Laurie Kaye Cohen
Band members Related acts
- Laurie Kaye Cohen -- vocals
supporting musicians: (1973)
- Billie Armstrong -- fiddle
- Gary Coleman -- percussion
- Mike Deasy -- guitar
- Vanetta Fields -- backing vocals
- Jim Gordon -- drums, percussion
- John Hartford -- fiddle
- Jim Horn -- flute
- Paul Hubinon -- horns
- Lydie Hyde -- horns
- Plas Johnson -- horns
- Clydie King -- backing vocals
- Larry Knechtel -- keyboards
- Warren Leuning -- horns
- Shirley Matthews -- backing vocals
- Lew McCreary -- horns
- Mike Melvoin -- keyboards
- Don Menza -- horns
- Ollie Mitchell -- horns
- Art Munson -- guitar
- Dean Parks -- guitar
- Leland Sklar -- bass
Rating: 2 stars **
Title: Under the Skunk
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Comments: strange 'cap' sleeve; minor ring and edge wear; tear on cover where there must have been a promo sticker; white promo inner label; original Playboy inner sleeve
Catalog ID: --
This one was a complete mystery to me. I readily admit I bought if for the odd title and the fact it was released by Playboy Records. I found a couple of brief on-line reviews, but naturally they were both in Japanese so they didn't do me much good. In case anyone cares, one of the sites had a copy for sale at roughly $80.00.
One of the first acts signed to Playboy's brief foray into the music business, 1973's "Under the Skunk" was produced by Jay Sentar. Playboy apparently had some major financial resources and faith in Cohen as the album was recorded during sessions in Hollywood and London. That speculation was supported by the all-star cast of studio pros providing support (Jim Gordon, Larry Knechtel, Leland Sklar, etc.). In spite of the cover art, most of these twelve original tunes were best described as heavily orchestrated singer/songwriter pop. Perhaps that shouldn't come as a surprise as producer Sentar had just enjoyed major commercial success working with Helen Reddy. Though it was frequently buried in sappy material and Mike Melvoin's heavy orchestration. Since Melvoin's arrangements all but swallowed him up on tracks like 'Don't Cry', 'Whitney' and 'Father', you couldn't help but wonder what the album might have sounded like given a starker, more rock oriented setting. About the closest comparison that comes to mind would be a third tier Randy Newman. Like Newman, on material like 'The Big Boy In the Sky' and 'The No. 2 Tub' Cohen seemed to picture himself as having a keen, insightful and clever world vision. Unfortunately the preponderance of sensitive singer/songwriter songs also quickly gave the album a sound-alike quality that was a major turnoff. Simply because they sported some Dr. John influences 'The Big Boy In the Sky' and boogie-styled 'Boogie' were two of the album highlights.
Let me mention that the inner sleeve art work was a little disturbing - a naked Cohen in a straw covered barn surrounded by largely disrobed female mannequins. I guess that might have made sense given Playboy released the album.
The album quickly vanished, followed by Cohen's contract with Playboy Records. Three years later he appeared as lead singer for the short-lived band Giants.
Skunk" track listing:
1.) Don't Cry (Laurie Kaye Cohen) - 3:08 rating: ** stars
'Don't Cry' was a heavily orchestrated ballad that turned into a battle for survival between Cohen and Gary Coleman's orchestral arrangement. The song itself was a pretty forgettable, over-the-top exercise in singer/songwriter angst though it revealed Cohen was capable of pulling out some tougher blues-infected vocals that reminded me a little of Paul Rodgers. The weird guitar effects provided the song's only really interesting component. Not sure why Playboy decided to release it as a single:
- 1973's 'Don't Cry' b/w 'Would You Like To Make A New Friend Today' (Playboy catalog number P 50020)
2.) Whitney (Laurie Kaye Cohen) - 2:59 rating: ** stars
Another ballad, 'Whitney' opened up with heavily treated vocals. I guess it was supposed to sound like he was singing from the bottom of a well, or perhaps on a bad international telephone line. When they actually let him in the studio, you got to hear what a good voice Cohen had, but man the song was over orchestrated.
3.) Father (Laurie Kaye Cohen) - 3:24 rating: ** stars
Hey, how about a ballad? I liked Cohen's voice, but it was time for a change in pace.
4.) The Big Boy In the Sky (Laurie Kaye Cohen) - 2:19 rating: *** stars
Maybe just my imagination, but 'The Big Boy In the Sky' sounded like it had more than a little Dr John in the grooves. I like Dr. John so that wasn't a bad thing. For anyone curious, Dr. John was a guest on Cohen's subsequent album with Giants.
5.) Delilah (Laurie Kaye Cohen) - 2:54 rating: *** stars
'Delilah' was another track where Cohen's vocals seemed to hint at Dr. John and perhaps a touch of Randy Newman.
6.) The No. 2 Tub (Laurie Kaye Cohen) - 2:37 rating: ** stars
I guess 'The No. 2 Tub' was mildly cute in the same way Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show were. Well, given Dr. Hook irritated a lot of folks, I'm not sure adding country to the mix really helped much.
of a reggae rhythm going on with 'Weekend Woman'. Pass.
Ah the joys of hitchhiking ... Yeah there was something slightly disconcerting in the lyrics.
2.) The Road To Heaven (Laurie Kaye Cohen) - 3:41 rating: ** stars
Crap, someone let Mike Melvoin and the orchestra back in the studio. 'The Road To Heaven' found the album dropping into lounge act territory.
4.) Boogie (Laurie Kaye Cohen) - 3:32 rating: *** stars
Dr. John-styled keyboard opening sounded promising and the upbeat boogie stylings made for a nice change of pace.
5.) Ain't Nobody Ever Satisfied with a Dream (Laurie Kaye Cohen) - 3:33 rating: *** stars
An adult contemporary ballad, 'Ain't Nobody Ever Satisfied with a Dream' had a glitzy arrangement that made Cohen fight for the spotlight. And he managed to pull it off with one of his stronger vocals.
6.) Shall Be Saved (Laurie Kaye Cohen) - 3:00 rating: ** stars
The Gospel influenced 'Shall Be Saved' has always made me think of the late Curtis Mayfield. The song was great when it was just Cohen framed by pretty piano and a little bit of electric guitar. When producer Sentar decided to invite a cast of thousands into the studio and Mike Melvoin's orchestration kicked in it all turned into aural sludge.
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