YOU'VE BEEN MY INSPIRATION: With the release of his most recent Song Tree label album, Miles & An Ocean in late 2017, composer, vocalist and Berkeley, California native Kyle Vincent (pictured above at left with Detergents co-founder/Archies front man Ron Dante and long time Paul Revere And The Raiders lead vocalist Mark Lindsay after their triumphant concert in Jackson, Tennessee in October 2013) has arguably produced the finest album of his career to date. Blitz Magazine recently spoke with Vincent about how Dante, Lindsay and such other  visionaries as Barry Manilow, the Rubinoos and Gilbert O'Sullivan continue to inspire him to greater heights (Click on above image to enlarge).

By Michael McDowell

In recent years, there has been a small but determined cadre of composers and vocalists who have subtly yet decisively taken center stage, despite having drawn their primary inspiration from a less than likely source. 

That source is the beleaguered and often misunderstood decade known as the 1970s. And while such periphery as chronology is most assuredly not an accurate barometer for measuring aesthetic merit, those involved in this movement are quick to point out that their inspiration is borne of the legacies of the select few from that period who happened to share their artistic vision. 

Included in this ambitious group are the prolific techno pioneer Dana Countryman, the mercurial and influential Adam Marsland, Marsland's New Mexico-based Karma Frog label mate Rob Martinez, the multi-faceted Jeremy Morris, the extraordinarily gifted and highly charismatic composer Lisa Mychols, and master tunesmith and Berkeley, California native Kyle Vincent. 

Aside from Rob Martinez, all of the above artists began recording in the closing years of the twentieth century. With the possible exception of Jeremy Morris (who draws as much from the catalogs of such prog rock fixtures as Gentle Giant, Yes and Tranquility as he does the likes of the 1910 Fruitgum Company and the stalwarts of the British Invasion as inspiration for his vast catalog), theirs was a refreshing, rose colored glasses view of that frequently divisive decade.

In essence, they preferred to celebrate the accomplishments of such exceptions to the rule as Gilbert O'Sullivan, the Beach Boys, Barry Manilow, the Guess Who, the Bay City Rollers, Bobby Sherman, the Heywoods, Michel Pagliaro, the Raspberries, Rick Springfield and David Cassidy, rather than contend with the self-indulgent and often negative fare that commanded the bulk of mainstream media attention at the time. 

Of those, it is Kyle Vincent who has pressed ahead with the most hands on experience in that respect. As co-founder of the highly promising Candy (whose lone Polygram album, Whatever Happened To Fun set a high standard within the sub-genre that found glam and punk rock joining forces), Vincent's subsequent journeys took him all over the musical map, from serving as the opening act on a Barry Manilow tour (which ultimately prompted him to release an album of Manilow covers in 2016) to brief memberships in both the Heywoods and Bay City Rollers, with multiple label stops along the way.

As a solo artist, Vincent (who is presently based in Massachusetts, where he concurrently holds public office) continues to be celebrated for his utterly stupendous 1997 original, Arianne, which arguably placed him on equal footing with his professed inspirations. And while a myriad of descriptive adjectives continued to surface in tandem with his name as his accomplishments grew exponentially in that respect, like Bobby Sherman, Rick Springfield and David Cassidy, Vincent was quick to reinforce the irrefutable maxim that such distinction also carries with it second to none capabilities as a composer, arranger and instrumentalist. 

"The Manilows, the Gilbert O'Sullivans, the Seals And Crofts and other influences are always there helping me out", said Vincent.

"They're great company to have hanging around."

With Miles & An Ocean, Vincent has reached another crossroads of sorts, not unlike that faced by the Beach Boys in their April 1977 The Beach Boys Love You album, as well as the Monkees upon the release of their landmark October 1996 Justus album. Therein, each band reassessed their respective artistic visions and drew the inevitable conclusion that expressing them at that stage would far better serve their intentions if articulated from their current life perspectives.

In Vincent's case, coming to terms with the challenges of maintaining an outlook of relentless optimism amidst the trials and tribulations that come with life experience has meant not just a reiteration from the current perspective, but by not downplaying the challenges with denial. That is, the "More coffee, dear?", sweep it under the rug option, which inevitably leads to exponentially greater trials borne of neglect.

