Sunday, 14 August 2016


In my recent yacht rock trawling I’ve discovered a number of lesser known artists that have particularly impressed. Top of the list is Pages, most intriguingly known as the group that would become Mr Mister. Little of that legacy is in the Pages sound, save for the undeniably rousing vocals of Richard Page, namesake – obviously – for the band. Steve George is the other core member of Pages (and Mr. Mister), on vocals and keyboards, most crucially an array of synthesizers (Minimoog, Yamaha CS-80, Oberheim, ARP 2600 ). They’re joined on each album by a pool of top shelf smoothsters from the era – Kenny Loggins, Al Jarreau, Michael Brecker, Dave Grusin, Jeff Porcaro – resulting in polished but eccentric music. With the prominent electronics they sound kinda like Starbuck, but with cleaner production and slicker material. Thus, the contrast between abstract analog synth blurps and smooth late seventies-early eighties commercial AOR is more pronounced, strange and – to my ears - gripping. This is the stuff that thrills me now that I’m firmly middle aged.

I first heard Pages, unwittingly, via vaporwave project Macintosh plus, who sampled their biggest hit You Need a Hero on their "ライブラリ" (Library).

This was a blatant descendent of Oneohtrix Point Never’s Chuck Persons echojams, where he ‘vaporwaved’ the likes of Gerry Rafferty and Toto.

These were all great, and part of the catalyst that had me searching back through my parents’ record collection. Toto, Rafferty, Steely Dan, Doobie Brothers; all were stock favourites in my childhood home, alongside oodles of less commercial jazz fusion, a spin off from my dad’s interest in prog.

Like much yacht rock, but unlike prog, Pages fused fusion with slick pop-rock, which resulted in critical acclaim but commercial disregard, unlike their peers Steely Dan, Kenny Loggins etc. This is surprising, and a bit sad, as they sound like perfect seventies AM radio fodder to me. Perhaps that synth-AOR blend didn’t gel so well with mass taste. Pages recorded three albums between 1978 and 1981, all with plenty of gems (and a few duds), but the highlights I’d rate as the finest within the broader yacht rock AOR canon, and indeed some of the finest fusion of synths with standard commercial pop rock instrumentation and arrangements of any era. This is not synth pop by any means, but AOR with synths.

Pages are ripe for rediscovery and I’m surprised by how they remain overlooked, and I’d recommend all three albums to be reissued, or perhaps a Music From Memory style compendium of the hits. Very hard to find on vinyl, my brother picked up a copy of their last album in Ballarat of all places (thank you!), but snap up whatever you can find.

Here’s an interweb blurb of their work album by album:
Pages (1978)
Pages' eponymous first album, released in 1978, featured tracks ranging from light funk ("Clearly Kim"), calypso ("Love Dance") and driving rock ("Room At The Top") to smooth, harmonious ballads ("This Is For The Girls," "I Get It From You") and luscious instrumentals ("Interlude").
The album featured an impressive array of session musicians. The roster of talent included Colomby, Philip Bailey (Earth, Wind & Fire), Steve Forman, Dave Grusin, Claudio Slon, Victor Feldman and Michael Brecker. Although Page provided most of the lead vocals, George took the lead on "Let It Go" and "Listen For The Love."

Colomby was quoted as saying that "Pages represents the mainstream of contemporary music. They utilize various elements and combine them into an original and tasty mixture that will appeal to all formats of radio." Despite Colomby's prediction, radio found it hard to place the group's sound. Neither Pages nor its single "If I Saw You Again" made the Billboard charts. Leinheiser and Battelene went their own way after the album was recorded.

This dub/edit of Clearly Kim is an absolute cracker:

Future Street (1979)

After the commercial failure of their debut album, Pages went back to the studio to record their 1979 follow-up, entitled Future Street. Charles "Icarus" Johnson joined on acoustic and electric guitar, and George Lawrence was brought in on drums.
According to Page, "Jerry [Manfredi], Steve [George] and myself were writing all the music but it just didn't sound right. Everybody knew it, but it was left unspoken for a long time because of that lingering bond. With Charles and George everything went perfect for the first time. The potential was just staring us in the face".

Once again produced by Colomby, the album blended the finely crafted overtones of the first album with a somewhat hard-edged pop-rock sound with progressive overtones. Additional musicians and artists on Future Street included Kenny Loggins (backing vocals and songwriting on "Who's Right Who's Wrong"), George Hawkins, Joey Trujillo, Jai Winding and Steve Lukather. George took lead vocals on "Two People." Another detail is that the cover sleeve was designed by John Lang.
The opening track, the energetic "I Do Believe In You," peaked at number 84 on the Billboard Hot 100 in December 1979.

Both the artwork and title of Future Street hint at the group’s progressive reach, but perhaps they were too forward looking and ahead of their time as the album failed to chart.

Pages (1981)
The band switched to Capitol Records, and brought in acclaimed producer Jay Graydon. The resulting album - eponymous like their first album - was released in 1981. Two singles were released from the album, "You Need a Hero" and "Come on Home." Interestingly, these were the only tracks produced by Colomby on the album.

The players on this album consisted of Page (lead and background vocals), George (backing vocals, Fender Rhodes, synthesizer: Yamaha CS-80 - Oberheim - ARP 2600, Mini-Moog, clavinet, electric power oboe and grand piano) John Lang (co-writer), Charles Johnson (guitar), Neil Stubenhaus (bass), Ralph Humphrey (drums), Steve Khan (electric guitar), Jeff Porcaro (drums), Paulinho DaCosta (percussion), Vince Colaiuta (drums), Tom Scott (sax), Jay Graydon (guitars, synthesizer programming, producer), Mike Baird (drums) and Al Jarreau (vocal flute). Despite this powerhouse lineup of musicians, the album failed to chart.