Band members Related acts
line up 1 (1970)
- John Bradley -- vocals, guitar
- Kit Stewart (RIP 2001) -- drums, percussion
- Carl Von Hausman -- keyboards
- Ron Shane (aka Ron Cichonski) -- bass
- Rufus Harley -- bagpipes
- Bob Hartnagle --
- Len Pakula --
- Al Price --
- Pal Rakes --
- The Kit Kats
- The Pablo Ponce Four
- Roscoe & the Green Men (Karl Hausman)
- The Tak Tiks
- Carl Von Hausman (solo efforts)
Rating: 3 stars ***
Title: To Understand Is To Love
Country/State: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Catalog ID: 5
So here's a story of managers and marketing run amuck.
By 1969 the Philadelphia-based Kit Kats had enjoyed some regional successes and a minor national hit with the single 'Won't Find Better Than Me'. They'd actually released the song twice. In 1969 Mike Aspey signed on as band manager. One of his first suggestions was the band re-record 'Won't Find Better Than Me' for the third time with a slightly updated arrangement. Aspey also convinced the band it was time for a new name. Perhaps it sounded hipper, but the name change was apparently inspired for no good reason other than the fact New Hope, Pennsylvania was nearby. Regardless, The Kit Kats became The New Hope. The New Hope featured the same line-up - singer/guitarist John Bradley, drummer Kit Stewart, keyboardist Carl Von Hausman and bassist Shane. They were signed to the same label (Jamie), retained most of their old sound and even ended up re-recording several of the old Kit Kat tunes.
Produced by Aspey, 1969's "To Understand Is To Love" sounded a lot like a Kit Kats release. Your feelings about the album depended largely on what you thought about The Kit Kats. That said, the album was kind of a mess. While the band members had quite a bit of new material, much to their frustration Aspey was interested in having them rerecord even more of their existing catalog. In addition to 'Won't Find Better Than Me', there were seven other Kit Kat remakes - 'Let's Get Lost On a Country Road', 'Breezy', 'Find Someone', 'You're So Good To Me' and 'You've Got To Know', 'Distance'. 'Won't Find Better Than Me' was actually represented by two other selections. First there was a hideous medley of '50s tunes entitled 'Won't Find Better Than Me - medley' and the closing song fragment 'Gregorian' which was nothing more than the band singing part of 'Won't Find Better Than Me' acapella. The album included four covers - Brian Wilson's 'You're So Good To Me' , 'Distance', the bland ballad 'They Call It Love' (conveniently co-written by producer Aspey) and the Ralph Dino and John Sembella penned 'Rain'. The set was rounded out by two new originals - 'Look Away' and a searing 'The Money Game.' The two original tunes were an indication of the direction the band was interested in pursuing and served as the album's two strongest performances. While most of the album sounded distinctly old-fashioned there was no denying that many of the performances were quite appealing. If you'd never heard the Kit Kat originals then there wasn't anything wrong with starting here. The sad thing and missed opportunity lay in the two new originals. You can only wonder what the band might have done given the opportunity to experiment and record more original material.
Understand Is To Love" track listing:
1.) Won't Find Better Than Me (Carl Von Hausman - Kit Stewart) - 3:47 rating: **** stars
Spotlighting John Bradley's unique voice, 'Won't Find Better Than Me' was one of those songs that must have sounded old fashioned the minute it was released. Even with the Von Hausman's extended piano and harmonica introduction and an updated commercial arrangement, the revamped song sounded very 1964 versus 1970. As for guitarist Bradley lead vocals; his high, thin voice managed to make Frankie Valli sound like a rugged blues man. The Frankie Valli comparison really wasn't that far off since the song had an early Four Seasons vibe. By all rights I should hate the song, but for some reason I find it a guilty pleasure. Maybe that attraction stems from the fact it sounds so old fashioned ... Still, I like the Kit Kats original arrangement better.
- 1969's 'Won't Find better Than Me' b/w 'They Call It Love' (Jaime catalog number 1381)
2.) Won't Find Better Than Me - medley (Carl Von Hausman - Kit Stewart) - 2:06 rating: ** stars
I'm not sure what the thought was including a hodgepodge of '50s, early '60s song fragments (Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Penguins, etc.) under the title 'Won't Find Better Than Me - medley.'. The ill advised medley ended with a brief revamped '50s version of the hit. Maybe it was intended to show they'd be entertaining if you hired them for your next office party? You won't need to listen to this one more than once.
3.) You're So Good To Me (Brian Wilson) - 2:12 rating: **** stars
Another Kit Kats remake, on the heels of the dreadful medley, 'You're So Good To Me' was something totally different - imagine a late-'60s slice of bubblegum pop mixed with early-'70s British AM rock (something along the lines of The Cowsills-meet- Pickettywitch). Even though it wasn't as energetic as the original, if you were going to pick a top-40 single, this should have been it.
