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Rive Gauche

Alan Merrill

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Album Review

Just seven songs long, and that's including both two bonus tracks and one "hyper-bonus" cut, Rive Gauche is one of the most unexpected treasures in Alan Merrill's entire catalog, a tribute to the pop supreme of the Left Banke. Merrill was briefly a member of the band in spring 1968, replacing guitarist Rick Brand; sadly, his arrival more or less coincided with the group's decision to become a vocal trio alone, and he departed before the band ever embarked upon its hitmaking career. But his affection for what might have been chimes through this set regardless. Of course, "Walk Away Renee" opens the show, and does so with such period passion that, just for a moment, you're back in the 1960s yourself, listening to a cheap transistor radio and singing along with one of the most haunting choruses ever committed to vinyl. Historically, the Left Banke never recaptured those peaks again; Rive Gauche, however, doesn't allow precedent to put it off its stride, as "Pretty Ballerina," "Sing Little Bird Sing," and a yearningly lovely "Desiree" complete the main attraction, the latter sounding almost Beach Boys-ish in its grasp of melody and mood. The sorrowful orchestration of "You" opens the bonus tracks, to be followed by Merrill's own "Only 19"; the set ends with an instrumental reprise of "Pretty Ballerina" that allows the listener to appreciate just what a marvel Merrill's arrangements are.

Biography

Born: 19 February 1951

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Alan Merrill has had a long and varied career as a pop musician on three continents. Born Allan Sachs, the son of singer Helen Merrill and horn man Aaron Sachs, singer, guitarist, bassist, and songwriter Merrill played in several bands in Greenwich Village as a teen before moving to Japan, where, as a member of the group the Lead, he signed a recording deal with RCA Victor Tokyo in 1968. The Lead had one big hit in Japan, "Aoi Bara," before breaking up, leaving Merrill as a solo act. He recorded...
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Rive Gauche, Alan Merrill
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