The Asylum Records discography of pop polymath Andrew Gold has been well-addressed in the CD era - first via international CD reissues, then individual expanded editions on the U.S. Collectors' Choice label, and an all-encompassing set in 2013 from the U.K.'s Edsel label. But one thing had eluded Gold: a bona fide box set. Cherry Red and Esoteric Recordings have delivered with Lonely Boy: The Asylum Years Anthology, a 6-CD/1-DVD compendium celebrating the late artist (1951-2011) with remastered versions of all four Asylum albums, a disc of outtakes, another of live performances, and a DVD of promotional videos. This lavish set is the ultimate tribute to the musical chameleon, a true student of popular song who was equally adept as a musician and multi-instrumentalist, a singer, composer, lyricist, producer, and arranger. Those "one-man band" skills served Gold well behind-the-scenes as he supported Linda Ronstadt, Art Garfunkel, and countless others in the studio, but his art found its fullest expression on his beautiful, moving, and catchy-as-hell solo works.
The chiming guitars, lush harmonies, and crisp arrangements were all buffed to a perfect sheen on Gold's eponymous 1975 debut. With its cornucopia of tasty pop confections, Andrew Gold wore the artist's versatility on its sleeve. The Beatles' influence on Gold - who counted soprano (and Hollywood dubbing queen) Marni Nixon and film composer Ernest Gold as his parents - was evident on well-crafted, melodic rock-and-rollers like "A Note from You" and "I'm Coming Home" while "Heartaches in Heartaches" took it easy, epitomizing the Southern California sound that Gold helped popularized for Ronstadt. She actually appears on both "Heartaches" and "Love Hurts," offering her unmistakable background vocals.
Leo Sayer titled his 1976 album after Andrew's majestic anthem "Endless Flight," one of many tracks showcasing Gold's gift for a memorable chorus. The urgent "Hang My Picture Straight" is, befitting the artist's parentage, a movie in miniature. It's also one of the tracks here completely played and sung by Andrew (other than David Campbell's strings). The quieter side of Gold is showcased on the lilting "That's Why I Love You" and the sad, reflective "Ten Years Behind Me." Andrew Gold, produced by Chuck Plotkin and engineered by Val Garay, also featured musical contributions from Andrew's bandmate in Bryndle, guitarist Kenny Edwards, drummer Mike Botts of Bread fame, saxophonist Bobby Keys, and pedal steel guitarist Dan Dugmore, among others. It was an auspicious debut from a prodigious talent.
There wasn't much wrong with Gold's sophomore album, 1976's What's Wrong with This Picture? (The cheekily-titled LP featured a cover with plentiful oddities for the listener to discover.) The LP welcomed Peter Asher (Linda Ronstadt, James Taylor) as producer, and like its predecessor, offered something for everyone. Val Garay, later the Grammy Award-winning producer of Kim Carnes' "Bette Davis Eyes," returned as engineer.
Asylum gave the album a major push; were its three covers included as "insurance" to goose its sales? (Andrew's track record with rearranging oldies was flawless; witness Ronstadt's hit versions of "You're No Good," "When Will I Be Loved," and "(Love Is Like A) Heat Wave," to name three.) The best of them is Maurice Williams' "Stay," given a breezy, Latin-tinged treatment featuring Ronstadt's backgrounds. Other than the covers (also including Buddy Holly's "Learning the Game" and Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich's "Do Wah Diddy"), it was business as usual for Gold, this time with occasional support from A-listers such as Russ Kunkel, Danny Kortchmar, Leland Sklar, and Waddy Wachtel.
Andrew described What's Wrong... in the original liner notes as "a kind of rock/jazz/folk base with a bit of country/soul flavor with a dash of classical/raga and a pinch of muzak. Of course, we can't forget the black roots mixed in with just a dash of John Philip Sousa marches and then you stir all of this in with a fork..." Whatever his inspirations, he delivered aching expressions of melancholy with "Passing Thing," "Playing the Game," and "Angel Woman" (the latter with just Gold on piano and voice, surrounded by Campbell's strings) on which he assumes the role of the so-called "sensitive singer-songwriter." He nodded again to the SoCal sound with the Eagles-esque "Go Back Home Again."
