Brute Force is an incredible American artist whoʼs been a cult secret for far too long (46 years and counting). Now more than ever the world needs Heavy/Funny, and you, gentle reader, prescient buyer, are in for a transformative treat.
Stephen Friedland, born in 1940, is the man behind the pseudonym Brute Force. As a young man in New York City, Friedland was introduced to The Tokens, an all-male doo-wop vocal group known for their hit, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.”
The Tokens hired Friedland to work as a songwriter for their music publishing company, Bright Tones Productions, and he eventually became the group’s keyboardist. While working for Bright Tones Productions, he wrote The Chiffons’ 1965 hit “Nobody Knows What’s Goin’ On (In My Mind But Me),” of which his version appears as a bonus track on this album.
In 1967, with famed producer John Simon on board, Friedland went into the studio to record his debut, I, Brute Force – Confections of Love. With this record, he embarked on a journey to depart from the conventions of the current pop music. Sprinkled with surprisingly conspicuous lyrics and diverse instrumentation, his debut certainly stretched the envelope. His characters, weirder than most, are still your basic star-crossed lovers, just ones who march to a slightly quirkier drum. The music sounds familiar and the challenges are the same, but it’s all happening in an alternate dimension.
After the hopefully, but tragic defeat of his single "King of Fuh", Friedland decided to leave the music industry. While working for his father as a paralegal in Edison, New Jersey, he continued songwriting. Eventually regaining his confidence in the ‘80s and ‘90s, Friedland performed as a musical stand-up comic under his given name.
In 2001, Gareth Jones, bandleader of Misty’s Big Adventure, an eight-piece band from Birmingham, England, sent him an email. Jones had read about Brute in Irwin Chusid’s “Music in the Key of Z,” and found “Tapeworm of Love,” a song of Brute’s that appears on this album, on the Internet. He began covering the song with his band, and hoped that Brute would come to England to tour with them. Brute accepted his offer, and since then has toured with Misty’s Big Adventure, as well as with his own band, which features his daughter, Lilah, performing as Daughter of Force.
I, Brute Force – Confections of Love
With this, an expanded edition of Bruteʼs rare 1967 Columbia Records debut, I, Brute Force - Confections of Love, you will be introduced to the memorable characters inhabiting Brutopia, an alternative 1960s America in which satire doesnʼt bite but only nips a little, inhibitions get nudged and collapse all akimbo, and love, however weird, conquers all. Thatʼs Bruteʼs party, a shindig for the ages.
I, Brute Force – Confections of Love is quite possibly the greatest album you’ve never heard. It’s a kaleidoscope for the sonically adventurous, a reprieve from the maddening sameness of everyday life, and, as explained in the liner notes, an invitation to meet the memorable characters inhabiting Brutopia, an alternative America in which satire doesn’t bite but merely nips, inhibitions get nudged and collapse all akimbo, and love, however weird, conquers all.
One of the strangest and strongest albums of 1967, Brute Force’s debut, I, Brute Force – Confections of Love, thrust the enigmatic artist into the center of the musical conversation, where he shared studios with Columbia Records label mates Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan, and garnered the praise of George Harrison and John Lennon. For the first time, I, Brute Force – Confections of Love is available on CD, along with bonus tracks that include Brute’s banned Apple Records single, “King of Fuh.”
Brute Force’s mixed bag of songs is predictable only in its strange catchiness and the accompanying urge to sing along. For example, while listening to “In Jim’s Garage,” you may find yourself transported to the same repair shop where the loving, though considerably greasy, Jim holds his lover in his arms. Similarly, it’s difficult to avoid humming along to the nonsensical warbling of Brute’s song “Sitting on a Sandwich,” which, comically, is literally about sitting on a variety of sandwiches. The verdict is still out on whether there is a deeper meaning in said sandwich-sitting, but either way, Brute’s hyper-catchy songs are consistently great, and it’s guaranteed that you’ll be immediately drawn into their universe, strange as it may be.
Bar-None Records is honored to release this classic album. After forty-six years of near obscurity, its time has finally come. I, Brute Force – Confections of Love is an album for the ages, an under-appreciated love letter to the world, and, most importantly, a desperately needed escape from reality.
"King of Fuh"
Polished by George Harrison, championed by John Lennon, and released by Apple Records, “King of Fuh,” which appears as a bonus track on this release, is a timeless anthem, a song rightfully deserving of the Beatles’ seal of approval. The song, which at first seems to resemble a straight-forward piano ballad, complete with a saccharine string section and simple drumbeat, reveals Brute’s droll sense of humor as he reaches the chorus and the king’s more common moniker is revealed: “I said the Fuh King – he went to wherever he wanted to go/Mighty, mighty Fuh King/All hail the Fuh King.”
But not even the Beatles’ praise would be able to secure airtime for a song with such a controversial, albeit clever, chorus. Friedland’s record label, Capitol/EMI, expressed its disapproval of “King of Fuh” by refusing to release it, and the song was banned from the radio. This is not to say that Friedland or Apple Records gave up. Apple Records privately pressed 2,000 copies of the single, along with its b-side, “Nobody Knows,” his version of the Chiffons’ 1965 hit. Soon after, Friedland drove from New York to Los Angeles, pushing his single along the way. To his disappointment, this proved to be a fruitless journey, and, a few years later, plagued by rejection and disillusionment, he left the music industry. He turned later in his career to perform with Misty's Big Adveture.