reached a No. 15 Pop peak, and an album was built around the song.  (The vocalist Rumer has recently applied her honeyed voice to a cover of Gates’ emotional composition.)  Joining “Goodbye Girl” and five more new Gates compositions (including the breezy “Took the Last Train” and the bleak “Overnight Sensation”) were five retreads from First and Never Let Her Go; accordingly, Edsel has only included the six original songs on the Goodbye Girl portion of the reissue.

Edsel’s set concludes with Gates’ final solo LP for Elektra, 1980’s Falling in Love Again.  “Where Did the Lovin’ Go” cracked the Top 50, but commercially speaking, the time had largely passed for the kind of Southern California soft rock perfected by Bread in the seventies.  As on Goodbye Girl, Bread-mates Knechtel and Botts played on Falling in Love Again.  Gates has only recorded sporadically since 1980, issuing a couple of solo LPs and a career overview with new material; Bread even reunited with both Gates and Griffin for a brief spin in 1996-1997.  The 2-CD set, remastered by Phil Kinrade, includes a 36-page booklet with a new essay from Alan Robinson plus complete lyrics and credits.

After the jump: onto the solo albums of James Griffin! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

November 18, 2013 at 10:20

Bread Winners: Early Songs of David Gates Compiled By Rare Rockin’ Records

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David Gates - Early YearsLong before “Make It With You,” “Everything I Own” and “If” became soft-rock standards for his band Bread, David Gates had toiled behind the scenes as a songwriter, producer, arranger and musician on the Hollywood scene.  He worked with everybody from The Monkees to Captain Beefheart before striking out with Robb Royer and James Griffin to form Bread.  The band’s debut album was released in 1969, featuring the original version of “It Don’t Matter to Me.”  The song soon mattered quite a bit for Bread, though, when it charted Top 10 Pop in a single version.  Now, the Australian label Rare Rockin’ Records is turning the pages back to David Gates’ pre-Bread days with the March 18 release of David Gates – The Early Years 1962-1967.  It follows the label’s two previous songwriter retrospectives, one each for Burt Bacharach and Billy Meshel (who wrote for Del Shannon, Lenny Welch and Dion before moving on to a long, successful career in music publishing).

The Tulsa, Oklahoma-born Gates first found success on the local music scene, backing Chuck Berry while still in high school and even releasing a regional hit single, “Jo-Baby.”  The siren call of Hollywood soon persuaded Gates to make the move west, and beginning in 1961, he soon found gainful employment.  By 1964, he had achieved his first major success as a songwriter when The Murmaids took his “Popsicles and Icicles” to No. 3 on the Hot 100 under the aegis of the frequently colorful impresario Kim Fowley.  In 1966, The Monkees included Gates’ “Saturday’s Child” on the group’s first album, and he even contributed the title song to Hanna-Barbera’s big screen romp Hey There, It’s Yogi Bear in 1964.  As an arranger, Gates worked his magic on Glenn Yarbrough’s “Baby the Rain Must Fall” in 1965.

All the while, he was developing a solo career, recording for labels like Mala, Del-Fi and Planetary both under his own name and under pseudonyms like Del Ashley and The Manchesters.  When Gates was hired to produce, arrange and conduct the Uni Records LP debut of Los Angeles pop group The Pleasure Fair in 1967, though, it turned out to be more than just another assignment.  One member of The Pleasure Fair was Robb Royer, whose song “Say What You See” would be arranged by Gates and produced by Royer’s sometimes-songwriting partner James Griffin in 1968 for the group The Curtain Calls.  Soon, Griffin, Royer and Gates teamed up as Bread.  The group went on to score 13 hits on the Hot 100, and Gates notched a further seven as a solo artist.

After the jump: what will you find on David Gates – The Early Years 1962-1967?  Hit the jump for more details plus the full track listing and pre-order link! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

February 25, 2013 at 10:25