Kate and Anna McGarrigle
by David Chiu
It is remarkable that Kate and Anna McGarrigle’s third album from 1978–probably their most accessible work up to that point in their careers—has never been reissued on CD or digitally, until now. Perhaps that’s because Pronto Monto, which was originally released on Warner Bros., was never a commercial success, and the label dropped the duo after that. Coming off of the sisters’ critically acclaimed 1975 self-titled debut record and Dancer With Bruised Knees, Pronto Monto still carries the McGarrigles’ beautiful singing, poetic yearning songwriting, and folk-dominated melodies. The bent towards mainstream crossover success could certainly be attributed to the selection of David Nichtern–hot off the success of writing the huge Maria Muldaur hit “Midnight at the Oasis”–as producer, and the presence of talented session pros like Tony Levin, Steve Gadd, and Bernard Purdie. While any aspirations for radio airplay backfired, it doesn’t take away the beauty of the record: there are moment of whimsy and spunk on such tracks as “Side of Fries,” “Na Cl” and “Trying to Get to You”; and tenderness and romantic longing in “Oh My Heart,” “Just Another Broken Heart” and “Come Back Baby.” While certainly folk-based, the music does take a few stylistic turns: the soulful “Bundle of Sorrow, Bundle of Joy”–a narrative song by Anna–sounds like a vintage Joe Cocker or Elton John tune; Kate’s “Stella by Artois” has a torchy, jazz-cabaret feel; and “Cover Up Your Head” sounds right at home with the Laurel Canyon sound. In hindsight, it’s not surprising that the record never took off on the charts because it’s too mature and sophisticated for mainstream consumption—but it can be seen as a logical progression of the McGarrigles’ sound. It took almost 40 years for this formerly out of-print record to finally see the light of day, restoring its rightful place in the McGarrigles’ catalog.