TVD Premiere:
Jon Klages, “1133 Ave.
of the Americas
(For Enoch Light)”

Let us now praise Enoch Light.

A violinist and dance band leader from the 1920s to the ’40s, his name became associated with an avalanche of instrumental albums in the late ’50s and ’60s, hit sound effects records that demonstrated the possibilities of stereo, and a string of albums of light, jazzy vocalese groups that became influential. Altogether, Light released 25 albums from 1959 to 1971, with two reaching Number 1; he held the record for having the most charting LPs without a single Top 40 single.

But to his grandson, Jon Light Klages, it mostly meant a whole lot of work, hauling boxes of records from the main offices of the label Project 3 to the post office, a moment of time he encapsulates in a new track “1133 Ave. of the Americas (For Enoch Light)” that’s getting its premiere today at The Vinyl District.

“Every day, I would grab as many packaged LPs as my scrawny teenaged arms could carry and head to the post office on 42nd Street between 8th and 9th Avenues,” Klages recalls. He’d grow from those teen years to become a founding member in the influential Hoboken outfit The Individuals with Glenn Morrow, Doug and Janet Wygal, and would later record his own solo album for Hoboken’s Coyote Records that included the recording debut of Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley of Yo La Tengo. After touring with Richard Lloyd of Television, Klages moved to Los Angeles, where he’s worked with various bands of its Paisley Underground.

The blissed-out bossa nova of his new album Fabulous Twilight might seem incongruous with his past, unless one begins digging back into the Enoch Light history. In addition to canny symphonic versions of popular music and a Number 1 album, Persuasive Percussion, Light helped introduce the harmony groups like The Free Design, whose work has gone on to influence Stereolab, Beck, and the High Llamas.

In fact, Klages’ “1133 Ave. of the Americas” quotes “Kites are Fun,” one of the cult classics from Free Design, the vocal group made up of New York siblings. “The way that I hear vocals interacting,” he says, are from Free Design, “but also the Mamas and the Papas and the Swingle Singers, who had vocalese parts I always thought were fun. I think traces of those vocal groups appear throughout the record.” But the new album also has the guitar-led instrumental “Too Cool for Spy School,” the piano coda “Goin’ Home,” the loungey title track, and the oddball funk of “Kazoos are People Too.”

“When I started writing material for this album, I realized that musically it was coming from a lot of different directions and rather than resist it, which is something I might have done decades earlier, wondering what genre this fits into, I just kind of embraced the variety and I realized that many of my favorite albums growing up were albums that are a range of different styles,” Klages says over the phone from Los Angeles.

“You’d hear a ballad, followed by a novelty song or a little instrumental interlude. It’s like there weren’t any kind of restrictions. That kind of appealed to me. And fortunately, I began to feel the material cohere, and it seemed to be working together and taking us on an interesting journey.”

Fabulous Twilight enumerates some of his specific influences by naming the 10 albums he ordered for a penny on a track called “God Bless the Columbia House Record Club.” Among his youthful choices: Smash Hits, Jimi Hendrix Experience; Joni Mitchell, Blue; Bob Dylan, Blonde on Blonde (“that one counted as two”); T. Rex, Electric Warrior; Laura Nyro, Gonna Take a Miracle; Bobby Gentry, Ode to Billie Joe; but also Don Rickles’ comedy album, Hello Dummy! “My vinyl mania had begun,” he declares. But hints of his youthful love for vocal harmonies may be seen in that two of his other choices were by Three Dog Night.

In addition to their sound, Enoch Light albums for Command Records and Project 3 also made their mark in vinyl design—producing the first gatefold sleeves and often commissioning bold geometric design from well-known artists of the day, from Joseph Albers to Charles E. Murphy (Klages’ new album cover pays tribute to that distinctive styling as well).

Fabulous Twilight, due out April 1 on Danbury Fair Recordings and produced by Todd Solomon , boasts an impressive rhythm section of drummer Pete Thomas and bassist Davey Faragher, who had a couple days off on the Elvis Costello tour. “The whole project was touched by a marvelous serendipity,” Klages says. Studio owner David Kalish had worked with the pair.

Neil Larsen handles keyboards; Arnold McCuller, a vocalist for James Taylor and Bonnie Raitt, stepped in as part of a vocal mix that also includes the Honey Whiskey Trio. They helped flesh out the vocal complexities that had resurfaced from the time he first heard them in his grandfather’s studio (where his mother also served as an associate producer).

“As a kid sometimes you reject what influences are close to you, especially if they’re family influences, because maybe they’re square or you want to follow a different route. But I think they crept in. Certainly my grandfather’s work also reflected a great breadth of musical styles. He made big band records, jazz records, pop records. I think that made an imprint on my musical consciousness.”

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  • Kevin Schwartz

    Reminds me of XTC circa Apple Venus Vol. 1…Andy Partridge would dig this for sure! Beautiful stuff.

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