The bouncy "Must Be Crazy" ("...to treat you like I do") is a pure pop delight as is the mellow, languid "Firefly," but the centerpiece remains "Lonely Boy." Gold set his irresistible melody set to a decidedly unsentimental, semi-autobiographical lyric and dressed it up in an impeccable, pull-out-the-stops production that stopped just short of the Wall of Sound. "Lonely Boy" deservedly earned Gold a top 10 hit on the Billboard Hot 100.
The artist is a celestial showman on the front cover of 1978's All This and Heaven, Too, his heavenly third album (which he co-produced with Brock Walsh). A host of guest musicians popped up throughout, including Rick Marotta, Russ Kunkel, and Jeff Porcaro (drums), Kenny Edwards and Leland Sklar (bass), and Waddy Wachtel (guitar).
If all that Gold had accomplished on All This... was introducing the future theme song to The Golden Girls - "Thank You for Being a Friend" - it would have been an unqualified success. But he notched his biggest U.K. hit with a different song: "Never Let Her Slip Away," on which singer-songwriter (and Ronstadt and Eagles pal) J.D. Souther joined Gold and Walsh on the backgrounds; its wending saxophone was played by Ernie Watts. Gold was inspired by his then-girlfriend Laraine Newman to write the bouncy, deceptively simple yet melodically unconventional tune. It reached No. 5 on the U.K. chart.
"Thank You for Being a Friend" is the apotheosis of Gold's pop magic, with its sweet but not cloying lyric, earworm melody, and plain truth - who doesn't want to have a friend like the one addressed in the song? The Golden Girls version was warmly sung by studio singer Cynthia Fee in a mellifluous voice that subtly called to mind the southern accent of the Girls' resident belle Blanche Devereaux. The sitcom (still one of the most-streamed shows on television) only utilized two verses, but there are more on the original song - as polished a production as any by Gold. Before the Golden success, though, it still became a top 25 U.S. hit.
Those two tracks would be enough to overshadow the remaining eight cuts for any artist. But the rest of the album is up to the high standard they set - especially the soaring "Oh Urania (Take Me Away)" with its gorgeously yearning vocal, intricate harmonies, and various keyboards performed by Gold. The romantic "Always for You" is almost as affecting. The singer-songwriter's penchant for bittersweet lyrics extends to the understated "Still You Linger On," one of his most authentic ballads with its instantly identifiable sentiment about the nature of loss. A dreamy soundscape (harmonium, electric piano, guitars, and tympani, all played by Gold) is conjured on the sensitive, introspective "Looking for My Love." Andrew channels the grand compositional sensibility of his father with the sweeping melody of "Free to Let Her Go," but the album is equally comfortable with the laid-back likes of "I'm on My Way" and the piano-driven "How Can This Be Love," written not by Gold but by Mark Safan and Mark Goldenberg.
The face on the cover of Whirlwind (1980) looked the same, but fans might have been forgiven for asking: "Will the real Andrew Gold please stand up?" Whirlwind eschewed the multitude of pop styles that proliferated on Gold's first three albums, eschewing them for a suite of tight, crunchy, guitar-heavy rockers with a new wave attitude. This wasn't heavy rock by any means, but a pronounced move from MOR to AOR.
Perhaps owing to the stylistic shift, the feel is that of a "band" album, with most tracks featuring Bryan Garofalo on bass, Michael Botts on drums, and Andrew on guitars and keyboards. Brock Walsh even returned to provide backgrounds. No Andrew Gold record was completely uninteresting; there are echoes of Joe Jackson on "Sooner or Later" with the artist on piano, and Elvis Costello with "Nine to Five" and its "Watching the Detectives"-esque jagged rhythms. "Brand New Face" is all power-pop swagger, and "Leave Her Alone" is a bluesy diversion.
