Everybody loves a clown, so why don't you? Many did indeed love acclaimed comedian and filmmaker Jerry Lewis, but it must have been a surprise when his 20-year old son, Gary, received quite a lot of chart love in 1965. Discovered at Disneyland and signed to Liberty Records by ace producer Snuff Garrett, Gary Lewis and the Playboys had a smash right out of the gate with "This Diamond Ring." Hitting No. 1 in the middle of the British Invasion, that Al Kooper/Bob Brass/Irwin Levine song remains a 1960s perennial, its production a textbook example of a great pop record. (Just listen to Jimmy Radcliffe's Drifters-esque demo, the soulful original by Sammy Ambrose, or Al Kooper's own funky take, to hear just how ingeniously the song was rearranged for Lewis' debut!) The next six singles for the young California band all went Top Ten, with "Count Me In" and "Save Your Heart for Me" stopping just short of pole position, and "She's Just My Style" reaching No. 3. (The above-quoted "Everybody Loves a Clown" made it all the way to No. 4!) But Lewis was soon called on to serve in the Vietnam War, entering the United States Army on New Year's Day, 1967. Before reporting for duty, he was assigned to build up a backlog of material with producers Charles Koppelman, Don Rubin and Gary Klein. The resulting solo LP, Listen!, is finally seeing CD release on August 30 in both mono and stereo from Steve Stanley's Now Sounds label, which specializes in such pop/psychedelic treasures. Click on the jump for more about this lost solo debut from the Playboys frontman!
Twelve tracks comprise Listen!, four of which originate from the pen of Garry Bonner and Alan Gordon, the writers of the Turtles' immortal "Happy Together." Lewis attempted Bonner and Gordon's "Girls in Love" for a single release that only reached Billboard's No. 39, and that effort was followed by the first single off Listen!, their tune "Jill." Despite a great sunshine pop-style arrangement, "Jill" only made it to No. 52. Years later, Lewis told Ed Osborne, "I love all those Bonner and Gordon songs. (My albums and singles) didn't make it because my lawyer, for some reason, was suing Liberty Records for back royalties at the same time they were coming out." Legal entanglements aside, Listen! still offers a number of riches. There's a take on another sizeable Turtles hit penned by the duo, "She'd Rather Be With Me," and Lewis covers The Lovin' Spoonful's John Sebastian with "Six O'Clock." "Look, Here Comes the Sun" would be a minor hit for The Sunshine Company in 1968. There's also an early take on Tim Hardin's "Reason to Believe." Adding to the album's fine pedigree, top arranger Jack Nitzsche worked his usual magic on these tracks.
Now Sounds' reissue includes the full album in both mono and stereo. Two bonus tracks are also included: the mono single version of "Jill," and its non-album B-side "New in Town." The typically-lavish booklet will include new liner notes by Andrew Sandoval, one of the most-respected historians of this era in popular music, and features participation from Lewis himself. Gary Lewis' Listen! can be pre-ordered here and is due in the U.K. on August 30 and one week later on September 7 in the U.S.
Gary Lewis - Listen! (Liberty LRP-3524 (Mono)/LST-7524 (Stereo) - reissued Now Sounds CRNOW20, 2010)
2/14. Don't Make Promises
3/15. She'd Rather Be with Me
4/16. Look, Here Comes the Sun
6/18. Bring the Whole Family
7/19. Reason to Believe
8/20. Dew Day
9/21. Small Talk
10/22. Angel on the Corner
11/23. Six O'Clock
12/24. Young and Carefree
25. Jill (Mono Single Version - Liberty 55985-A, 1967)
26. New in Town (Mono Single Version - Liberty 55985-B, 1967)