Band members Related acts
line up 1
- Darryl Cotton (RIP 2012) -- vocals, guitar
- Michael Lloyd -- vocals, keyboards, guitar, bass, drums
- Steve Kipner -- vocals, keyboards, guitar, bass
- Bandana (Steve Kipner)
- Burns, Cotton and Morris (Darryl Cotton)
- Cattanooga Cats (Michael Lloyd)
- Cotton, Lloyd and Christian (Darryl Cotton)
- Cotton, Keays and Morris (Darryl Cotton)
- Frieze (Darryl Cotton)
- Steve Kipner (solo efforts)
- The Laughing Wind (Michael Lloyd)
- The New Dimensions (Michael Lloyd)
- October Country (Michael Lloyd)
- The Pacifics (Steve Kipner)
- The Rogues (Michael Lloyd)
- Skyband (Steve Kipner)
- The Smoke (Michael Lloyd)
- Steve and the Board (Steve Kipner)
- Think Out Loud (Steve Kipner)
- Tin Tin (Steve Kipner)
- The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band (Michael Lloyd)
- Zoot (Darryl Cotton)
Rating: 3 stars ***
Country/State: US and Australia
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Comments: gatefold sleeve; DJ sticker on back sleeve
Catalog ID: 40001
Plan: Australian-US super group.
Result: Cutout bin fodder.
Perhaps inspired by the success Crosby, Still and Nash/Young enjoyed (overlooking a long list of unsuccessful variants like Souther, Hillman Furay), the early-'70s saw an explosion in corporate super groups. Friends was an apparent attempt to jump on the bandwagon and expand it into the pop field. This entry into the sweepstakes teamed US songwriter/producer Michael Lloyd and Australian singers Darryl Cotton an Steve Kipner (Kipner was actually born in the States). The three members were young, photogenic and not without musical talent. At the time Lloyd was coming off a lengthy streak of US hits, including a Grammy for Lou Rawls 'A Natural Man'. Cotton had been in the chart topping Australian band Zoot. Kipner had enjoyed a solo career and stint with Tin Tin under his belt.
Signed by MGM, 1973's Lloyd producer 'Friends" was a great example of mid-'70s soft rock. So whether you like the album was going to be very dependent of your feelings for the soft rock genre. If the thought of acts like Lobo, Sammy Johns, The Hudson Brothers; maybe even America brought smiles to your face, this album was likely to be up your listening alley. If you found those artists to be saccharine and cloying, then you'll want to stop right here. From a songwriting perspective, virtually every one of these group-written numbers stood as a nice example of crafting radio friendly pop material. Exemplified by performances like the leadoff tune 'Glamour Girl', 'Moonshine' and 'Applecart', the album was characterize by strong pop melodies with plenty of radio hooks, sweet harmonies and summertime drench and completely innocuous lyrics. There wasn't a single jarring note or thought stretched across the two sides. It was all sweet, pleasant and a high "hum factor". At the same time the album had a distinctive corporate feel. Listening to songs like the sappy ballad 'Catch Me, I'm Falling' and the dreadful Vaudevillian 'Deep River Blues', I repeatedly got the feeling these were more product than art. Sure, everyone records in the hope of achieving some commercial success. Everyone has to pay their bills. This was just one of those extremes where the entire production sounded dispassionate and calculated. The album did nothing and the trio quickly called it quits.
Naturally the recipe should have resulted in massive airplay and sales, but didn't.
"Friends" track listing:
1.) Glamour Girl (Darryl Cotton - Michael Lloyd - Steve Kipner) - 2:26 rating: **** stars
If you were struggling to find a song that captured the essence of mid-'70s "soft rock", 'Glamour Girl' would have served an a nice example of the genre. Even though I'm not a big fan of the genre, I have to admit that this one wasn't bad - sweet melody; innocuous lyrics; nice vocals with just enough Beach Boys influences to keep it honest. Only complaint was the song was too short.
2.) She Knows (Darryl Cotton - Michael Lloyd - Steve Kipner) - 2:42 rating: *** stars
'She Knows' tried to toughen up their sound, in the process giving the tune a distinctive mid-'70s English pop sound. The distant echo effect made the tune sound like they'd recorded it in a large gym shower.
3.) Would You Love (Darryl Cotton - Michael Lloyd - Steve Kipner) - 3:00 rating: ** stars
David Gates and Bread at their most saccharine ...
4.) (Won't You) Reach Out (Darryl Cotton - Michael Lloyd - Steve Kipner) - 2:28 rating: *** stars
Geez, did I put on a Pilot LP my mistake?
5.) Applecart (Darryl Cotton - Michael Lloyd - Steve Kipner) - 2:38 rating: *** stars
The instrumental opening put me in a Badfinger mindset, but the group vocals immediately pushed 'Applecart' back into soft rock territory. To be honest, the group harmonies didn't exactly help the song. The tune would have been far stronger with a more distinctive lead vocal.
1.) Gonna Have a Good Time (Harry Vanda - George Young - Darryl Cotton - Michael Lloyd - Steve Kipner) - 2:58 rating: **** stars
In spite of the liner notes attribution, 'Gonna Have a Good Time' was actually penned by Harry Vanda and George Young and originally released by The Easybeats' Not only was the song a cover, but the slightly ragged sounded very much like an Easybeats performances. That was meant as a compliment since this was one of the best efforts on the album. It was also tapped as a single:
- 1973's 'Gonna Have a Good Time' b/w 'Would You Laugh' (MGM catalog number K 14646)
2.) Deep River Blues (Darryl Cotton - Michael Lloyd - Steve Kipner) - 2:49 rating: * star
After a side of hyper-pop tunes, the thought of a harder sounding blues number seemed promising. Don't hold your breath. Instead 'Deep River Blues' was a complete irritating Vaudevillian tune. Imagine Paul McCartney at his most irritating and you'll be there.
3.) Catch Me, I'm Falling (Darryl Cotton - Michael Lloyd - Steve Kipner) - 2:37 rating: ** stars
To my ears the sappy, overwrought 'Catch Me, I'm Falling' was a good example of why soft rock gets such a crappy reputation. Other than prepubescent girls, it's hard to image this ballad striking a chord with anyone.
4.) I've Known You So Long (Darryl Cotton - Michael Lloyd - Steve Kipner) - 2:31 rating: ** stars
Every nasty thing I had to say about the previous tune applies to this one. This one actually reminded me of a really bad Hudson Brothers tune.
5.) Moonshine (Darryl Cotton - Michael Lloyd - Steve Kipner) - 2:30 rating: **** stars
With a hyper-bouncy melody, 'Moonshine' actually sounded more like a slice of bubblegum pop (think something The Archies might have recorded). Nice performance and would have made a better single than their Easybeats covers.
6.) You Are My Music (Darryl Cotton - Michael Lloyd - Steve Kipner) - 3:25 rating: *** stars
A tune with a pompous title like 'You Are My Music' is going to have an uphill battle to get my approval. This one never had a chance. Sure, every now and then you may need a touch of crass sentimentality, but if you need it coated with enough sweetness to trigger a brush with a diabetic coma, I'd suggest John Miles 'Music' instead.
Cotton and Lloyd recruited Texan Chris Christian for Cotton, Lloyd & Christian, recruiting a pair of mid-'70s albums and a handful of singles before calling it quits.
Cotton returned to Australia working as a performer and songwriter. He died in 2021.
Lloyd continues to work a s a producer.
Kipner reappeared in Skyband.
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