Sunday, April 08, 2018

Debbie Lori Kaye-Columbia Singles

Debbie Lori Kaye had the unique distinction of being of Portuguese heritage, growing up Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario and being signed to Columbia Records as a teen.  It appears that she was possibly being groomed by CBS to be a consummate crossover artist.  She certainly straddled mid-sixties styles ranging from big production Nashville country through multiple branches of CanCon pop.   In other words, you could place her records somewhere between early Dolly Parton, Skeeter Davis and Lesley Gore.  This album starts with “Picking Up My Hat,” which was a #1 record in Canada for 9 weeks in 1965, and is undeniably catchy skip-a-long pop.  Her most recognized single “The Iron Cross” was arranged by Bergan White and later covered by the Untamed Youth. On this record released in July 1966, the lyrics defend her own donning of her boyfriend’s iron cross against the protests of her mother. Besides Peter Fonda in The Wild Angels some surfers, sidewalk surfers, gremmies, kooks and hodads wore these mass produced medals, most featuring a surfer on a board in the middle of the cross, as fashion accessories before the masses later clasped puka shell necklaces. The protagonist arguably claims the pendant is a symbol of her boyfriend’s love and the larger cross pattée shape no longer represents the horrific things it once did. She even slips in the fact that "some of our boys are dying over there," while many remained ineffectually fixated on a vending machine item. Then again, the younger generation was playing inconsiderately with a form of fire. What would Roland Barthes think? The B-side is the delightful “Baby What I Mean” which the Drifters would later convert into a R&B hit in late 1966 and then again covered by Spiral Starecase in 1969. However, her most compelling moment might be “The Playground” as it is laced with some monster fuzz guitar over subterranean lyrics, lavish strings and acoustic latticework.  Her one and only album from 1966, Hey Little One!, smartly included this track. This Columbia singles collection serves as a rectifying reintroduction to a singer previously resigned to one topical song, The expanded view presents a somewhat underrated musician who overlapped both national and musical borders.

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