The singles "Kiss This One Goodbye" and "Stranded on the Edge" are perfectly solid rock-and-roll, but feel less personal than Gold's past work. That, ultimately, is what makes Whirlwind the outlier on this set. It's well-crafted and well-performed, and a testament to Gold's ability to absorb and emulate the sounds around him to adapt to a new decade and new musical landscape. But in doing so, he downplayed one element so important to the first three Asylum records: his soul.
Lonely Boy adds two bonus CDs to complete this portrait of the era. The first has 14 bonus tracks issued on individual reissues of each album from the Collectors' Choice Music campaign back in 2005. Two more bonuses from the CCM reissues are appended to Andrew Gold and All This and Heaven Too. (Two tracks from those reissues - the pre-Asylum demos "Sometime When a Man's on His Own" and "To Be Someone" - are not reprised on this box, likely because they were recently included on Omnivore's essential Something New: Unreleased Gold.) The sixth CD includes unreleased highlights from two live concerts: one recorded in Los Angeles at the beginning of 1977, and another recorded in London late in 1976 but broadcast in March 1977 on BBC's The Old Grey Whistle Test. The L.A. show at the Universal Amphitheatre is previously unreleased and has five tracks from What's Wrong with This Picture? plus another three from Andrew Gold, all reasonably faithful to the album versions but with that added live frisson.
A region-free DVD gives listeners the chance to see Gold and his band in action. It includes the video from the London show at the New Victoria Theatre (currently the home of Wicked, once West End theatre resumes post-COVID) plus six enjoyable promotional videos (including the "big three" of "Lonely Boy," "Never Let Her Slip Away," and "Thank You for Being a Friend") and one more, shorter in-studio appearance on The Old Grey Whistle Test from January 1978. The promo videos aren't of optimum quality, but are welcome additions nonetheless.
The box set produced by Gold's widow Leslie Kogan and Esoteric's Mark Powell is a handsomely packaged, rigid slipcase, with each disc in a sturdy individual jacket replicating the original front cover artwork. The DVD is housed within a gatefold. The back covers of the original LPs have been adapted to a uniform look here; similarly, the discs all have uniform design (and oddly, the album titles aren't on the discs themselves). A replica advertisement poster for All This and Heaven Too and a 64-page squarebound booklet round out the collection. It features a new essay by Don Breithaupt as well as photographs, newspaper clippings, front covers of the LPs, memorabilia, full lyrics, and personnel credits. Paschal Byrne has done a fine job remastering everything here from the original Asylum master tapes.
While Andrew Gold somewhat stepped back from the spotlight after these four albums, he never stopped working or recording - solo (that's him you hear as the voice of the Mad About You theme "The Final Frontier"), as a collaborator and musical partner to 10cc's Graham Gouldman in the group Wax, and as a trusted sideman to such artists as Cher, Trisha Yearwood, and Celine Dion. Perhaps Esoteric can next revisit Gold's latter-day albums, some of which only saw release in Japan. Until then, Lonely Boy: The Asylum Years Anthology is a loving tribute to a musician who is much missed, and a worthwhile addition to any pop lover's box set shelf.
You'll find the track listing and tracklisting with discography below.
Lonely Boy: The Asylum Years Anthology (Esoteric Recordings QECLEC72722 (U.K.), 2020) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. / Amazon Canada)
CD 1: Andrew Gold (1-10, released as Asylum 7E-1047, 1975) and bonus track (11, released on Collector's Choice CCM 05282, 2005)
- That's Why I Love You
- Heartaches in Heartaches
- Love Hurts
- A Note From You
- Resting In Your Arms
- I'm a Gambler
- Endless Flight
- Hang My Picture Straight
- Ten Years Behind Me
- I'm Coming Home
- Hang My Picture Straight (Live @ The Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, Santa Monica, CA - 1975)
CD 2: What's Wrong With This Picture? (released as Asylum 7E-1086, 1976)
- Hope You Feel Good
- Passing Thing
- Do Wah Diddy
- Learning The Game
- Angel Woman
- Must Be Crazy
- Lonely Boy
- Go Back Home Again
- One of Them Is Me
CD 3: All This and Heaven Too (1-10, released as Asylum 6E-116, 1978) and bonus track (11, released on Collector's Choice CCM 05302, 2005)
- How Can This Be Love?
