Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Free Design - Sing for Very Important People

The Free Design produced an album of songs for "very important people" back in 1970, and its appeal hasn't weakened a bit as those very important people have grown up. Inspired by the release of Peter, Paul and Mary's 1969 album Peter, Paul and Mommy, The Free Design produced a batch of new songs specifically for younger listeners, combined those tunes with a few the band had already released, and came up with their fifth album, Sing for Very Important People.

The Free Design were a band of siblings from Delevan, New York, who created jazzy, bubbly, sunshine pop similar to the sounds of The Carpenters, The Fifth Dimension, The Zombies, or The Millennium. The Dedrick family lived and recorded in Queens, New York, from the late 1960s to the early 1970s, releasing seven albums during their time together.

Chris Dedrick wrote and arranged most of The Free Design's songs, although Sandy, Bruce, and Ellen Dedrick all contributed their considerable instrumental and vocal talents. Besides performing their own songs, The Free Design created unique cover versions of songs by The Beatles, The Doors, Paul Simon, The Mamas and The Papas, Tim Hardin, and The Turtles, as well as by composers like Stephen Schwartz, Hal David and Burt Bacharach, Hugo Montenegro, and George Gershwin.

The Dedrick siblings were all accomplished musicians, but during their tenure as The Free Design the band utilized the instrumental talents of some of the best session musicians around at the time. The Free Design's albums featured guitarists like Ralph Casale, Tony Mottola, and Jay Berliner, keyboardists like Paul Griffin and Dick Hyman, and bassists like Chuck Rainey.

Sing for Very Important People begins with "Don't Cry, Baby," a Carole King-like piano number that offers comfort to little ones. Joe Raposo, Jon Stone, and Bruce Hart's classic "Can You Tell Me How to Get to Sesame Street?" follows, offering an even sunnier, more upbeat version of the Sesame Street theme than the original, if that's possible! The gentle, atmospheric "Children's Waltz" asks, "what makes a raindrop fall?" while the sprightly piano ballad "Scarlet Tree" is full of vibrant imagery. The Dedrick siblings' father Art wrote "Little Cowboy," whose jazzy clippety clop helps bring little range riders' days to a gentle close.

The tune "Love You" may be the most well-known song by The Free Design because of its use on movie soundtracks and in commercials. The song was featured during the credits of the 2006 film Stranger Than Fiction, at the very end of season four of the Showtime series Weeds, and as the theme song to the internet podcast “Jordan Jesse Go." “Love You” was also featured in TV commercials for Peter’s Drumstick ice creams in Australia, “Smil” chocolate in Norway, “Cosmote” in Greece, DC Shoes’ second “Progression” short, in Toyota advertisements internationally, and most recently with Delta Airlines. "Love You" encourages grownups to find the child within and live life with a sense of wonder, via an unforgettable weave of mostly a cappella vocal harmonies.

"Ronda Go Round" describes a magical merry-go-round with a gently funky pop backing, explaining that "this one’s special, the beasts they are free, showing little children sights they can’t see." The rhythmically challenging "Bubbles," originally released on 1970's Stars/Time/Bubbles/Love, includes a wicked guitar solo and contemplates such heavy subjects as parental conflict, aging and death, and the second coming of Jesus Christ, acknowledging that kids think about heavy stuff like that. "Daniel Dolphin," a baroque, chamber music-like tune that describes a friendship with an aquatic creature, first appeared on You Could Be Born Again in 1968. And "Kites Are Fun," arguably The Free Design's poppiest, catchiest tune, was originally released on the band's 1967 album of the same name. Sing for Very Important People gently comes to a close with an a cappella "Lullaby," showcasing The Free Design's prowess at complex vocal harmonies.

The Free Design's influence on indie pop is evidenced by the output of recent bands like The High Llamas, Cornelius, Beck, Stereolab, and Belle and Sebastian. The super hip kids' show Yo Gabba Gabba! has featured covers of "Kites Are Fun" by The Parallelograms, "2002 - A Hit Song" by the Yo Gabba Gabba! house band The Yo Dazzlers, and "I Found Love" by The Trembling Blue Stars. Sing for Very Important People is a great example of The Free Design's musical strengths and aural appeal, besides being a super album for kids and their families.

Released 1970; Project 3

Track Listing
  1. "Don't Cry, Baby"
  2. "Can You Tell Me How to Get to Sesame Street?"
  3. "Children's Waltz"
  4. "Scarlet Tree"
  5. "Little Cowboy"
  6. "Love You"
  7. "Ronda Go Round"
  8. "Bubbles"
  9. "Daniel Dolphin"
  10. "Kites Are Fun"
  11. "Lullaby"