Stories was conceived in 1971 by former Left Banke maestro, Michael Brown. Initially intended as a backup band for his first solo offering, quickly the dynamics shifted when Brown was forced to abandon the project due to lack of material. Quickly, the label brought in Ian Lloyd who ultimately became Brown's muse and Stories was born. Brown's baroque stylings dominated the band's self-titled debut in 1972 and though there was little chart action, critics were quick to champion the band. Eddie Kramer was soon hired to helm production for the band's follow up, "About Us". Eddie's heavy-handed approach to the sessions caused considerable conflict within the band and shortly after tracking basic overdubs, Brown jumped ship. A replacement was brought in to complete the album and the band set out on its first major tour. Soon, the label became concerned by the album's poor chart placement and urged the band to release a stop gap single to provide enough time for them to record another album. That single was Hot Chocolate's "Brother Louie". Well, we know what happened next.
After coming off of a megahit single and successful tour, the band recorded and released "Travelling Undergound" in 1974. Critics and consumers were quick to rebuff the effort, as it was too progressive in places and overtly plagiaristic in others. The song in question was the band's only single from the record, "Mammy Blue", which bore an obvious likeness to "Brother Louie". By 1975 the band had been released from their contract and fizzled out shortly thereafter.
"About Us" is unquestionably the band's artistic peak, straddling the fine lines between rock, pomp, hard rock and pop. There isn't a weak track in the bunch and the performances are mesmerizing. Though Brown's visibility here is minimal, the rest of the band do an incredible job making up for the loss. "Please Please" is one of the most uplifting and perfectly written songs of the 70's. The rest is not far behind. I urge everyone to check out this brilliant piece of work and mourn, like I have, that Stories were not around long enough to see the kind of success they truly deserved.
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