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    The Free Design

    kites are fun

    Kites Are Fun ( 1967 )
    Kites Are Fun / Make The Madness Stop / When Love Is Young / Proper Ornaments / My Brother Woody / 59th Street Bridge Song / Don't Turn Away / Umbrellas / Michelle / Never Tell The World / Man And A Woman / Stay Another Season

    Pysch pop loveliness and perhaps one of the last great undiscovered Sixties groups. Well, when I say undiscovered, I of course mean that relatively. Plus, even though Free Design are a family singing group, they are no Carpenters or Osmonds. An influence on many groups, most notably Stereolab, their vocal blend sounds fairly unique to these ears. A smooth blend, clever harmonies, a mix of church choir, folk-rock and sunshine psych pop, with a few of Brian Wilson's 'ba ba bas' thrown in for good measure. On first listens, The Free Design may comes across as being too light and subtle for their own good, but open your ears and the wonderfully intricate and clever harmonies shine through. The melodies shine through and there's lots of them. Plus, the two cover versions here are superb, a Simon and Garfunkel number and The Beatles 'Michelle'. This is now officially my favourite cover of a Beatles song by some distance. The lyric remain intact but The Free Design's harmonies are stunning. A brief medieval burst of singing to open, a flute flutters away as they dig into the first verses. A fabulously arranged sequence of strings, light and delicate, enhancing the beauty. The medieval theme returns towards the end before we move off into a stunning outro, beautiful harmonies and they totally make the tune their own, some feat. The title track though is as good a place as any to 'explain' this group. A song so sincere yet so fabulously naive. It is indeed about flying kites, nothing deeper than that. Yet, they capture a feeling of joy and carefree childhoods and colour and safety. The bursts of harmonies are convincing, as the brothers and sister weave in and out of each other.

    'My Brother Woody' continues this theme of innocence. They don't have a brother called Woody as far as i'm aware, yet they paint such a charming, enchanting picture. Ah, another name to throw in here, you know The High Llamas? They've certainly been influenced by Free Design. 'Proper Ornaments' comes across as just the sort of thing Sean O'Hagen would try to write. The Free Design instantly eclipse most of his efforts by pure dint of their harmonies, flowing so beautifully and with such an evocative, timeless blend. A few songs do fade a little too much to become background music, yet 'Make The Madness Stop' and 'Umbrellas' are both further highlights on a wonderfully refreshing listen, like a warm spring-time shower.

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    top of page this page last updated 18/11/07


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