You Never Knew How Much Fun Kites Are

If you listen to the Free Design’s signature song Kites Are Fun, I suspect you may one of two reactions. You may recoil at the apparent naiveté of it all, and go to your nearest death metal or gangsta rap record to feel normal again, or you will soar with the innocence and beauty of it and feel transcended above the bustle and noise of daily life. You will probably guess I fall into second category. I have just got the Free Design’s debut album, which has this song as the title track, and it is doing very heavy rotations on my personal playlists.

The Free Design were a jazz-inflected, harmony pop group who probably just about fall in the Sunshine Pop genre. Like the Beach Boys, they consisted of siblings, and they also had a more solid technical background in music than many other artists. They never had a big hit (Kites Are Fun was the biggest, languishing in the Billboard 100-200 region) and may well have faded into obscurity after splitting up in the 70s. However, thanks to general revival of interest in the sunshine pop genre and specific interest from artists like Cornelius and Stereolab, there was a revival of interest in the 90s, culminating in a reunion just to record one song for the Brian/Beach Boys tribute album Caroline Now (the song was Endless Harmony, since you’re asking). This prompted a full length reunion album, and the CD release of all of their albums.

So what of this album- well aside from the title track, it has two of the most beautiful love songs you will ever hear (Don’t Turn Away and When Love Is Young). It is mostly originals, but there are three covers, the Beatles’ Michelle, Paul Simon’s Feelin’ Groovy and A Man And A Woman from the film of the same name. This will probably suggest this album isn’t exactly a rockfest, but for beautiful music, lovely harmonies, great arrangements and a simple feegood factor, I recommend this very highly.

A comprehensive Free Design site is here. As a final trivia thought around the title song – apparently Chris Dedrick (the main songwriter for the Free Design) was inspired by a girl with the same initials as Kites As Fun. So have fun wondering what her name was…Karen Ann Fletcher, Katy Andrea Fullarton??…I guess we’ll never know.

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