Spencer Barefoot


Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1

- Spencer Barefoot (aka Steve Tracey) (RIP) -- vocals, rhythm guitar

 

  backing musicians (1977)

- Make Bingham -- vocals, drums

- Chris Michaels -- bass

- Joe Pepe -- keybiards

- Skip Peters -- vocals, lead guitar

 

 

 

- none known

 

 

 


 

Genre: pop

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  Spencer Barefoot

Company: Magna Glide

Catalog: MGS 323116
Year:
 1977

Country/State: US

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 854

Price: $150.00

 

I've spent a couple of hours trying to dig out some information on Spencer Barefoot.  I know the guy's name was actual Spencer Tracy and after singing in some mid-'69s New Jersey bands, he attracted the attention of songwriter/producer Kenny Luguna who hired him to provide the lead vocals on a 1969 Laguna-penned  single.  I'm not sure which came first, but the resulting single saw at least two releases, once on Bo Gentry's Life label and a second release on MGM:

 

  

- 1969's  'Lord' b/w 'Makin My Way' (Life catalog L-201)

- 1969's 'Lord' b/w 'Makin My Way' (MGM catalog K-14116)

 

MGM apparently planned to release a Spencer Barefoot LP, even showing it on a release catalog as Spencer Barefoot catalog SE-4707, but shelved the project for some unknown reason.

 

Laguna's website even explains were the oddball name came from:  "In 1968, our little bubblegum group was so hot, we could get any label to put out our singles. I began to produce them myself, and sell them to labels at a big profit. One Friday, I booked a session for the following Monday, without even a clue of what I might record. So Saturday I am on the beach with my guitar, knowing I needed something great, and feeling like an idiot for putting this kind of pressure on myself. All of a sudden, like a flash from the muses, this amazing song "Lord" comes into my head about a western desperado who got shot trying to steal gold, and begs the Lord to let him live to see his girl one more time before he dies.

That Monday I recorded it, and got Steve  Tracy, a fabulous lead singer of a New Jersey band, to sing it. Now this material had nothing to do with what his band was about, but that's how we did it. We sculpted a record and made any artist fit into our concoction of the day. When Bo Gentry wandered into the studio during the mix, he said, -"This guy sounds like we have to call him Spencer Barefoot." So, for the purposes of our recordings, Steve Tracy became Spencer Barefoot."

Released two years later, Barefoot's second release was a souled-up and slightly forgettable version of 'Hey Jude' backed with a truly radio-friendly ballad 'Days of Our Lives'.

- 1971's 'Hey Jude' b/w 'Days of Our Lives' (Columbia catalog number 4-45389)

 

Released by the New York-based Magna Glide label, 1977's "Spencer Barefoot" was produced by bubblegum pop masters Jeffrey Kasenetz and Jeff Katz.  Nothing more than speculation on my part, but  tracks such as 'Cynthia Day', 'Jungle Junk', and 'Take a Big Hit On the Jug' didn't exactly sound like mid-'70s material.  That suggests at least part of the album might have consisted of earlier demos that were repackaged for this project.    It gets even stranger given at least a couple off these tracks didn't even sound like Tracy, leaving you to wonder if perhaps Kasenetz and Katz were simply cleaning out their recording vaults in an effort to jump on the mid-'70s tax scam bandwagon.  All that aside, let me say Spencer Barefoot had an impressive voice, sounding a bit like a cross between the late Ritchie Havens and Hootie & the Blowfish lead singer Darius Rucker.  Unfortunately, as a non-writer he was dependent on the material brought forth by his producers, which on this album was all over the genre and quality spectrum.

