David Werner: Imagination Quota – US – CD-R 
- Imagination Quote
- Cold Shivers
- Thoughts Of You
- In An Around You
- When Starlight’s Gone
- Aggravation Non-Stop
- Body + Soul
When we last looked at the career of David Werner, He had been signed as a teen to RCA who were trolling around for maybe another Bowie, since the first one was doing well for the company. But the “Whizz Kid” album landed with a thump; apart from niche success in the singer’s native Pittsburgh and other, idiosyncratic markets like the Cleveland one, where many acts that couldn’t quite make a splash [Roxy, Bowie – at least initially, Cockney Rebel, etc.] manage to do quite well thanks to the power of local taste makers.
David Werner was a young whelp of 17 signed to RCA Records in 1974 with a debut album that was destined for the cutout bins in spite of its accomplishments for one so young. The numerous copies were at least still out in the world for curious ears to discover. Unfortunately, copies of his sophomore album didn’t have such “good luck.” After “Whizz Kid” became a legendary cutout, RCA had gotten cold feet by the time of album #2 and copies of “Imagination Quota” were mighty thin on the ground at any price.
More’s the pity since the quantum leap in songwriting sophistication on “Imagination Quota” showed that the lad really had grown in the subsequent year. “Whizz Kid” had no shortage of great playing and arrangements, but the songs were the work of a still developing writer just emerging from his chrysalis. This time out, Werner ’s writing met the talent of his sideman Mark Doyle on equal footing.
The arrangements used a wider, more sophisticated palette incorporating synthesizers and more sax as well as string arrangements by vet Jimmie Haskell. The title track got things off to a lush start with a song that was richly produced and filled with admirable hooks. The ARP synth that Doyle played really moved the needle on from the late model Glam Rock of the debut album. The middle eight revealed an band who could have been the US peers of Be Bop Deluxe. Yes, they were that good.
In “Cold Shivers” Werner managed to craft the sort of meta-song about rock music that played out as callow in the guise of “Another Wild Guitar” on “Whizz Kid.” This time, however, he managed to write evocatively about the continuum that existed between rock music, its stars, and the fans like himself. It revealed a thematic maturity that had blossomed considerably since the debut. This was the track wisely picked for single status. I would have done the same had I been the A+R. But hit status was not to be, in spite of the song’s considerable [and mainstream, for what it was worth] charms.
The music this time was staking out a claim in that no-man’s land of Post-Glam/Pre-Punk music that was occupying a space similar to the one that Metro occupied on their debut the next year. The earlier allusion to Be Bop Deluxe showed that this was vital mid-70s rock music that was aiming for the future just outside of its complete grasp, but doing so with aplomb.
The witty “In And Around You” revealed a touch of Reggae far in advance of most Rockers in the 1975 environment, and the use of a rhythm box along with
the marimba and steel drums on that song was another far- sighted outlier showing that the duo of Werner and Doyle were carving their own niche in the Rock scene of the time without regard to any prevailing trends.
Most albums probably have a song that exists as an outlier to the next album, and here it was “Aggravation Non-Stop,” a fast paced rocker that pointed to the more aggressive sound of the third album to come in 1979, though here the music had a decidedly retro 50s Rock & Roll bent that was more subdued four years hence.
The closer of “Body + Soul” showed that more than Bowie was in the air. This one played like an early period Steely Dan deep cut with the session players like Peter Escovedo on congas giving it that level of sophistication. This album didn’t seem like the work of a kid under 20. The lyrics and arrangements by Werner and Doyle upped the ante on their second time out.
“Imagination Quota” managed to lose most of the Bowie/Ronson influence that was both the lure and limitation of “Whizz Kid,” while replacing that foundation with a less derivative program of more accomplished songs that weren’t interested in taking a back seat to anyone. Werner would have one [and a half] more albums ahead of him as we’ll finish the story on its third chapter on another day. At the very least, I am extremely happy to have CDs in hand of all three Werner titles after thinking about doing it for so long.
Does anyone have digital copies of Werner’s three albums? I had them and so wish they were on Apple music or CD.
Bill Henderson – Welcome to the comments! I find it hard to believe that in the last 40 years that a reissue label like American Beat Records, Wounded Bird Records, or One-Way Records never saw fit to release these albums which were right in their cross hairs I’d imagine. I’ve heard Mr. Werner is active on FaceBoot. Have you tried contacting the artist directly?
Some years ago there was a compilation on iTunes from Renaissance Records [another apt label!] called “Heard It On The Radio vol.. 3” which was a CD in 1999.
I was able to download “What’s Right” from there, but it’s gone from iTunes currently. The CD is still available on Discogs. Cheaply, from one dealer!
Currently, there is another compilation of Glam Rock on iTunes called “Pink Boots + Lipstick” with “Whizz Kid” available on it.
And according to iTunes, it’s by far the most popular track on the whole shebang. Good luck!