It’s not unusual for professional athletes to record singles or albums as cash-ins on their celebrity. While records by Terry Bradshaw, Darryl Strawberry, and even Denny McClain met with critical and public indifference, Jack McDowell and Wayman Tisdale managed to keep it respectable, completely reinventing themselves as recording artists after their uniforms got folded and framed. Jim Schoenfeld’s 1973 effort, Schony, breaks little ground in the athlete-turned-musician genre, save for one powerful, two-chord dirge. Buried on an LP otherwise populated by Beatles covers and hits of the day and the day before yesterday, “Before” derives maximum impact from its banal setting.
During Schoenfeld’s rookie season with the Buffalo Sabres, local radio promoter Jerry Meyers approached the defenseman after he revealed in an interview his interest in the guitar. Set to tape by producer John Valby (who’d achieve glory in the Poconos as Dr. Dirty—a sort of risqué Jimmy Buffett), the album was cut over four days in February of 1973 and issued on the January label. Like a disposable piece of hockey memorabilia, the gatefold is littered with images of icebound exploits, including a bloodthirsty Schoenfeld at the center of a brawl with the Boston Bruins. And yet “Before” is as gentle as a parked Zamboni, giving Schoenfeld a forum for pondering the environment and “the war” before imploring us to “think hard.” Add a few layers of eerie female vocals and “Before” becomes an icy masterpiece. Schoenfeld and Valby would collaborate again on 1974’s The Key Is Love, but as any Sabres season ticket holder will tell you, Schony is the only hockey-related LP worth getting autographed.