GOLDMINE: Finally, Sunset Plaza Drive has arrived and I think it is your finest work. Your vocals are wonderful throughout the album. Thank goodness Khalil is such a fan to bring us this lost recording. At the magazine’s office in 1978, we had a stack of promotional albums for review consideration. I was so pleased to see your Set the World on Fire album in that pile. I chose it for my next album review. I knew the catchy title song from FM radio, which was released as the first single, and reminded me of Bachman-Turner Overdrive. What I was pleasantly surprised about were the softer numbers on the album including the next single “Frustration” and its flip side “Town of Evil People.” I wrote about your composition, “A very pretty song, ‘Town of Evil People’ is orchestrated with excellence.”
DAVE BURTON: Oh dear, thank you for enjoying our music. I wrote “Frustration” with our late drummer Clive and it came together quite well. “Town of Evil People” I had in the box for quite a time, actually, before I joined Liar and it just came to fruition in the studio, really. It wasn’t even a song that I put forward for our Set the World on Fire album. We were just going through songs and John Alcock, the producer, wanted to go with it and we did. We got a good string arrangement on it, which you remarked on. It went quite well but it was never going to be a live song. We tried “Frustration” live but it didn’t quite work. We were a louder, leather band when we were playing live, and those two weren’t going to make it at that time.
Flip side: Town of Evil People
A side: Frustration (edited down to 3:15)
Debut: November 1978
Bearsville BSS 0333
Dave Burton – lead vocals and guitar
Steve Mann – guitar, keyboards and vocals
Dave Taylor – bass guitar and vocals
Paul Travis – guitar and vocals
Dave Brooks – drums and vocals
GM: On Sunset Plaza Drive, “Judy Teens” is a great album opener. That song and the next one, “Delaney,” remind me of that era, where if you were touring Canada, there is a band named Prism who would have been a great concert pairing with their keyboard driven sound.
DB: Styx, with their keyboard sound, is who we had hoped we would tour America with, which was the original plan, but there were so many things that happened with us. We were all over Europe on a tour and then we did our own gigs. We could never get our finger on the button while we were on the road and heard so many different stories. Our part on a Styx tour got waylaid somehow.
GM: At the end of “Delaney” I hear a mandolin part that I enjoy.
DB: I do believe that is us with Bob Dylan’s mandolin, which was part of the studio setup, lying around. We recorded at Stevie Wonder’s Crystal Sounds Studios in Los Angeles and met Stevie there around Christmas time in 1978, when he came to bring the staff gifts. I did get to shake his hand which is a great honor for a singer.
GM: Absolutely and with Stevie Wonder, I also think about keyboards. “Brand New World” has a great piano opening from Steve and then Clive’s drums really drive that song.
DB: I think one of the best drummers that I have ever worked with was Clive. He drove everything and his beat was always solid. He never sped up or slowed down.
GM: Who is drumming on the new finale “Woman,” finished after Clive’s passing?
DB: We recorded most of that years ago and then I put a new vocal on it last October, so part of it is Clive’s drumming and part of it is Steve putting his drumming on it as well, because we wanted Clive to be part of it, even though he isn’t with us anymore. Originally the recording was sort of a demo, but nothing ever materialized with it. We were actually split up by then. When we were planning on releasing Sunset Plaza Drive, in addition to the original ten songs we also wanted to use “Woman,” but the drums weren’t mixed enough to be a full on mix, but Clive is still playing on it, basically, with a bit of help from Steve.
GM: There is a lot on that bonus song with the keyboards and guitar. Part of it reminds me of Jefferson Starship’s “Jane” and some of it reminds me of .38 Special, so I think it is a wonderful addition to what would have been the original album.
DB: It is one of Paul’s compositions and a good add on.
GM: It sure is and “Too Rich” is another favorite of mine. Again the keyboards from Steve are very strong.
DB: Yes and in addition to his keyboard work I also like Steve’s lead guitar work on the tracks where he played lead. They are very good.
GM: The saxophone on “Midnight Lady” is a nice accent.
DB: That is John Helliwell from Supertramp. We were in Stevie Wonder’s studio for quite a time, months. We lived on Sunset Plaza Drive, which is where the album’s title came from, at the top of the street, overlooking the Hollywood sign with Mick Fleetwood’s house just down the road, who we unfortunately never met, although there was talk of a Fleetwood Mac tour with us opening. Supertramp were trying to get a mix on their Breakfast in America album and were in Stevie Wonder’s mixing room. They came and listened to us record and I did a bit of backing vocals on one of their songs as well.
GM: Since Liar you have worked on other musical projects.
DB: Yes, singing and playing in a variety of bands, but I have been retired for years. I am an old man! Steve is the youngster in the band, about eight years younger than me, so he’s still going. Now I sing in a rock choir, go to shows at blues and rock clubs, and do a lot of walking with my eleven year old dog Maisie, who is a Jack Russell. Recently, I have been working on this release. Khalil had seen us opening for the band UFO in 1979 on a big tour in Britain and he became a fan from then on. He was at university at the time. He was a big UFO fan, but said we blew them off the stage, apparently. I know we had a good tour with them. He has been wanting to release this album for some time. Now it is finally out. Thank you again for your appreciation and thanks a lot for ringing. Cheers!