Into the Ear of Madness: Week 8 — Keane! (No, Not That Keane)

Written by Into the Ear of Madness, Music

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Over the next year Terje Fjelde has agreed to listen to nothing but David Foster on his iPod. He’s loaded the thing with over 1,200 songs produced, arranged, composed, and/or played by David Foster. A deal with the devil? He keeps wondering.

Let’s return to the 1970s today, shall we? Up for some pre-teen pop, maybe? Wait, don’t go! It’s better than you may think.

The Keane Brothers by The Keane Brothers (1977) is another early David Foster production. The record was released when John Keane was 11 and Tom Keane 12, and all songs (save one) were written by the brothers themselves. Both of them were multi-instrumentalists and they were coached by their dad, Bob Keane, musician, producer and owner of Del-Fi Records. These guys were pretty amazing — take a look at this clip from a TV show in early 1977. It’s John on drums and Tom on piano and vocals. “Amy (Show The World You’re There)” refers to Amy Carter, by the way:

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The Keane Brothers consists of light pop with some unmistakable David Foster trademarks. He produced and arranged the album and, as usual, he’s in good company: The Tower of Power horn section, Bill Champlin on background vocals and arrangements, Larry Carlton and Jay Graydon on guitars, Jeff Porcaro, Ed Greene and Nigel Olsson on drums and Lee Sklar and Mike Porcaro on bass.

All these guys had settled as first-call studio players by this time, and you can find them on most of Foster’s productions (and just about everything else recorded between 1977 and 1990) along with the rest of the gang: Dean Parks, John Robinson, Dave Hungate, Abe Laboriel, Mike Landau, Ray Parker, Jr., and so on — you’re a Popdose reader, so you probably know the deal.

Now that you know who plays on all these records I’m writing about, I guess there’s no need for me to ever bring it up again. Too bad; I love listing session musicians.

“The Ugly One” was written by Tom Keane and B.J. Cook Foster, and the lyrics are amusing — it reminds me of the time me and my friends had a band when we were about 10. We wrote some pretty candid lyrics about the appearances of some of the the girls in our class, like “Brenda is so ugly I could die / I hate her so much I wish she’d fry” — or something to that effect, anyway. This is on the same level of maturity, I think.

Tom’s vocals are impressive for a 12-year old, and it’s obvious to my finely tuned ears who’s the vocal coach — he duplicates practically every single trick in Bill Champlin’s book at the time. There’s not much of Champlin’s grit to be found yet, though. (We’ll listen to Champlin’s first solo album next week, so come back next Thursday for a comparison.)

I love the single “Sherry” far more than I probably should. It has a magnificent, sunny refrain, and although it never made much of an impact on American charts (it peaked at #84), it was a number one hit in Canada. This was in large part due to MAPL, or the Canadian contents requirements for radio and television broadcasters — both the producer and the songwriter, Dwayne Ford, were from Canada.

Foster and Ford go way back to the Ronnie Hawkins days, and in 1982 Foster produced Dwayne Ford’s solo album, Needless Freaking.

Listen to “Lovin’ and Losin’ You” from that record — it’s wonderful, wonderful stuff — great song and great arrangement. I always plug it whenever I get an opportunity.

The brothers released four albums between 1977 and 1982, and they went from light pop via a touch of disco in 1979 to sounding like “little Toto” in 1981-82. By that time they had changed their name to Keane and were joined by Jason Scheff on bass. Scheff, of course, went on to become the new tenor/bass player in Chicago after Peter Cetera’s departure in 1985.

Although the Keane Brothers released a few albums and had a four-week television special in 1977, they never became the stars they were destined to be. According to their dad, they were all about the music, and they profusely refused any scheme to go down the Donny Osmond lane. Good for them: Tom turned into a highly successful songwriter and John had an active career as a session musician and he has also scored several TV shows, most notably CSI.

Tom’s writing credits are pretty impressive (from a commercial point of view, anyway) — including Chaka Khan’s “Through the Fire” (1984) and Chicago’s “Will You Still Love Me?” (1986). He was barely out of his teens when he co-wrote those songs with David Foster, but his songwriting career seems to have stalled in recent years. Maybe he turned into a successful country songwriter? Both brothers have released solo albums to little fanfare.

The Keane Brothers has been out of print forever. These tracks were ripped from the original vinyl LP on 20th Century Records.