Origin: Vancouver (Canada)
|Dave Allan - Bob Smart - Rick Livingstone - Andre Kunkel - Craig Zurba|
st - 1986 (with lyrics)
- ...Raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Rick took up singing at age 5. By the time his voice deepened at age 13, he had mastered guitar and piano well enough to write songs and join his first rock band, Last Week's Laundry. After high school, Rick joined the cutting-edge rock group Hard Rain which opened for Bruce Cockburn and released two singles (Caterpillar Song, I Come Here Often) in the early 70s to regional acclaim.
Rick's exposure through popular Westcoast bands such as September and Broken Hearts led to a songwriting contract with CBS Records and a worldwide record deal with Virgin Records as part of the pop group Agent (Bob Smart - guitar, Andre Kunkel - bass, Dave Allan - drums, Craig Zurba - keyboards.) Agent was the first Canadian act to be signed by the British label, thanks in large part to the media attention the band had earned from winning a national MuchMusic video award sponsored by Heinz Ketchup.
Released in 1986, Agent's debut album was produced by Jeff "Skunk" Baxter (Doobie Brothers, Steely Dan) and mixed by David Thoener (Def Leppard, AC/DC, John Lennon) in New York City at the Record Plant and Hit Factory. A who's who of Canadian talent contributed to the recording, including Darby Mills (Headpins), Mike Reno (Loverboy), and Dave Pickell (Bryan Adams). The album released three singles, including Heartbeat, I Can't Hold Back and She Trusted Me which debuted at number 9 in the summer of 1986 and went on to become the number 5 single for all of Canada on Adult Contemporary charts that year.
Rick and guitarist Bob Smart soon moved on to other projects; Bob took an ownership interest in Wave Productions, while Rick formed a production company and released additional charting singles as part of the group Montana (Ross Damude - guitar, Brian MacLeod - drums, Denny Driscoll - bass, Karl Moraski - keyboards). Montana produced two music videos (Lorelei, Just a Minute) which were popular on the MTV MuchMusic Network. Keyboardist Craig Zurba resuscitated Agent in the mid 90s sans Bob and Rick, releasing a repackaged version of the 1986 album with a sound-alike vocalist... -
- Agent weren't so much as a band initially, more a collaboration between Andre Kunkel and Craig Zurba. Both prolific songwriters, their efforts resulted in the pair winning a Canadian music contest which caught them the attention of Virgin Canada. In fact, Agent had the distinct honour of being the labels first signing, a feat which would later come back to haunt them. Prior to that, Zurba, Kunkel and Smart were involved in the 1982 album 'Letting Go' by Canadian chanteuse Nancy Nash. Bringing their music together under a proper band structure, Agent was born, though many members passed through its ranks during the mid eighties. By the time their 1986 debut was released, the lineup had stabilised to that listed above. Musically, Agent bring to mind many of its Canadian contemporaries, such as Glass Tiger, Loverboy, Streetheart and Honeymoon Suite. But the real big comparison to these ears is the one-off AOR classic Preview.
The Agent album, whether by accident or design, takes on a Jekyll and Hyde personality between Side One and Two. The first contains mainly softer songs, while the second lets the brakes off in a big way. For proof, take a listen to the absolute stand out track 'Surrender'. The stabbing synths, and overall urgency of this song is prime time Preview. Continuing in this vein is the punch drunk 'Headlines', a harder edged track compared to many of the others. Equally fuelled to last the distance is the appropriately named 'Can't Stop', while 'Change Of Heart' is a smooth and rich slice of AOR, with melodies aplenty dripping off the side. Elsewhere, the kick-off track 'Heartbeat' is mostly OK, but for those annoying brass parps, followed by the mid-tempo balladry of 'Can't Hold Back' and 'She Trusted Me'. Definitely their better moments are when they rock out with a vengeance.. I reckon!