- Oh Urania (Take Me Away)
- Still You Linger On
- Never Let Her Slip Away
- Always For You
- Thank You For Being a Friend
- Looking For My Love
- I'm On My Way
- You're Free
- Endless Flight (Live @ The Gator Bowl, Jacksonville, FL - 1978)
CD 4: Whirlwind (released as Asylum 6E-264, 1978)
- Kiss This One Goodbye
- Sooner Or Later
- Leave Her Alone
- Little Company
- Brand New Face
- Nine To Five
- Stranded On The Edge
- Make Up Your Mind
CD 5: Outtakes and Unreleased Recordings
- Within a Word
- Broken Pin Ball Machine
- Ten Years Behind Me (Demo)
- Lonely Boy (Original Version)
- Firefly (Early Unfinished Version)
- Feel It
- Gorilla Jam
- Gambler (Version #1)
- Still You Linger On (Alternate Take)
- Thank You For Being a Friend (Outtake)
- Genevieve (Original Version)
- Gambler (Version #2)
- Traffic Jam
- The "In" Crowd
Tracks 1-3 recorded during the Andrew Gold sessions. Released on Collector's Choice CCM 05272, 2005
Tracks 4-7 recorded during the What's Wrong With This Picture? sessions. Released on Collector's Choice CCM 05282, 2005
Tracks 8-11 recorded during the All This and Heaven Too sessions. Released on Collector's Choice CCM 05292, 2005
Tracks 12-14 recorded during the Whirlwind sessions. Released on Collector's Choice CCM 05302, 2005
CD 6: Live Recordings (all tracks previously unreleased except 1, released on Collector's Choice CCM 05282, 2005)
- Hope You Feel Good (Live @ The Universal Amphitheatre, Los Angeles, CA - 1/6/1977)
- Stay (Live @ The Universal Amphitheatre, Los Angeles, CA - 1/6/1977)
- That's Why I Love You (Live @ The Universal Amphitheatre, Los Angeles, CA - 1/6/1977)
- Endless Flight (Live @ The Universal Amphitheatre, Los Angeles, CA - 1/6/1977)
- Learning The Game (Live @ The Universal Amphitheatre, Los Angeles, CA - 1/6/1977)
- Hang My Picture Straight (Live @ The Universal Amphitheatre, Los Angeles, CA - 1/6/1977)
- One Of Them Is Me (Live @ The Universal Amphitheatre, Los Angeles, CA - 1/6/1977)
- Lonely Boy (Live @ The Universal Amphitheatre, Los Angeles, CA - 1/6/1977)
- Heartaches in Heartaches (Live @ The New Victoria Theatre, London, England - 11/23/1976)
- That's Why I Love You (Live @ The New Victoria Theatre, London, England - 11/23/1976)
- Endless Flight (Live @ The New Victoria Theatre, London, England - 11/23/1976)
- Do Wah Diddy (Live @ The New Victoria Theatre, London, England - 11/23/1976)
- Learning The Game (Live @ The New Victoria Theatre, London, England - 11/23/1976)
- Angel Woman (Live @ The New Victoria Theatre, London, England - 11/23/1976)
- Hope You Feel Good (Live @ The New Victoria Theatre, London, England - 11/23/1976)
- One Of Them Is Me (Live @ The New Victoria Theatre, London, England - 11/23/1976)
- Lonely Boy (Live @ The New Victoria Theatre, London, England - 11/23/1976)
- Go Back Home Again (Live @ The New Victoria Theatre, London, England - 11/23/1976)
Tracks 9-18 broadcast on The Old Grey Whistle Test, BBC - 3/15/1977
Mark Bumgardner says
I already have the Edsel set which has the four studio albums, but may still get this for the live stuff. I saw Andrew open (and lead the band) for Linda Ronstadt exactly a week before the London New Vic date. If I can find it for the right price, I'm game.