Brian Protheroe: Pinball (1974)
One of my favorite discoveries is this gem by Brian Protheroe, who released a few albums in the mid-70s before taking up a long-running acting career (with intermittent returns to recording). It's an odd little blend of mellow singer-songwriter folkish-pop, light jazz, and prog. Think a weird mish-mash of Harry Nilsson, 10cc, Steely Dan, and Supertramp.
The title track is far and away the highlight, a simply delightful, understated jazzy pop track; it's entrancing and fascinating, the one song that leaves you wondering why it's not in regular rotation on oldies radio. (It apparently did chart at the time, but I can't say I'd ever heard it before stumbling across the album fairly recently.)
Nothing else is quite as memorable, but there are a few other great numbers that make this much more than an oddball mid-70s curiosity. "Money Love" is comparable to "Pinball," reminiscent of Supertramp, another one that has a distinctly 70s pop sound but is hard to pigeonhole. "Goodbye Surprise" is a little more like 10cc, funky and haunting with some flashy horn parts; "Changing My Tune" is a more Burt Bacharach-like ballad, quite lovely, shades of where Elliott Smith would land on his later albums; while "Fly Now" is perky and fun, a nice little piano-based bop.
Some of the material is a bit too eccentric and/or rather dated, particularly some of the scat singing and goofiness, which sounds better suited to showtunes than pop/rock, but the fact that it's so hard to come up with obvious comparisons highlights the uniqueness of the music.
If you're feeling a little retro, but want something off the beaten track, give this a shot. (If you can find it, I'd suggest hunting down the similarly-titled Pinball & Other Stories compilation, which cherry picks all of the above highlights as well as some later tunes.)
Here's an audio rip of "Pinball" set to video: