M.D.G. Meets Brad Love
February 2004
Story by Matthew D. Guarnere

Last month I was in Austin, Texas visiting my mother. Long before the trip, I learned that Brad Love, one of my musical heroes of many years, lived in Houston. I looked at a map and discovered the two cities to be just a few inches apart! It would only be a few hour's drive, I figured. Brad and I had already been in touch with via E-mail. I mailed him a copy of my M.D.G. CD months earlier and he responded with some encouraging words. So I asked him if he would like to meet in person while I was in Texas. I was thrilled when he accepted.

Here's a synopsis of Brad's history with Aviary, one of the most interesting bands I've ever heard. During the mid-to-late 1970's, Brad Love was the lead vocalist, pianist, and primary songwriter of this highly underrated progressive rock outfit. In 1978, the band signed with manager, Brian Lane (of YES fame) and quickly moved from Washington state to Los Angeles, California. With Lane's capable direction, the band were recording an album during the winter of that same year. Aviary's self-titled debut LP was released on Epic Records in October of 1979. Record sales were good, so the following year, arrangements were made for the band record a second album in London. Stylistically, it was a radical departure from their debut. The new record had been carefully crafted to accommodate America's popular new wave movement and they even considered changing the name of the band to Curves. Unfortunately, this second album, was never released. Due to lack of promotion and label support, Aviary was sadly dropped from Epic's roster and the band broke up shortly thereafter (not an uncommon tale in the music business).

I acquired the Aviary album over 20 years ago almost by accident. One summer, my brother and I took a trip to Los Angeles to meet our extended family for the very first time. We had been forewarned that our grandfather was something of an incurable collector/pack rat. This proved to be true, but as it turned out, his home was an absolute goldmine for us. One day my brother and I discovered an unfamiliar pile of records and eagerly sifted through them. One of the album covers pictured five long haired, larger than life guys. Left to right, it was Kenny Steimonts, Paul Madden, Brad Love, Richard Bryans, and Toby Bowen, sporting fur coats and open shirts. It seemed worthy of our attention. I put the record on and played a track called "Mystic Sharon." After only a few seconds, I rushed back over to the turntable to see if the record was on the wrong speed. It wasn't. I heard men singing in very high voices supported by odd, sometimes downright bizarre musical arrangements. This was definitely a band rooted by piano, guitar, bass and drums, but there were also lush strings, weird synthesizers, even oboes and clarinets cleverly mixed in. Despite these oddities, the Aviary album still curiously rocked. I had been a big Queen fan from a very young age, but this LP, though rather Queenlike, didn't really sound much like them at all. In fact, it wasn't like anything else I'd ever heard up to that time. Little did I know then, Aviary would go on to penetrate my brain in a way I still cannot explain to this day. For me, Brad Love's music is so infectiously melodic and brilliant. I have been humming harmonies along with his records (in the stratosphere of my singing rage) ever since.

So I rented a silver Jaguar (it was the only thing they had at Enterprise, honest!) and made my way to Brad's house. It was incredibly cool for me to meet him. We talked a lot about everything from music to life in general. Brad is an amazingly talented musician, but I also found him to be a very kind and humble man with many stories of great interest. In his 10 years of living in Houston, Brad has become a highly regarded piano instructor with many promising students. He sat down at his piano and treated me to several beautiful, but very complex classical pieces that he'd been practicing. This was followed by a few familiar tunes of Brad's own composition. I got to sing some of those very high harmonies and shake the little egg I'd brought with me right along with the man himself on songs like Puddles and My Boat. To top it all off, I discovered that Brad still possesses the white leopard coat from the Aviary album cover! I'd been staring at that thing for so long that I couldn't even think of the album without thinking of the fur coat. Brad's wife, Janine was kind enough to dig it out of the closet for me to see. I asked if I could try it on and they kindly obliged. It was a pretty tight fit, but I was just tickled to death to have my picture taken wearing the one and only 1979 leopard coat!

Well, I never thought I'd see the day, but in 2001 the Aviary album was finally released on compact disc by the Sony/Rewind label (featuring the UK version of the cover). In the CD's liner notes, there's a detailed history of the group written by Aviary expert, Stephen B. Allen, along with some rare photos of the band. Some 25 years later, the reissue has been stirring up an entirely new fan base for Aviary and for Brad Love (that is his real name, by the way). To coincide with Aviary making it onto CD, Brad released a solo album containing all new material entitled Through Another Door on the Song Haus Music label. It's no surprise that the album has been getting excellent reviews. Brad told me that so many people have contacted him from all over the world wanting to share their praise and their stories about how they first discovered the Aviary album. He can hardly believe it. For the past two decades, Brad had almost no idea that anyone loved that album at all. Well, we do!

Check out Brad Love's website. There, you can read more about him, find out more about Aviary, look at more pictures and listen to more sound clips of almost everything that you can buy from Brad's music catalog. And now there's even more Aviary music on CD! The band's latest compilation is called Ambition and it features over one hour of previously unreleased studio recordings from 1976-78. I was told by Brad himself that there are a number of other unreleased Aviary recordings as well as another complete solo record from 1982. So we will be looking out for more remastered CDs from this timeless, remarkable man very soon. Go on, get a little Love into your life!

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Background painting by Keith Uhrich ©2001
Photos of Brad and Matt by Janine Love