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PIANOSAURUS (Buy CDs by this artist)
Live at Folk City [tape] (no label) 1985
Live at the Speakeasy NYC [tape] (no label) 1985
Groovy Neighborhood (Rounder) 1987
Back to School (unreleased) 1988

High concept on a low budget: New York-region trio Pianosaurus plays Alex Garvin's charmingly lighthearted pop songs entirely on toy instruments for a tikki-takki effect that only adds to their winsome adorability. Plinking away on itsy-bitsy pianos, cheapie organs, kiddie guitars, baby drum kits and plastic horns with sincerity and enthusiasm, Pianosaurus proves that big-people equipment isn't necessary for big-people music. (Groovy Neighborhood's renditions of Chuck Berry's "Memphis" and John Lee Hooker's "Dimples" indicate that the gambit can work on well-known songs without any diminution of delight.) Peter Holsapple of the dB's produced this warm and wonderful debut.

In 1988, Pianosaurus appeared in Francis Ford Coppola's segment of the New York Stories, and on the accompanying soundtrack, playing the title song of their second album in a version produced by Chris Butler. Then things went awry. With the Back to School album in the can, Garvin skipped town, apparently following in the emotional footprints of his musical influences, Brian Wilson and Alex Chilton. Rounder decided against releasing the record.

It's a shame the LP has yet to see the light of day. Pianosaurus' lost album shows the group growing up without straying far from the debut's ingenuous urban-pastoral whimsy. Still performed exclusively on toys, the sophomore effort finds Garvin's bandmates playing greater roles. Drummer Steve Dansiger and keyboardist Bianca "Flystrip" Miller join in on tasty harmonies throughout, lending depth to the sound; each gets a lead vocal.

[Ira Robbins/Wif Stenger]