Kensington Market

Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1 (1967-69)

- Alex Darou (RIP 1970) -- bass

- Eugene Martynec -- lead guitar, keyboards, vocals

- Keith McKie -- vocals, rhythm guitar

- Jimmy Watson -- drums, percussion


  line up 2 (1967-69)

- Alex Darou (RIP 1970) -- bass

NEW - Luke Gibson -- rhythm guitar, harmonica,  backing vocals

- Eugene Martynec -- lead guitar, keyboards, vocals

- Keith McKie -- vocals, rhythm guitar

- Jimmy Watson -- drums, percussion


  line up 2 (1969)

- Alex Darou (RIP 1970) -- bass

- Luke Gibson -- rhythm guitar, harmonica,  backing vocals

- Eugene Martynec -- lead guitar, keyboards

- Keith McKee -- vocals, rhythm guitar

- Jimmy Watson -- drums, percussion


  supporting musicians: (1969)

- John Mills-Cockell -- synthesizers

- Felix Pappalardi -- bass


  line up 3 (2006-)

- Luke Gibson -- guitar

- John Jackson -- lead guitar

- Scott Kennedy -- bass

- Mitch Lewis -- drums, percussion

- Keith McKee -- vocals, rhythm guitar




Luke Gibson (solo efforts)

- Intersystems (John Mills-Cockell)

- Bobby Kris and the Imperials (Eugene Martynec and Alex Darou)

- Luke and the Apostles (Luke Gibson)

- Keith McKie (solo efforts)

- John Mills-Cockell (solo efforts)

- Syrinx (John Mills-Cockell)

- The Vendettas (Alex Darou and Keith McKie)





Genre: pop

Rating: 4 stars ****

Title:  Avenue Road

Company: Warner Brothers/Seven Arts

Catalog: W 1754

Country/State: Toronto, Canada

Grade (cover/record): VG/VG+

Comments: minor ring wear

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 1679

Price: 15.00


There's plenty of biographical information online about Kensington Market.   The executive summary is:


Canadian music promoter Bernie FInkelstein was responsible for bringing together bassist Alex Darou, guitarist/keyboardist Eugene Martynec, singer/rhythm guitarist Keith McKie, and drummer Jimmy Watson.   Darou and McKie had been with The Vendettas.  Darou and Martynec had been members of Bobby Kris and the Imperials.  As Kensington Market (the name inspired by a Toronto neighborhood), band quickly became staples on the Toronto/Yorkville dance and club scene.  They'd also managed to record a pair of singles of the small Stone label:

- 1967's 'Bobbys Birthday' b/w 'I Would be the One'  (Stone catalog number SX-721)

- 1967's 'Mr. John' b/w 'Kensington Market' (Stone catalog number SX-714)


Having recently added former Luke and the Apostle front man/signer Like Gibson to the line-up, they found a fan in the form of Loving Spoonful guitarist Zal Yanofsky who brought the band to the attention of producer Felix Pappalardi (then riding high as a result of his work with Cream).  Pappalardi flew to Toronto to check the band out, promptly signing them to a recording contract with Warner Brothers.


Produced by Pappalardi, 1968's "Avenue Road" (named after one of the main roads in Toronto's Kensington Market neighborhood), offered up a musically diverse set, clearly reflecting the breadth of their musical influences.  With Keith McKie and Gene Martynec splitting most of the writing duties, included in the mix were Lovin' Spoonful-styled jug-band moves ('Presenting Myself Lightly'), BS&T-styled horn rock (a remake of 'I Would Be the One') light lysergic influences ('Looking Glass'), and fairly commercial pop ('Girl Is Young').  Admittedly the album was bit short in the originality department, but I've always liked lead singers MdKie and Gibson who collectively gave the set a professional sheen throughout.  Nah, it won't change your life, but it made for pleasant '60s background music.


For some reason Warner Brothers released the album with two different covers.  I believe the cover with the band posing in a snowstorm was the original.  Below is a picture of the alternate cover (same catalog number and track listing).


Commercially the album did well in the band's native Canada (peaking at # 39), but in spite of some dates in the States, American audiences ignored the set.


