by Jeff Fiedler
Albums from the Lost & Found is a regular feature on thegreatalbums.com in which contributor Jeff Fiedler reviews and helps us rediscover great pop albums that seem to have been lost to time.
While the long-forgotten late ‘80s pop/rock band Bourgeois Tagg only ever made two albums before splitting up, the band’s individual members have gone on to even greater prominence. All five members went on to serve as the backing band on Todd Rundgren’s Nearly Human album, while band members Larry Tagg, Lyle Workman, and Michael Urbano would serve as part of Rundgren’s touring band in support of the album, Workman going on to work with Rundgren on the follow-up album, 2nd Wind, as well. Brent Bourgeois scored a Top 40 solo hit in 1990 with the first-rate soulful adult-contemporary single “Dare to Fall in Love” before becoming a major force in the ‘90s in the world of Contemporary Christian music, both as a solo artist, a co-writer and producer for the likes of Michael W. Smith, Rachael Lampa, 4Him, Points of Grace, and Jaci Velasquez, to name just a few, and as the vice-president of A&R at Word Records in the late ‘90s as well. Michael Urbano would go on to become an in-demand session drummer for the likes of Paul Westerberg, John Hiatt, and Sheryl Crow before becoming the full-time drummer for Smash Mouth. Lyle Workman, after serving as a guitarist for Beck on several tours, would make a name for himself as one of the most in-demand composers in the film business, scoring such high-profile comedies as Superbad, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Made, and Yes Man.
The band got its start in 1984, releasing its first album, a self-titled effort, two years later on Island Records (whose biggest acts at the time included U2, Steve Winwood, and Robert Palmer); the disc did receive a modest amount of college-radio play, thanks to the single “Mutual Surrender (What a Wonderful World), but the album failed to do much on the charts. Wisely, the band recruited one of their idols, the legendary Todd Rundgren, then basking in critical praise over his recent production work on XTC’s Skylarking, to produce their sophomore outing, Yoyo. The move proved to be an inspired one and helped to make Yoyo not only the best of the band’s two albums but one of the greatest lost mainstream-pop albums of the entire decade.
With Rundgren’s assistance, the band even managed this time out to score a Top 40 single (and MTV hit) with the clever ballad “I Don’t Mind at All,” penned and sung by Bourgeois. (The track unfortunately peaked at #38, though it did make the Top Five on the Adult Contemporary chart.) The song’s awfully atypical of its era, and is much more easily comparable to the Beatles’ “Yesterday” with its relatively bare-bones instrumental bed of acoustic guitar, an occasional military-style snare fill, and a string quartet, but it’s still an absolutely first-rate pop song, complex yet catchy, sophisticated yet accessible, and remains one of the most underrated singles of the late ‘80s.
It’s odd in retrospect that “I Don’t Mind at All” was the only hit on here, because the album is certainly not lacking for pop hooks and there are other cuts here that sound much more obviously contemporary and would have consequently fit much more effortlessly onto Top 40 playlists. The album’s lead-off cut, “Best of All Possible Worlds,” pulls off the neat feat of successfully fusing gritty, rock-oriented verses to a smooth and soulful – and incredibly catchy – pop chorus, and it’s particularly fun listening to Workman shift from style to style on his guitar. The pure soul-pop of “Cry like a Baby” benefits from really clever instrumental ornamentation, such as sitar or xylophone fills, while “15 Minutes in the Sun” similarly has its own share of ear candy in its synthesized horns and also boasts a jaw-dropping guitar solo from Workman and some especially muscular drumming from Urbano.
The album is actually extremely back-loaded, too, every last cut on the second side being a real winner. Besides “I Don’t Mind at All,” there’s the incredibly addictive “Stress,” co-written by Charlie Peacock, who would go on to produce both of the Civil Wars’ albums, as well as Switchfoot’s “Dare You to Move,” and co-write Amy Grant’s massive hit “Every Heartbeat.” Rundgren himself likened “Stress” to an Ohio Players B-side, and the analogy isn’t far off, actually; it’s surprisingly funky, and Larry Tagg does a phenomenal job with his bass work on the cut. Tagg’s bass work is also a highlight on the gorgeous, percussive jazz-pop of “What’s Wrong with This Picture,” co-written with Larry’s brother Eric, who had served as the lead vocalist on Lee Ritenour’s Top 20 pop hit “Is It You” six years earlier. Bourgeois’ “Coma” is simply dreamy and hypnotic and provides the perfect closing cut for the album. Best of all, though, is the second-side opener, the wildly inventive Larry Tagg-sung “Waiting for the Worm to Turn,” a melodically complex yet surprisingly catchy song that benefits from Rundgren’s creative touches to make the song slither, such as having Urbano periodically eschew cymbals in favor of alternative forms of percussion. On paper, it’s a very complicated song in its chord structure, but the band and its producer find a way of pulling it all together into something that’s strangely very commercial.
Though the band never did make a proper third album together, you may want to check out Bourgeois’ solo album Don’t Look Back and Tagg’s solo album With a Skeleton Crew, both of which feature all five members of the band and the latter of which even includes a song rescued from what would have been the third Bourgeois Tagg album.