The Free Design

Kites Are Fun

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"It's a young thing -- and it's a different thing!" -- so proclaimed the back cover of the handsome gatefold jacket on the Free Design's debut album, in words that couldn't have dissuaded more people under 30 from buying the album if the makers had tried. And that's a crying shame, because Kites Are Fun was a glorious product of the same zeitgeist that yielded the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album and a dozen other triumphant pop-psychedelic albums. Kites Are Fun is almost an East Coast answer to the work of the Mamas & the Papas or Spanky & Our Gang, falling between the former at their most subtle and the latter at their most ethereal. The album is very much a product of its era, a lyrical, boundlessly cheerful body of music featuring gentle orchestral accompaniment and glittering sound, and some of it -- such as "Make the Madness Stop" -- possesses a vaguely spiritual content. Sandy Dedrick gets a brilliant solo showcase on "When Love Is Young," while "The Proper Ornaments" returned to a group setting with elegant trumpet and cello accompaniment. There's at least one follow-up to "Kites Are Fun," entitled "Umbrellas," that should have gotten a hearing, and a swinging, upbeat showcase for all of the singers entitled "Never Tell the World"; and, in addition to the group members' originals, the 13 songs include highly ornate covers of Simon & Garfunkel's "Feelin' Groovy" and the Beatles' "Michelle" (beautifully deconstructing both songs and re-imagining them with new tempi and choruses), and the movie-spawned hit "A Man and a Woman." It's all worth tracking down in used-record bins (the jacket is a beautiful artifact of its era) or buying on remastered CD.

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