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Music Review: Brute Force – I, Brute Force, Confections Of Love

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Brute Force is the nom de’ plume of Stephen Friedland, a man who began his music career as a New York session player in the early sixties. It was a good place for an aspiring musician to be, and he made a number of important contacts. Enough to land him a deal with Columbia Records as it happened, who released his debut I, Brute Force, Confections Of Love in 1967.

The album was a stiff, and Columbia dropped him. But it did bring him a couple of high profile fans in John Lennon and George Harrison. They signed him to Apple, and released a single in 1968. One thousand copies of “The Kind Of Fuh” b/w “Nobody Knows” were sent out, then EMI Capitol dropped the hammer. They refused to distribute the record because of its forbidden lyrical content. The chorus of “All hail the Fuh King” sounded a little too much like “fucking” for them, and that was the end of his tenure as an Apple artist.

Brute Force is a musician I have heard a great deal about over the years, but have never previously had opportunity to listen to. So I was pretty excited to hear that is was to be reissued. I did wonder whether an obscure 43 year old record could ever live up to the expectations I had for it  though.

Confections Of Love does live up to its reputation as a classic, but not in the ways I had originally expected it to. Rather than being the suave, confident, obviously appealing album I always thought it would be, Confections is an insidious charmer. What immediately struck me was the wide variety of musical styles used to deliver some of the most absurd and surreal lyrics ever. Confections Of Love is such a winning combination of music and humor, I just cannot imagine someone listening to it and not smiling by the end.

Besides “King Of Fuh” I was especially impressed with the opening track, “In Jim’s Garage.” It is an excellent example of the depths Brute Force goes in to set the perfect stage for his songs. As a parody of sixties-era suburban snobbery, there is nothing else like it. Musically reminiscent of “Leader Of The Pack,” and other “teen tragedy” ditties, we dread what will be revealed. And it is tragic news for the parents, their daughter has fallen in love with a mechanic, and now spends her time “In Jim’s Garage.”

Many of the songs play out like mini-movies. At times he will deliver both sides of a conversation so easily you do not even notice. Elsewhere he so fully sets the scene that you can almost see it unfold. The effortless use of various musical genres to convey the intent of each song is the most remarkable aspect of the album to me though.

Bar None has just reissued I, Brute Force, Confections Of Love in an expanded edition. In addition to the original 11 tracks, it includes both sides of the Apple single, plus three previously unreleased tracks recorded around the same time. Confections Of Love really is a lost classic, and I hope other like-minded souls discover it this time around.

About Greg Barbrick