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A Harmonious Reunion

Pop music: Bryndle's members, each successful solo, have come back to what they started in 1969. They play in Long Beach on Wednesday.

July 23, 1996|BUDDY SEIGAL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The story of Bryndle is unique, perhaps even unprecedented. Sure, plenty of so-called "supergroups" have reared their heads over the years, and Bryndle--which plays Wednesday at the Long Beach Museum of Art--is made up of four of the most respected names in West Coast soft rock:

* Karla Bonoff has been a successful singer and songwriter whose material has been turned into hits by Linda Ronstadt, Aaron Neville and Wynonna Judd.

* Kenny Edwards was a founding member of the Stone Poneys with Ronstadt and has worked with such names as Don Henley and Stevie Nicks as a producer and sideman.

* Andrew Gold, best known for his 1977 hit "Lonely Boy," is another singer-songwriter-session man associated with Ronstadt and many others.

* Wendy Waldman has written hits for Vanessa Williams, has been a successful producer in Nashville and has had a singing career of her own.

But . . .

*

Unlike most such assemblages of name artists under a single handle, Bryndle was not designed to capitalize on the joining of established powers. Bryndle was originally formed in 1969, before anyone had heard of its respective members.

The group recorded an album for A&M in 1970 that was never released and broke up a short time later because of the music business' lack of interest.

Faring better on their own in subsequent years, the members of Bryndle remained friends and often worked together on each others' projects. A few years ago, Gold invited the others over to watch some old home movies of the group, whereupon they decided to reunite and have another go at it.

*

"You had Crosby Stills & Nash just coming out, but really, there wasn't a lot of this type of music being done at the time," Bonoff recalled during a recent phone interview.

"To the music industry, males and females singing harmonies together in a group in those days meant the Mamas and the Papas, but that's not what we were doing. They even brought in [Mamas and Papas producer] Lou Adler to work with us, but that didn't pan out, and they decided to let us go."

Bonoff thinks it all may have been for the good.

"We were very young. Our talents hadn't matured yet, except maybe for Wendy, who was more advanced than the rest of us. I know I couldn't sing or write a song nearly as well back then as I can now."

Bryndle's first official album, released on the Music Masters label last summer, harks back to the mid-'70s golden era of soft rock. Lush vocal harmonies, commercial-minded songwriting, seamless production and solid musicianship hallmark the sound, with influences of country, folk and pop apparent throughout.

*

Twenty years ago it almost certainly would have been a smash on AM radio. But in 1996, the group finds the airwaves a less-than-friendly place for its professional but anachronistic approach.

"All over the country, there's a kind of lack of radio for people our age," said Bonoff, 43. "They can't hear the music they want, and so they never find out about it and don't even know they can go out and buy it.

"Radio has gotten much more alternative. It's all about money, and they want to appeal to 18- to 25-year-old males. In areas where we do get airplay, we do great and bring a lot of crowds in, but there are places where people don't even know we have a record out."

*

Perhaps unity in the face of such adversity is what helps make Bryndle a group in the strictest sense of the word. Vocal solos are shared evenly, harmonies coalesce in opulent layers of sound, and all but two of the album's songs are credited to Bryndle rather than to songwriters.

"When we were kids, we all wrote separately," Bonoff said. "But we all thought it would make more sense now--since we've all learned to co-write to a certain extent--to really try and make this music together.

"We thought it would be more of a real band if we didn't approach it as a bunch of solo artists just kind of doing our own material on the same album. The process of learning how to write together has been real good for us."

While Bonoff, Edwards, Gold and Waldman continue to pursue individual musical endeavors (Bonoff expects a solo album to be released next summer), Bryndle's album isn't a one-off deal. The group is working on a second album to be issued early in '97, said Bonoff, who has high hopes for its acceptance.

"It would certainly be nice if it would reach more people. I think the next record is certainly going to surpass this one. We're a real band now. We've been on the road, and the material we have is much better. So [we hope that] by the time the next album comes out, there'll be more stations that will play it because we've been working really hard at this."

* Bryndle plays Wednesday in the Sculpture Garden at the Long Beach Museum of Art, 2300 E. Ocean Blvd. 7 p.m. (grounds open at 6). $11 ($8 for museum members and seniors). (310) 439-2119.

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