"Avenue Road" track listing:
(side 1)

1.)  I Would Be The One   (Keith McKie) - 2:37   rating: **** stars

'I Would Be The One' originally saw the light of day as a Byrds-styled folk-rocker relegated to the 'B' side of their debut 45.  Rerecorded under producer Pappalardi's direction, the updated version featured a much tougher, horn powered arrangement.  Released as a single, it was one of their biggest hits, though this one's always been a hit, or miss tune for me.   It's certainly commercial and I love the Spanish Flamenco-styled horn arrangement, but there are times it strikes me as shallow and derivative.  Still, there's no denying Keith McKie's voice was great.  It made for a nice choice as a single:

- 1968's 'I Would Be the One' b/w 'Speaking of Dreams' (Warner Brothers catalog number )    

Yeah it was recorded a full forty years later (celebrating the release of a couple of their albums), but you can see a decent live performance of the tune at:  
2.)  Speaking Of Dreams   (Luke Gibson) - 2:26 
rating: **** stars

Pretty, slightly lysergic-tinged ballad.  Always liked Eugene Martynec beautiful lead guitar.  The tune also showed up as the 'I Would Be the One' 45'B' side.   rating: **** stars
3.)  Colour Her Sunshine   (Keith McKie)  - 3:00 
  rating: ** stars

With a breezy, speakeasy flavor, 'Colour Her Sunshine' was simply too cute for it's own good and didn't do much for me.   The repeated harmonica solos didn't help.  
4.)  Phoebe   (Gene Martynec) - 3:38 
  rating: ** stars

The ballad 'Phoebe' almost sounded like a child's nursery rhyme.   Lame. 
5.)  Aunt Violet's Knee   (Keith McKie)  - 4:21 
rating: **** stars

The band at their most experimental - another pretty heavily orchestrated ballad.  Imagine a mash-up of Simon and Garfunkel and Peter Gabriel and early Genesis.  It'll be way to fey for many folks, but if you enjoy that unique mid-'60s vibe, 'Aunt Violet's Knee' has it in spades


(side 2)
1.)  Coming Home Soon  (Keith McKie) - 2:45  
rating: **** stars

In spite of the needless horn arrangement, kicked along by Alex Darou's chugging bass line, 'Coming Home Soon' was one of the album's most conventional and enjoyable rock tunes.  In my world they would have stripped off the horns and released it as the single.  
2.)  Presenting Myself Lightly (Gene Martynec)  - 2:15 
  rating: ** stars

Writer Martynec seeming pulled a page out of the John Sebastian-Loving Spoonful catalog for this jug band-ish tune.   If you like the genre you'll be okay with the tune.  Personally I found it another example of the band trying too hard to be cute.  Ultimately it was simply irritating. 
3.)  Looking Glass   (Keith McKie) - 3:21  
rating: **** stars

Hum, how many rock tracks have your heard that start out with what sounds like an oboe solo ?    The band returning to their psych-progressive leanings.  Strange, but I have to admit I like it.    
4.)  Beatrice   (Gene Martynec) - 2:20
  rating: *** stars

Another country-tinged ballad.  Pretty harmonies, but not particularly memorable. 
5.)  Girl Is Young    (Keith McKie) - 3:08
  rating: *** stars

Another radio-friendly pop tune saved by some tasty lead guitar. 






Genre: pop

Rating: 4 stars ****

Title:  Aardvark

Company: Warner Brothers/Seven Arts

Catalog: W 1780

Country/State: Toronto, Canada

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: gatefold sleeve; cut lower right corner

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 285

Price: $30.00


Best time to play:  Saturday afternoon while cleaning up the house


Maybe due to the fact it's such a strange album, I've always had a soft spot for Kensington Market's second and final album.  Produced by Felix Pappalardi, 1969's "Aardvark" is one of those albums that must have sounded terribly out of place in 1969.  While the rest of the musical world was going off in pursuit of blues-rock, horn rock and sensitive singer/songwriter angst, these guys seemed content continuing to explore Left Banke-styled Baroque pop ('If It Is Love'), sunshine pop (the Canadian single 'Help Me'), psychedelia ('Ow-ing Man') and a healthy dose of mid-'60s Beatles ('Side I Am').  I love that kind of stuff so I'm a big fan, but it you bought this thinking the Pappalardi connection meant you were going to hear some Cream, or Mountain-styled hard rock ...  well you were largely out of luck.  Anyhow, four of the five members contributed to the writing chores and the only true loser happened to be the lone cover - the throwaway Pappalardi-penned instrumental 'Ciao'.  Musically these guys were all quite good with front man Keith McKie demonstrating an immensely likeable voice.  Bassist Alex Darou turned in some wonderful Paul McCartney's styled performances, while lead guitarist Eugene Martynec managed to impress without being a spotlight hog.  That said, the band's secret weapon was guest musician John Mills-Cockell who displayed an amazingly light and melodic touch on the Moog.


It's one of those rare albums I enjoy more each time I play it.  Can't say that about many records !!!

In support of the album the band actually did a short tour of the States, but within a couple of months they'd essentially called it quits.


