By Richie Unterberger

While still a teenager in the late 1960s, Andy Kim established himself as one of the most popular and talented new pop-rock songwriters in the business. He was, in a sense, the very last such talent to emerge from the Brill Building scene, writing much of his material with one of the top Brill Building songwriters, Jeff Barry (who also produced Kim's early records). His 1968 Top 40 tunes "How'd We Ever Get This Way" and "Shoot'em Up Baby" had established him as a hit artist, while his albums How'd We Ever Get This Way and Rainbow Ride (combined onto a single-CD reissue on Collectors' Choice Music) demonstrated that he had a formidable catalog of quality material beyond his singles. Oddly, however, it would be a cover of a five-year-old song that would give him a Top Ten single in the summer of 1969, as well as the title track for his Baby I Love You LP.

    The source of that song, however, would be no surprise. A #24 hit for the Ronettes in 1964, "Baby, I Love You" was co-written by Barry with his wife and songwriting partner of the time, Ellie Greenwich, and the Ronettes' producer, Phil Spector. When he first came to New York, in fact, Kim had specifically sought Barry out based on his admiration for such records. Something about the song, in fact, seemed to lend itself to subsequent hit covers by male singers, as both Dave Edmunds and the Ramones would take the tune into the British Top Ten in the early years of the 1970s and 1980s respectively. Kim's version, with Barry on drums, reached #9 in the US, where it remains Andy's second-biggest hit.

    "What I did on that one was play all the elements of the drum separately," Barry revealed in an interview with Don Charles for the book Bubblegum Music Is the Naked Truth. "I played the kick drum with a hand-held mallet. Andy Kim played the guitar, and I just kinda tapped along to keep the tempo steady. He sang the song 'live,' all the way through. We used that as a guide track, and we were gonna erase it all later; but to that, I overdubbed, on separate tracks, the snare drum, the hi-hat, and the other cymbals, so there was no leakage of sound. They were totally clean, which is impossible to get when you play a whole set of drums at once. We overdubbed every instrument slowly, all on separate overdubs."

    Although there had been only one cover from outside the Barry-Kim orbit on How'd We Ever Get This Way and Rainbow Ride, Baby I Love You had five of them. Aside from the title track, there was also "This Is the Girl"; Tim Hardin's "If I Were a Carpenter," which had been a big hit for Bobby Darin; an impressive arrangement of Jimmy Webb's "By the Time I Get to Phoenix," a 1967 hit for Glen Campbell; and the album-closing "This Guy's in Love With You," which had recently topped the charts for Herb Alpert, and was here given combined sung/spoken vocals by Andy. The rest of the songs, however, were Barry-Kim compositions, including "So Good Together," the Top 40 hit that followed "Baby, I Love You."

    Between "Baby, I Love You" and "So Good Together," however, Barry and Kim scored the greatest songwriting success of their collaboration, though it wasn't for one of Andy's recordings. Their "Sugar, Sugar," as cut by the Archies (whose records actually used studio musicians and session vocalists, and which were done as tie-ins for the TV cartoon series based on the Archie comic strip), took over the #1 position on the US charts for four weeks at the beginning of fall 1969. "We wrote it in my office," remembered Barry in his Don Charles interview for Bubblegum Music Is the Naked Truth. "Andy played the guitar. I don't know where the idea actually came from, but it was a simple kind of 'hitty' song. Perfect for the Archies!" Barry and Kim were also responsible for the Archies' follow-up, "Jingle Jangle," which made the Top Ten a few months later.

    While there were only a few years separating 1969's Baby I Love You and 1973's Andy Kim, significant changes were evident on the latter LP. All of Kim's first three albums had been produced by Barry for his own Steed label, with the pair also writing most of the material, usually in collaboration. Barry, however, wound Steed down in the early 1970s, though Kim did a few singles for the company in 1970 and 1971. Andy Kim was on a different label, Uni, and this time Andy was producing himself, as well as writing most of the material on his own. Barry had no involvement with the songwriting either, though Kim did collaborate with Dene Hofheinz on a couple of songs, "Shady Hollow Dreamer" and "All in the Name of Steinem."

    The tone of the material on Andy Kim was considerably more serious and singer-songwriter-oriented than his work on Steed, as was almost immediately apparent near the beginning of side one, where Kim asked whether there was a god (and if he had a son) on "Who Has the Answers?" The timbre of Kim's singing was lower than it had been on his Steed recordings, and the arrangements (by Lee Holdridge, who'd recently worked with Neil Diamond and Melanie, and would go on to work on numerous John Denver recordings) made greater use of strings and gospel-influenced backup vocals.

    Kim was growing in different directions as a songwriter and exploring more reflective lyrics, with a more adult viewpoint than the oft-ebullient romantic songs with which he'd scored his biggest early successes. But it would take a return to that happy-go-lucky style, as well as a switch to Capitol, to return him to the charts with "Rock Me Gently," which soared all the way to #1 in 1974. The Capitol album on which the song was featured was, confusingly, also called Andy Kim, though it featured entirely different material. The lesser-known Andy Kim LP is restored to wide availability with this CD reissue, completing Collectors' Choice Music's survey of the singer's first four albums. -- Richie Unterberger

contents copyright Richie Unterberger, 2000-2010
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 unless otherwise specified.