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Lon & Derrek Van Eaton - Brother

Lon & Derrek Van Eaton - Brother

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Title:  Brother
Company: Apple
Catalog: SMAS 3390
Year: 1973
Country/State: Trenton, New Jersey
Grade (cover/record): VG+ / VG+
Comments: gatefold sleeve; no insert

Okay, the album cover wasn't exactly the smartest marketing move Apple Records even made, but it leads to the fact that today bothers Derrek and Lol Van Eaton are largely unknowns. If someone recognizes their name it's likely a result of their brief partnership with The Beatles' Apple Records label.

The Van Eatons grew up in Trenton, New Jersey and by the late 1960s were playing local clubs, recording demos in an effort to attract a major label deal. They eventually signed with Apple and were flown to London where they made their debut with a 1972 George Harrison produced single:

- 'Sweet Music' b/w 'Song of Song' (Apple catalog number 1645)

Even though the single didn't do a great deal commercially, Apple decided to finance an album, teaming them with Beatles friend Klaus Vormann producing. Released in 1973 "Brother" showcased an above average collection of varied, but fairly commercial pop and rock moves. The set actually pulled together a mixture of home demos ('Warm Woman'), apparent demos previously recorded in New York's Bell Studios (Hear My Cry'' and ''Help Us All), and new studio material. The multi-talented Van Eatons were responsible for writing all eleven tracks and handled much of the instrumentation themselves, though the set sported one of the year's most impressive collection of studio musicians, including Ringo Starr on a pair of songs and The Edison Electric Band lead guitarist T.J. Tinson (Tinson was also from Trenton). About half the album was composed of ballads and mid-tempo numbers. While tracks like 'Warm Woman' and 'Another Thought ' weren't bad, they weren't particularly memorable and ultimately did little to highlight the pair's talents. In contrast, their more rock and pop oriented performances were far stronger, accounting for most of the album highlights.

- 'Warm Woman' was an odd choice for an opening track. A slow, bluesy ballad, the song featured a strange '50s tinge to it. The results were even weirder given Derrek seemed more than a little uncomfortable crooning in a falsetto. rating: ** stars
- A mid-tempo bluesy number, 'Sun Song' had the makings of a good song, but the track just plodded along until the very end when the track picked up some speed and the catchy 'sun, sun, will you come' hook finally revealed itself. Shame it took so long to get there. rating: *** stars
- 'More Than Words' was a pretty acoustic ballad that served to showcase Derrek's nice voice. Unfortunately, the track wasn't particularly memorable. rating: ** stars
- Side one's most conventional rocker, 'Hear My Cry' was also the best performance. With a great pounding melody, Derrek finally unleashed the restraint found on the earlier performances, showing he could easily handle up-tempo, Gospel-tinged material. Not that anyone cares, but this was the one I would have tapped as a single. rating: **** stars
- 'Without the Lord' sported a strange country hoedown melody - Imagine Paul McCartney's 'Sally G' and you'll get a feel for it. On a positive note, the song did showcase the brothers nice harmony vocals. rating: ** stars
- Previously released as a single, 'Sweet Music' was an okay ballad and the track actually got better as it went along. Producer Harrison slapped his trademarked production touches on the track giving it that instantly recognizable 'big' Spector-styled feel that characterized his '70s catalog. Elsewhere, Starr's drums were quite pronounced in the mix. rating: ** stars
- 'Help Us All ' started side two with another bluesy ballad with a focus on Lon's keyboards. Maybe because this one included a Gospel edge, it was one of the album's more memorable performances. rating: *** stars
- One of the album's standout performances, 'Maybe There's Another' had an instantly memorable melody, some great harmony vocals from the brothers, and one of those choruses that wormed its way into your head and wouldn't leave. Should have been a massive hit for them. rating: **** stars
- 'Ring' found the brothers trying to get funky ... can't say the results were all that impressive. rating: ** stars
- Funny, I remember hearing the instrumental opening to 'Sunshine' and thinking it was a Supertramp song and then when Lon's vocal kicked in I thought it was a Badinger number. The album's most playful tune with another commercial melody and some great fuzz guitar. Another album highlight. rating: **** stars
- The album closed with the heavily orchestrated ballad 'Another Thought'. Well, at least T.J. Tindall's guitar solo was nice. rating: ** stars

- The album was also tapped for a follow-on UK single:

- 1973's 'Warm Woman' b/w 'More Than Words' (Apple catalog number 46)

I won't make any attempt to claim this is a great album. It isn't, but that said the set had enough successes to make it a worthwhile acquisition given you can still find cheap copies.

"Brother" track listing:
(side 1)
1.) Warm Woman (Derrek Van eaton - Lol Van Eaton) - 3:01
2.) Sun Song (Derrek Van eaton - Lol Van Eaton) - 3:57
3.) More Than Words (Derrek Van eaton - Lol Van Eaton) - 2:16
4.) Hear My Cry (Derrek Van eaton - Lol Van Eaton)- 3:00
5.) Without the Lord (Derrek Van eaton - Lol Van Eaton) - 1:37
6.) Sweet Music (Derrek Van eaton - Lol Van Eaton) - 3:41

(side 2)
1.) Help Us All (Derrek Van eaton - Lol Van Eaton) - 2:53
2.) Maybe There's Another (Derrek Van eaton - Lol Van Eaton) - 2:42
3.) Ring (Derrek Van eaton - Lol Van Eaton) - 2:24
4.) Sunshine (Derrek Van eaton - Lol Van Eaton) - 2:47
5.) Another Thought (Derrek Van eaton - Lol Van Eaton) - 3:41

Lon remains active in music through his Music for a Better World company.
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