Songs You May Have Missed #734

Toy Matinee: “Last Plane Out” (1990)

Producer Patrick Leonard, having earned Warner Brothers Records around half a billion dollars by co-writing and producing Madonna albums such as True Blue, Like a Prayer and I’m Breathless, was asked by label chair Mo Austin “What would you like?”.

He replied, “I just want to make a record”, meaning a record of his own material.

Patrick Leonard

The result was Toy Matinee, the one and only album by the band of the same name–possibly the best band ever to have released only one record.

Leonard collaborated with bassist Guy Pratt, singer/multi-instrumentalist Kevin Gilbert, drummer Brian MacLeod, and guitarist Tim Pierce–most of whom had previously worked together on Madonna albums.

Probably because of this previous musical collaboration, the collective gelled into a band, felt like a band, and played like a real band immediately in a way that astounded producer/engineer Bill Bottrell.

Kevin Gilbert

Leonard, being a fan of progressive rock and jazz fusion, had previously sprinkled Madonna songs with largely unnoticed touches of the influence of such artists–“sneaking a lot of stuff by people”, as he described it.

For example, the outro of “Like a Prayer” has a bass line that mimics Jaco Pastorius of Weather Report.

“Cherish” features a shuffle beat in the style of drummer Bernard Purdie, played by Jeff Porcaro. Both Purdie and Porcaro are Steely Dan session alumni.

And the lead track from Toy Matinee, “Last Plane Out”, opens with a conspicuously nimble-fingered, too-good-for-pop acoustic intro that owes a debt to Gentle Giant.

Bill Bottrell

Bottrell’s production helped create an album that straddles the worlds of mainstream, “accessible” music and something more ambitious by reigning in the proggier tendencies of the session aces in the room.

All this and so much more is explained by the band themselves in this short documentary about the making of an album that once filled cutout bins and is now a hard-to-find cult favorite fetching top dollar.

“Last Plane Out” was one of two single releases from the LP, both of which peaked at #23 on Billboard‘s Mainstream Rock Tracks chart.

The band never cracked the Pop top 40 and the album only managed a peak US chart position of #129.

There are no true band photos to share here because, being session players with other commitments, the guys who recorded the album never toured it. Kevin Gilbert assembled an entirely new band that performed the material on several short tours.

If only Toy Matinee could have had a career, not just an album.

Video of the Week: Walking the Line Between Proggy and Accessible–The Story of Toy Matinee

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