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The Left Banke – Strangers on a Train (Omnivore Recordings)

Left Banke
25 February 2022

The Left Banke’s haunting 1966 hit “Walk Away Renee” was a baroque pop masterpiece, but the ensemble splintered soon afterward. Keyboardist and primary songwriter Michael Brown went on to other projects (including the group Stories), none of which lasted long. Meanwhile, singer Steve Martin Caro and bandmates George Cameron and Tom Finn reconvened without Brown for late-‘70s sessions that would eventually be released as a Left Banke album in the mid-‘80s. Those recordings, little-noticed at the time, make up the first ten tracks of Strangers on a Train, an intriguing postscript to the group’s brief glory days.

While Caro and company craft listenable music, some of it closer to Badfinger’s dramatic power pop than the mournful elegance of “Walk Away Renee,” inspiration is in short supply. The rest of Strangers on a Train is a different story. Reuniting Brown and Caro, the six tracks from 2001 and 2002 recapture the Left Banke’s incandescent magic, offering a fascinating hint of what might have been.