In 1994, Japanese musician Cornelius began putting out CD re-issues of a long forgotten easy listening group by the name of The Free Design on his Trattoria record label. The Free Design were a family, The Dedricks of Delevan, NY—like The Osmonds or The Jackson 5—and were known for their extremely complex “sunshine pop” vocal harmonizing. The musical clan’s leader was their brother, Chris Dedrick, a classically trained musician. They come off sounding like a very Caucasian version of The 5th Dimension (not that this is in any way a bad thing). The Free Design are much loved by Stereolab, Beck, Super Furry Animals, Peanut Butter Wolf and Pizzicato Five.
The Free Design released seven albums between 1967 and 1972, mostly recorded for Enoch Light’s Project 3 label (Light’s record releases were noted for their extremely high audiophile standards as well as their gatefold sleeves. Project 3 was any early proponent of 4.0 quadraphonic surround sound, including Kites Are Fun). Their best-known album was probably their 1967 debut, Kites Are Fun. It took over 20 years after they disbanded but gradually awareness of The Free Design reached the point where they decided to regroup for a short while and record again. Their songs ended up on The Gilmore Girls, Weeds and on the Stranger Than Fiction soundtrack (and of course, a buttload of TV commercials the world over). Chris Dedrick died in 2010.
“Kites Are Fun”
The best version of the Sesame Street theme you’ll ever hear.
Here’s the sole example I could find of The Free Design on television, a 1968 slot on The Mike Douglas Show where they perform “My Brother Woody.” Since the group were a family, their lyrics often had references to “Mom,” “Dad” or “Uncle Bill.”