During 1986, the President of Virgin Canada apparently left at the same time Agent were trying to make an impression. Without any leadership, the label drifted aimlessly, its artists floundering in its wake - Agent included. As a result, the album sank without trace, and despite coming together for a second bite at the cherry with producer Jim Vallance, Virgin had done a runner, as had three of the band members in frustration. After all this palava, Kunkel and Zurba then hooked up with multi-talented musician Troy Reid a few years later. He sings on the re-released version of this album (Escape Music, 1997). Zurba produced the remix, and it also features a different album cover (we've shown the original Virgin Canada cover as per above). Agent now as a trio followed this up with a second album called 'Evidence', again, another good set of mid-tempo high-tech AOR. But as history will show, they will be best remembered for that one classic track 'Surrender'. -
- Vancouver's Agent started as a songwriter's collective that thrived on producing well-crafted melodic rock. After placing songs with many recording artists, Agent realized that they had all the components of a working band, so they hit the live circuit and pitched the group to publishers and labels. They created a low budget video for an international video contest which landed them the $25,000 first prize and industry exposure. That brought them to the attention of CBS publishing and Virgin Records. Many fans of Canadian melodic rock will surely remember that all of this happened ten years ago as Virgin signed the band in 1986 and the self titled album was released. The band then was a five piece, founded by Bass player Andre Kunkel and Keyboardist Craig Zurba.
The word that best describes Agent is "survivors". The band has had its fair share of ups and downs. Agent were offered contracts before they hooked up with Virgin only to find the labels collapse days before the actual signing. As they were climbing the charts with their debut back in the late eighties the three other members quit the band, vocalist Rick Livingsone has since surfaced with Vince Dicola in the band "Storming Heaven". Also, the president of Virgin Canada left the label and so the band were left without promoters.
But always Agent bounce back, Troy Reid has since joined the band, a multi-talented singer, drummer and guitarist and so the band are now a close-knit three piece. The members now take turns at playing various instruments as well as producing, engineering, mixing and mastering projects in their own studio. Weathering the storms has made Agent stronger and aware of how commited they are to creating and sharing their music.
It has often been on the mind of many rock fans to think of how an album recorded ten years ago would sound if given a complete overhaul by the latest technological advances and production methods. Many albums have been re-issued and digitally remastered, but how many bands have actually gone back into the studio and started from scratch. Agent have done just that, this all new release on Escape Music is not a re-issue, it is a total re-recording of the debut with new vocalist Troy Reid shining through as one of the most passionate vocalists this type of music has ever heard. And there is a bonus track not featured on the Virgin recording....
Agent have not been idle these last few years and a second album, "Evidence", has already been recorded. This will also be put out on the Escape label, release date to be announced. Not only that, but the three of them have started work on a third album, watch this space... -
- Melodic Hard Rock band. The song writing team of bassist Andre Kunkel and keyboard player had been active from the 70s, having contributed to work with NANCY NASH. AGENT's 1987 debut featured HEADPINS vocalist Darby Mills and LOVERBOY singer Mike Reno on backing vocals. However, the expected major label push failed to materialise, the blame being laid at the defection of the President of Virgin Canada immediately upon release of the record.
The band re-recorded much of their debut for release by Escape Music in 1997. AGENT's 1998 album 'Evidence', which comprised material dating back as far as 1989, found the band trimmed down to keyboard player Craig Zurba, bassist Andre Kunkel and new recruits Tom Lang, previously a member of THE DIVINYLS and the JIMMY BARNES band, and Troy Reid. -
- Keyboardist Craig Zurba and bassist Andre Kunkel became a recording team in the late '70s. Guitarist Bob Smart was added in 1982 when the duo backed singer Nancy Nash. Dave Allan (drums) and Rick Livingston (vocals) joined the next year. After winning a local Battle of the Band contest, Agent was signed by Virgin, which released the band's self-titled debut in 1986. After they broke up, Livingston formed Montana with Dennis Driscoll, Ross Damude and Karl Moraski. -
(John Bush http://www.allmusic.com/artist/agent-mn0001214160)