4.) Distance (R. Gilmore - Joe Renzatti) - 2:28 rating: **** stars
Another Kit Kat remake, the updtaed 'Distance' sported a pleasant and commercial contemporary pop sound. Nice pounding beat; memorable melody and nice vocals would have made it another good choice as a single.
5.) Let's Get Lost On a Country Road (Carl Von Hausman - Kit Stewart) - 2:24 rating: **** stars
Yet another Kit Kats remake, the song title certainly wasn't very promising and true enough, 'Let's Get Lost On a Country Road' started out with some of the most irritating falsettos you've ever encountered. And just when you were ready to pick up the needle and move on to the next tune the song landed back in Four Seasons territory with a weird banjo interlude. Geez, then the falsettos came back. One of the strangest tunes I've ever heard. This version apparently reused the original Kit Kats track with stereo horns added to the mix.
6.) Breezy (Carl Von Hausman - Kit Stewart) - 2:49 rating: *** stars
Imagine a 19th barber shop quartet waking up in the 20th century ... This was another track that I should have disliked, but found fascinating given how old school it sounded. To my ears it didn't sound all that different from the Kit Kats original.
7.) You've Got To Know (Carl Von Hausman - Kit Stewart) - 2:42 rating: **** stars
Von Hausman's pounding keyboards sounded like something out of the Motown catalog, but the vocal arrangement sounded like Spanky and Our Gang without the benefit of Spanky. Once again the song was far better than you would have ever expected with a chorus that managed to overcome a slew of other musical sins including Bradley's thin and shrill vocals. Another remake that wasn't as good as the Kit Kats original, but was still fun.
'Look Away' was a good example of what could have been. The song featured a lengthy folk-rock arrangement with nifty instrumentation including accordion, martial drums and Rufus Harley on bagpipes. The combination took the song in a totally unexpected direction that recalled a Scotish marching band. Add in some damning lyrics from Stewart, their beautiful harmonies and you had one of the album highlights. Not sure how or why it worked, but it did. It was also an audacious choice as the album's third and final single, perhaps explaining why it did poorly in terms of sales. Having heard the 45, let me advise you to stick with the unedited album track. The 45 version deleted much of the instrumental work, including most of Harley's bagpipes.
- 1970's 'Look Away' b/w 'The Money Game' (Jaime catalog number 1388)
2.) Find Someone (Carl Von Hausman - Kit Stewart) - 2:35 rating: ** stars
Previously released as a 1968 Kit Kats single, their update of 'Find Someone' was just as uninspired as the original. Opening up with some Von Hausman barrelhouse piano, the song sounded like something you'd hear at a roller rink. Relentlessly upbeat, this one was just plain cloying. No idea why the song faded out and then returned for a brief instrumental encore.
3.) They Call It Love (Lamp - Mike Apsey) - 2:49 rating: * star
One of the new tunes, 'They Call It Love' was a plodding ballad that really had nothing going for it. Stewart's vocals sounded precious while the whole band sounded bored. That may have something to do with the fact producer recorded the track with studio musicians. The band merely provided the vocals.
4.) The Money Game (Carl Von Hausman - Kit Stewart) - 3:28 rating: **** stars
Another new song, 'The Money Game' sounded like it had been recorded in a basement prison cell. In spite of the flat sound it was the album's biggest surprise, sounding nothing like the rest of their catalog. In a rare move, Stewart was featured on lead vocals. While he didn't have a great voice, he sounded major league pissed off as he took aim at the downsides of the music business and society in general. Bradley added some sizzling fuzz guitar showing they could actually rock out if needed. Not sure why, but every time I hear Stewart's growling voice it makes me think of Joel Grey and Cabaret.
5.) Rain (Ralph Dino - John Sembella) - 2:33
'Rain' was another track recorded by producer Aspey with studio musicians. The band members were brought in to provide the vocals - in this case Bradley and Stewart sharing lead vocals. As a cover the song was clearly picked for its commercial appeal. The tune was pretty enough, but to my ears the results sounded overly polished. I did like the freak-out weather sound effects at the end. The song was tapped as the album's second single:
- 1970's 'Rain' b/w 'Let's Get Lost On a Country Road' (Jaime catalog number 1385
6.) Gregorian (Carl Von Hausman - Kit Stewart) - 0:19 rating: * star
'Gregorian' was simply the first verse of 'Won't Find' sung like a group of monks; it was intended as a joke but even Karl found it embarrassing.
Returning to their Kit Kats nameplate the band reappeared on Paramount for a final non-LP single:
- 1971's 'Taking My Time' b/w 'That You Love' (Paramount catalog number PAA 0110).
As The Kit Kats they band continued to play occasional live shows throughout Pennsylvania through 1974. There were also a couple of ill-advised reunions. Drummer Stewart died in 2001.
If you want to read more about The Kits, or The New Hope the Spectropop group has an extended (and do I mean extended) piece on the groups at: http://www.spectropop.com/KitKats/
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