Herein, Vincent briefly alludes to such an option in the reflective and deceptively upbeat Hillside Daze, although the fact that he refers to this childhood recap as "daze" instead of "days" suggests that he at least acknowledges the futility of revisionist history. Perhaps borne of recognition of the propensity of human nature to view such scenarios through a rose colored glasses perspective and/or one of denial?

"Good insight", said Vincent.

"A little of both, with a simpler third option tossed in. Remember, this was Berkeley. There was an omnipresent haze of weed smoke and tear gas which kept most in a constant daze. Hence the change in spelling.

"(Rubinoos co-founder) Tommy (Dunbar) and I wrote the song. I wrote the first verse, he the second. Our childhood experiences were quite different, however. Hillside was my escape from "the mean old man", but it never lasted long. That's all I'll say about that for now, but you can extrapolate. So yeah, some rose-colored glasses seeing only the youthful, playful spirit!"

Indeed, revisionist history faces another head on challenge in It Could've Been Me. The track serves as a universal "what if" lament, in which the protagonist attempts to reconcile the difficulties of spending holidays apart from a former significant other, who brings that reality front and center annually with their home made Christmas cards, which feature photographs of them with their happy family.

"This album and songs came very easily to me", said Vincent.

"I couldn't help but write and record them!"

Most encouragingly, Vincent takes a decisive step towards inner healing with Before We Learn To Love, an answer song of sorts to Eric Carmen's All By Myself that takes inaction to task, elevating the subject matter at hand to the world stage in the process. The deal is sealed in Soon, in which the adverb that comprises the title receives a reality check in the form of "Soon has lost its meaning" and "Soon means I don't know when, so I'll never use that word again".

To bring it all full circle, the inspiration of the Barry Manilow ballad approach very much remains a key factor. This is especially evidenced in Before We Learn To Love (with its positively brilliant proclamation of, "How many times can we deny, how many broken hearts around the world must cry.....We take for granted our things that all of money can bring, but when we have it all, will it be enough?......I just sat and prayed for a better day"), as well as in the title track. 

"Well first of all, that's a huge compliment if that's how you're hearing it", said Vincent.

"That means I may have finally figured this pop song thing out! But intentionally? Not at all. I just think the radio station in my mind is always playing the greatest melodic, best produced and arranged songs with heart-pulling lyrics that filled my youth."

Not that the mission statement at hand is borne entirely of fatalism, though. Saturday's Mine takes the living for the weekend anticipation of the Vogues' Five O'clock World a step further. Its Bay City Rollers/David Cassidy-like arrangement serves as an encouraging reminder that starry eyed optimism need not diminish with the march of time, even when tempered by the prerequisite rites of passage.

"I'm so lucky to have had those songs to draw from", said Vincent.

"But when I'm writing or recording, I don't consciously draw upon them." 

Narita (Tokyo Girl) provides testimony to that effect with its account of Vincent's ongoing superstardom in Japan, enabling him to both deal in matter of fact manner with his Bay City Rollers experience and reap its ongoing dividends. Narita (Tokyo Girl) was previously released as a seven-inch vinyl single in 2015.

"I'm very proud of the writing on this record", said Vincent.

"There were certain concepts that I've never really heard addressed in the way I did, which is always, or should be, a goal of an artist. And I also felt incredibly free in the writing of the music and arrangements. I just went where I wanted without much regard to key or tempo or even lyric in some cases, especially on the bridges. I didn't over think anything. Thinking kills creativity." 

To drive the point home, Vincent (who handles keyboard duties throughout the proceedings) enlisted the services of fellow visionary Lisa Mychols as a backing vocalist on La La, an upbeat tale of first love celebration. Tommy Dunbar also serves as the album's guitarist, thereby keeping the proceedings under a united front. In the process, Vincent has arguably released his finest album to date.

"Thanks for digging the new album", said Vincent.

"I agree that it may be my best. I'm a bit bummed that I can't seem to figure out how to get the world to listen to it. But hopefully your review will convince the masses!

And with that, like the protagonist in one of this collection's standout tracks, Vincent comes home a hero.