 

"Spencer Barefoot" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Hold On   (Bill Haberman - Ellison Chase) - 4:00

One of five tunes written by the team of Bill Haberman and Ellison Chase, 'Hold On' was a pretty ballad that showcased Tracy's deep and raspy (by likeable) voice.   Quite commercial in an early-'70s sense.  rating: *** stars

2.) Cynthia Day   (W. Wahonka) - 2:15

Sporting some irritating early synthesizer noises (that occasionally recalled an out-of-tune harpsichord), 'Cynthia Day' sure didn't sound like it was written in 1977; more like 1969.  A pleasant enough pop tune, I think the tune was written by Ed Wahonka, who had previously recorded an an album for the Kasenetz-Katz Super K label.    rating: *** stars

3.) Jungle Junk   (P. Duelks - Jerry Kasenetz - Jeff Katz) - 2:45

Even though it was an obvious throwaway track, 'Jungle Junk' came close to capturing Kasenetz and Katz's earlier bubblegum pop sense of fun; though this time pop was replaced with a nod to James Brown-styled funk.  Actually, the track sounded a bit like a cross between Hot Legs (of 'Neanderthal Man' fame and Wild Cherry).  Interestingly, Kasenetz and Katz subsequently re-purposed the track, releasing it in Germany as a single credited to The K&K Super Cirkus (Epic catalog number EPC S 5929)  rating: **** stars

4.) Shine On   (Bill Haberman - Elllison Chase) - 3:35

Musically there wasn't a great deal to the soulful ballad 'Shine On', but once again, Tracy's soulful voice and the cheesy backing vocals managed to salvage the track from oblivion.  rating: *** stars

5.) 'Round 'Round   (Bill Haberman - Ellison Chase) - 4:10

As mentioned, ''Round 'Round' didn't sound anything like the rest of the album.   Almost a heavy metal ballad (with some great lead guitar), the singer didn't even sound like Tracy/Barefoot.  No matter, this was also one of the best tunes on the album.   rating: **** stars

 

(side 2)
1.) Sweetheart   (S. Gibbons) - 3:28

Hum, with lyrics that sounded like something off of a bad Meatloaf album, the big ballad 'Sweetheart' was simply painful to sit through.  rating: ** stars

2.) Hold On Just a Little Bit Longer   (Bill Haberman - Ellison Chase) - 2:27

A breezy and quite commercial mid-tempo ballad with some nice pounding bass, 'Hold On Just a Little Bit Longer' would have made a nice early'70s single.  By 1977 it already sounded dated.   rating: *** stars

3.) Where Is the Love   (Ellison Chase - G. Askenas - Kenny Laguna) - 4:25

For some reason, the opening part of 'Where Is the Love' has always reminded me a bit of Paul McCartney's 'Maybe I'm Amazed'.   It wasn't that the songs sounded the same, rather they shared a stark desperation coupled with a commercial edge.   rating: **** stars

4.) Take a Big Hit On the Jug   (A. Resnick) - 2:30

A nice fuzz-guitar powered rocker with a '60s feel, 'Take a Big Hit On the Jug' was another track that sounded like a bubblegum leftover.   Ironically, it made for one of the album's better performances and would have made a nice single.   rating: **** stars

5.) All Right (Are You Gonna Love Me Tonight)    (Bill Haberman - Ellison Chase) -  4:10

'All Right (Are You Gonna Love Me Tonight)' was another track that sounded a but like Darius Rucker.  Musically this one was kind of a mess, mixing, country, pop, and rock influences into a mediocre hodgepodge.  rating: *** stars

 

 

Credit to art director Stephen Saban, it sure had one ugly album cover ...

 

 

As I've always said., my reviews reflect nothing more than an opinion.  Not everyone is going to agree and my views occasionally change.  Anyhow, got this in tidbit via the net:

 

Hi-
I just Read your review of the spencer barefoot record and while I wholeheartedly agree that most of the record www dismal, I couldn't disagree more vehemently with your comments about the song "Sweetheart". I played drums and sang with Steve for about 25 years and knew him and those songs better than just about anyone. I also archived much of his (our) band, Chester Huggs, while I was a member ( about 3 years ). Regarding Sweetheart, the recording on the SB record doesn't in any way reflect the goodness of that tune. We used to do it live and it was always a fan favorite. Something about that record just didn't capture Steve's real Magic.


Steve passed away 15 years ago, this May from cancer but his legend lives on among many talented NJ Based musicians and fans. Thanks for posting this record.

Jim Garabo

 

 

 

 

Lord b/w '' (MGM catalog number K14116)

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