‘Planet Love’ and the World of Andrew Gold (Part 3 of 3)

Continued from Part Two

After Wax ended in 1989, Gouldman returned briefly to a reformed 10cc, though he and Gold would collaborate and contribute to each others’ project in the years to come. “I will always love Andrew,” Gouldman says. “He was a very major person in my life.” Gold returned once more to southern California; there his work with and for other artists continued at a furious pace. He produced albums by Stephen Bishop, played guitar on albums by Diana Ross, Alvin and the Chipmunks and Neil Diamond, and wrote for many other artists.

During that period, Gold continued to make occasional albums of his own, releasing them on a variety of smaller, independent labels. A 1996 collection of holiday-themed songs for kids, Andrew Gold’s Halloween Howls found some success among the younger set (the album received a vinyl reissue in 2021, and its single, “Spooky Scary Skeletons” recently earned a Gold record).

In 1997, Gold embarked upon another labor-of-love project, one that combined his songwriting, instrumental and arrangement prowess, and gift of mimicry. Billing himself (and select guest players including Gouldman) as The Fraternal Order of the All, he made Greetings from Planet Love. A knowing pastiche/homage to the pop-psych stylings of the late ‘60s, the album was never destined for widespread commercial success. But it’s an overlooked gem that tidily sums up all of Gold’s gifts in a wonderful ear-candy package.

Greetings from Planet Love is filled with inside-joke sonic references to legendary ‘60s pop, but those cues never get in the way of the songs; instead, they only enhance the music. The plucky bass guitar fills on “Love Tonight” sound straight out of Brian Wilson’s Gold Star Recording sessions for Pet Sounds. The bird calls, swirling sitars and backward-masked spoken parts in the opening title track take the listener back to 1967. Sawing cellos evoke thoughts of “I am the Walrus.”

The wordless vocal harmonies of “Tube Rye & Will’s Son” draw upon the Beach Boys’ “Our Prayer” for inspiration. “Mr Plastic Business Man” take cues from Their Satanic Majesties Request era Rolling Stones. And Gold’s mimicry finds its most effective expression in “Space and Time,” sounding for all the world like a long lost prime-era Byrds classic.

Gold’s songwriting smarts are on brilliant display throughout Greetings from Planet Love. “King of Showbiz” straddles soft-pop and light psychedelia. “Freelove Baby” would have worked perfectly well on the soundtrack of Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, released at roughly the same time. The record concludes with a Revolver-era pastiche, the complex and rocking “Tomorrow Drop Dead.” The instrumental linking pieces scattered throughout the 20-track album tie the entire project together in a kind of loose conceptual framework. A wacky bio – complete with fake band member names like Colin Allcars and Gene Pool – is the icing on the musical cake.

On its original release, Greetings was packaged inside a somewhat nondescript, vaguely psychedelic cover. For its new (and first-ever vinyl) reissue, the album features cover art in the style of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Inspired by a hand drawing that Gold had done himself, artist Jess Rotter developed a colorful cover more in keeping with the music within. And the album’s booklet features some of Gold’s fanciful line drawings, colored in by Rotter. “It’s a ripe blend of artistry,” says Leslie Kogan, Gold’s widow.

Even after completing that project, Gold continued to exercise his love of classic sixties pop. He put together a Los Angeles-based band, Byrdsofafeather, playing local gigs with a set list heavy on the classics of his youth. And Gold’s meticulous, thorough approach to his art meant that he looked to every detail. “He made these books for every [band] member, with all the keys and all the instruments they were going to play,” recalls Kogan. “He was very precise; it had to be exactly like the record. Even if there was a mistake [on the original version], he included that!”

And Gold’s choice of material leaned toward the challenging end of the pop spectrum. “I remember him sitting on the bed next to me practicing ‘Eight Miles High,’” Kogan says. “He had to get that lead guitar part perfect.”

Gold’s collaborative nature continued to balance his solo endeavors. “I saw him write with Mike Campbell of the Heartbreakers,” Kogan recalls. “He loved that, when he worked with somebody who inspired him. And he could do both: right after that, he could be the one man band, in his studio doing everything.”

Busy nearly right up until the end, Andrew Gold passed away in 2011. More than a decade after his death, Gold is in the public consciousness primarily thanks to his ‘70s hit singles. Those who dig a bit deeper recognize his substantial contributions to the works of others. And those who explore even further can discover what may well be the most perfect distillation of his artistry, the oddball project known as Greetings from Planet Love.

NOTE: My review of that album is here, and a survey of other worthy Gold tracks is here.