Toy Matinee

Toy Matinee

Reprise Records, 1990

REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


Sometime in late 1990, I remember hearing a single that was one of the catchiest, tightest songs I'd heard in a long time, called "Last Plane Out," by a band called Toy Matinee. It stuck in my head well enough that even though I only heard it once or twice, I purchased the CD immediately upon finding it used seven years later.

It was one of the smarter moves I'd ever made. Toy Matinee only ever produced one CD, but that CD is a gem of progressive pop and worth digging for. The band was a cooperative effort between keyboard player Patrick Leonard (a former producer for Madonna) and San Jose, California musician, composer, and producer Kevin Gilbert. Gilbert, a musician who spent several years on the edge of stardom, is best known as the person who discovered Sheryl Crow and as being a member of her "Tuesday Night Music Club." Despite recieving a grammy for "Leaving Las Vegas" and co-writing seven of the eleven tracks on Crow's debut CD, Gilbert could never capitalize on his talents, and died in 1996 of autoerotic asphyxiation.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The only term that one can come up for this is "shame." Gilbert was respected among his peers as a brilliant lyricist, and on this CD he and Leonard produced nine tracks of clever, intelligent, rich pop music, music good enough that it's a mystery exactly -why- Gilbert was never a success.

The CD starts with the layered vocals of "Last Plane Out", a powerful anthem about the world and its downhill path, and doesn't stop until the hauntingly sweet ballad "We Always Come Home". In between, Gilbert and Leonard hit obsession ("Things She Said"), wistfulness ("Toy Matinee"), loss ("Queen Of Misery"), and the pain of never quite fitting in ("There Was A Little Boy"). And it's not all emotion; the musical gamut runs from dance to rock to ballad to almost-blues. Gilbert was a producer, a composer, and an experimenter, and it shows in the myriad styles on the CD, packed with neat, almost Keith Emerson-like keyboard lines from Leonard.

This CD may be out of print, but it's worth trying to find a copy. There is a current DTS release, if you have made the upgrade to DTS CD technology; given the fact there are very few CDs released in this format, the cult status and word-of-mouth fandom for Toy Matinee is obvious.

Gilbert "just missed" for eight years. He was squeezed out of Sheryl Crow's debut success by record executives. His version of "Kashmir" was left off Encomium, the Led Zeppelin tribute disc, then was a top request on LA radio stations. After years of tribute work, he was invited just before his death to fly to London to audition for Phil Collins' vacated slot as Genesis' lead singer. Once again, Gilbert missed the boat; heaven knows he might had more success than the current lineup. For the sake of might-have-been, as well as for a marvelous hour or so of progressive pop music, Toy Matinee is a definite winner.

Rating: A-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1999 Duke Egbert and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Reprise Records, and is used for informational purposes only.