"Aardvark" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Help Me   (Gene Martynec - Felix Pappalardi) - 2:45   rating: **** stars

'Help Me' was a great mash-up of a top-40 pop melody and more psych elements including fuzz guitar, and lysergic synthesizer and bass line.  The song's distinct personalities were best appreciated with a good pair of headphones.  Easily one of the standout performances, easy to see why Warner Brothers tapped it as the Canadian single.  





- 1967's 'Help Me' b/w 'Half Close Eyes' (Warner/Seven Arts catalog number 6061)








2.) If It Is Love   (Keith McKie) - 2:42   rating: **** stars

I'm a pushover for harpsichord and Baroque-pop bands like The Left Banke, so ' If It Is Love' grabbed me from the opening chords. Yeah the song was a bit on the fey side, but it had a great melody and McKee seldom sounded as good, especially on the glistening chorus.  YouTube has a 2008 performance of the song and though he's a bit older, McKee still sounded pretty darn good.   

3.) I Know You   (Keith McKie - Gene Martynec) - 1:58

'I Know You' has always reminded me of a good Emmit Rhodes song, which means it sounds like a second tier Paul McCartney song.  Don't get me wrong - I love a good McCartney song as much as anyone, but this wasn't one of them.    rating: *** stars

4.) The Thinker   (Gene Martynec - Luke Gibson) - 2:27   rating: **** stars

Propelled by Eugene Martynec's thick, sustained fuzz guitar (Robin Trower would have approved), 'The Thinker' demonstrated these guys could toughen up their sound.  Perhaps the best rocker across both album, credit producer Pappalardi's influence on this one - in fact that may be his crushing bass you hear throughout the tune.   Yeah, the song went off the tracks at the very end, but that actually added to its overall appeal.  

5.) Half Closed Eyes   (Gene Martynec) - 2:29

Another overly pretty ballad, 'Half Closed Eyes' pushed the band painfully close to deadly sensitive singer/songwriter territory.  What this one had going for it was John Mills-Cocktel's synthesizer washes.   YouTube has a 2010 performance of the song with McKee and company giving the song a surprisingly likeable country-rock edge.    rating: *** stars   

6.) Said I Could Be Happy    (Gene Martynec - Luke Gibson - Keith McKie) - 2;21   rating: **** stars

Kicked along by Jimmy Watson hypnotic drums and a mesmerizing Martynec keyboard riff,  'Said I Could Be Happy' was another cool  lysergic-tinged pop number.  Breezy and despicably catchy.  

7.) Ciao   (Felix Pappalardi) - 1:13

Penned by Pappalardi, 'Ciao' was a brief, vaguely jazzy instrumental that didn't make much of an impression.  rating: ** stars

8.) Ow-ing Man    (Gene Martynec - Keith McKie) - 2:35   rating: **** stars

A mid-tempo keyboard and bass driven rocker, 'Ow-ing Man' captured the band at their most psychedelic.    



(side 2)
1.) Side I Am   (Keith McKie - Gene Martynec) - 3:17   rating: **** stars

Opening side 2, 'Side I Am' continued the "Sgt. Pepper" vibe complete with sterling vocals, 'molten' bass line, 'Penny Lane' -styled Baroque horns, and an acid-drenched vibe.  Great tune.   It was apparently a remake of the album track 'Ow-ing Man'




- 1968's 'Side I Am' b/w 'Witch's Stone' (Warner/Seven Arts catalog number 7265)    





2.) Think About the Times   (Keith McKie) - 2:53   rating: **** stars

Originally written an recorded by McKee's prior group The Vendettas, 'Think About the Time' was a breezy, radio-ready pop song that showcased some great multi-part vocals and Mills-Cocknell's Moog.  Surprising this one wasn't tapped as a single.  

3.) Have You Come To See   (Keith McKie - Gene Martynec) - 3:03

4.) Cartoon   (Keith McKee - Bernie Finkelstein) - 2:30   rating: **** stars

Another sleeper, 'Cartoon' ripped off a host of Fab Four influences (the la-la-la-la chorus was a blatant swipe), but thanks in large measure to Mills-Cocknell's synthesizer effects, was still a blast to hear.   

5.) Dorian   (Luke Gibson - Felix Papallardi) - 6:46   rating: **** stars

The album's longest and most intriguing song, thanks to Martynec's meandering lead guitar 'Dorian' started out sounding a bit like a Dead jam session, before spinning off fragments of sunshine-pop vocals, jazzy interludes, heavy psych, and hard rock moves.   For his part Martynec simply crushed this tune.   YouTube has a 2008 performance of the track at: