"I found this GEM (and I do mean GEM!) Back in '91 on cassette. I'm from the Quad Cities of Iowa/Illinois, and was a frequent shopper at Co-op Records. The guys all knew me and knew I KNEW my music. I was looking for something different, something interesting, something not mainstream, that I could sink my teeth into AND be able to call my own (always loved finding great music and then turning others onto it, like a music guru). The Co-op dudes knew I was a Beatles collector and fan as well as a follower of Steely Dan. I had respect for Madonna's pop sensibilities, but much preferred intelligent lyrics and word play within an easily digestible, but intricate movements in a song. They showed me a cassette of Toy Matinee.
Toy Matinee was a short-lived American art-pop band, and also the title of their only album. Their sound was an array of mixed influences, including progressive rock, AOR and pop reminiscent of both the Beatles and the Beach Boys. I was ADDICTED the very first time I heard the very first chords on LAST PLANE OUT - the very first song on the album! I knew, immediately, that this should have been a much bigger record than it had been. Lots of pop hooks that, in no time at all, you'd be singing along with, not to mention bopping your head. This was classy, intelligent power pop from mostly unknown masters!
TOY MATINEE was formed by producer/composer/keyboardist Patrick Leonard in collaboration with singer/lyricist Kevin Gilbert. Backed by a group of session musicians (drummer Brian MacLeod, guitarist Tim Pierce, and bassist Guy Pratt), and with guest appearances from several other musicians including Julian Lennon, the duo recorded just one self-titled album which was released on Reprise Records in 1990.
The album was engineered and produced by Bill Bottrell. Thematically, it covered a rather broad ground; two tracks were dedicated to Czech poet and political figure Vaclav Havel and painter Salvador Dali, and "Queen of Misery" is about Madonna (Leonard was the singer's longtime songwriting and producing partner and Gilbert had recently worked with her as an engineer.) Two of the other songs on TOY MATINEE -- "The Ballad of Jenny Ledge" and "Last Plane Out" -- received wide play on album rock stations, both of them peaking at #23 on Billboard's Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. Despite that, the album's highest U.S. chart position was #129.
Kevin Gilbert was known well in the L.A. pop scene and around the Sunset Strip. He'd been in various bands, all of his own creation, NRG (No Reasons Given) and Giraffe. At this time he was also dating an unknown singer by the name of Sheryl Crow, who also sang back up and played some keyboards while TM was performing live. (Incidentally, most of Crow's TUESDAY NIGHT MUSIC CLUB album was written by Kevin, during a songwriter's workshop Kevin created with Bill Bottrell and David Baerwald called, The Tuesday Night Music Club.)
Pat Leonard was, well..... PAT LEONARD! (See above credits). These two crafted a masterpiece of power pop that was not schlock, but well thought out. Hooks that were poppy but not annoying or cheesy! You were proud to repeat these lyrics as many time as it took to get others around you to say, "What is that? Who is it? Where can I get it?" (I did this many times, and wore out, at least 3, store bought cassettes of Toy Matinee, before I finally bought a CD player!)
My favorite track is....um...... damn. This is too hard! It's like asking a mother which one of her 9 children did she love most.... If I was asked what track stands out the most. I'd say.............. CRAP! Can't do that either! Every piece of this pie must be savored on it's own or as a whole. This may be the ONLY CD, that I've never "parted out" onto mix-discs of favorites that I make for car rides, because it's a favorite, thru and thru!! All in all, I doubt anyone that reads this review, would find anything they don't like about this album. Unfortunately, you WILL find it in a bargain bin in used CD and record stores. The original was on Reprise but Pat Leonard reissued it in 2001 on his own Unitone records with extra tracks! I'd advise, also, To check out Kevin Gilbert's solo efforts THUD and THE SHAMING OF THE TRUE. You WON'T be disappointed!"