Glorious looking day here. Here’s some more recent purchases.
Alan Tew: 'Don't look at me, listen to the music' (LP; Pye; 1973)
Alan Tew is another famous name in British arrangers, but this is my first record by him. The title is an amusing observation on the trend of having attractive women on album covers.
This LP takes a little while to sink in, but it's really very good indeed.
The first track is funny because it’s ‘Flamingo’, one of my favorite standards, but arranged so that it sounds a bit like the Grange Hill [UK school drama] theme – all bouncy and jaunty. ‘Tom Hark’ turns out to be a familiar tune that everybody knows. Some kind of a children’s melody. In fact, most of the tunes on this LP are very familiar, even though I didn’t know their names before. ‘I wish I knew...’ is the old theme to ‘Film 8x’ with Barry Norman. This version is nice, with a strong but very minimal beat. ‘Walk on the Wild Side’ is a cool 60s Laurie Johnson style theme that was featured on one of those Sequel ‘Loungecore’ compilations.
Side 2 opens with a cool ‘Ironside’. This was also on a compilation. I looked for my copy and then remembered either selling it or giving it away when we left America. Oh well! Looking at the tracklisting of that compilation, I picked up a LOT of this stuff on vinyl in this batch. ‘Pink Panther’ is the next cut. It starts off as you would expect, and then breaks into a cool funk version. Very slow funk, but funk! This would work well on a ‘Mancini Funk’ compilation, perhaps alongside Mancini’s own version of ‘Lujon/Slow Hot Wind’ on the Symphonic Soul album. I’ll have to uncover funk versions of Moon River and Charade. They must be out there somewhere! This Pink Panther track is really very cool. Wicked spooky strings and percussion. The LP’s production is excellent throughout, but the funk effect doesn’t work so well on 'Wimoweh'! On ‘The Odd Couple’ he plays it straight. It’s a nice version, but he uses flutes instead of harpsichord, so it was never going to really cut it for me. The bongos also seem kind of superfluous on this occasion. The final track is interesting – a version of Horst Jankowski’s ‘A walk in the black forest’. Alan tries to fit it into the big funky drum template, but the tune doesn’t really fit; at least not in the main melody section. In the bridge sections it works a bit. So the track is fun, but winds up sounding slightly like a cheesy classical adaptation.
Overall, this is a very inventive album.
Alan Tew: 'This is my scene' (LP; Decca Phase 4; 1967)
The cover of this record is extremely cool! It's a nice LP of reasonably straightforward mid-60s easy listening with a few twists.
Winchester Cathedral is as you would expect. ‘Detroit City’ is quite cool - funky with a twangy guitar. Nothing else really grabbed me until ‘Yeh yeh’ (an ok version, but the girly vocal bits are done on violins and trumpets, so nothing special really). The version of ‘these boots are made for walking’ is familiar from the Dig It compilation from a few years ago. It’s silly, but fun.
The musicians are all the usual suspects, including Jim Sullivan, John Paul Jones, Nicky Hopkins and Alan Parker.
BBC Radiophonic Workshop: 'The Radiophonic Workshop' (LP; BBC; 1975)
'Geraldine' by Roger Limb is a decent poppy one. The rest is all cool moogy farty noises. Nice stuff to have!
BBC Radiophonic Workshop: 'Fourth Dimension' (LP; BBC; 1973)
An interesting LP. Everything here is by Paddy Kingsland, who did a lot of library work at the time. This album features lots of themes for regional radio shows. They have a very strange 70s electronic sound. ‘Vespucci’ is a nice slow funky number and the standout track.
Brian Fahey and his Orchestra: 'Classics Go Latin' (LP; EMI; 1972)
I couldn’t leave this one there. I nearly did, actually, until I heard the monster bongo breakbeat at the beginning of ‘Toreador’s song from Carmen’.
There are actually quite a few very nice tracks. ‘Overture from Marriage of Figaro’ has a nice insistent beat, and ‘solveig’s song from Peer Gynt is done in a very pretty way. These LPs are never quite as wonderful as I would like, but there are a few nice tracks that make this one worthwhile.
David Snell: 'Harp Transplant' (LP; Pye; 1971)
A fun pop-harp album. David Snell is one of those names I've been looking out for carefully, because I love the sound of the harp, and the era in which he recorded, along with his library music connections, seem promising. I once had an LP by him from the mid to late 60s that sounded great.
This later LP has some beautiful Bacharach arrangements and pop hits of the late 60s on one side, and pop arrangements of classical stuff on the other. The first side is better. I’m all for pop-classical, but wouldn’t have chosen pieces like ‘eine kleine nachmusik’ and ‘fur elise’. Still, it's all quite tastefully done. My LP is Quad; shame I don't have the system to check that out!
Mike Leander: 'Migration' (LP; MCA; 1969)
This seems quite nice, if slightly bombastic. I had heard of Mike Leander before, but had never actually seen his record. This is the later of the two I have. There’s a reasonable version of ‘the letter’ and a fun ‘Let the sunshine in’ that has a nice funky beat when it gets going. There’s also a nice rich arrangement of ‘wichita lineman’. Definitely an interesting record that is worthy of further listens.
Pete Moore: 'Everybody's Talkin'' (LP; Rediffusion; 1971)
Pete Moore was clearly a very solid arranger, but without meaning to sound fickle, nothing I've heard as ever quite matched up to the wonder that is 'Catwalk' from The Exciting Sounds of Tomorrow (featured on the legendary In-flight entertainment compilation).
This LP is quite nice, but even when it's upbeat and funky, it lacks the good taste and classy feel of 'catwalk. ‘Everybody’s talkin’ is a rather goofy arrangement that uses a bassline like the riff from ‘Day Tripper’. Fun, but not really my thing. ‘Honey come back’ is funky and a bit more straight ahead and appealing. ‘Downhill racer’ (the theme to the film, which I watched the beginning of the other dayl; nice photography; very slow moving; fell asleep after half an hour) is rather plain, slow and unmemorable. ‘Come Saturday Morning’ is a more memorable theme, but I’d rather hear it as a vocal. ‘Return to Montana’ is kind of cheesy without being that interesting. ‘Midnight Cowboy’ is always a banker for me, and I like this version, with its tasty electric piano and strings. There's nothing really remarkable about it though.
'True Grit' is a nice mid-tempo orchestral big band thing with a funky beat. ‘Leavin on a jet plane’ is quite fun too. Nice organ work, although I’m not sure this one was ever meant to be funked up; it sounds very ‘easy cheesy'...‘Bridge over troubled water’ gets a similar treatment. The beat is quieter, but it’s there in the background.
Overall I think this will take a few listens to get into.
The Sound Symposium: 'Paul Simon Interpreted' (LP; Dot; 1967)
Overall, this is only an 'OK' record. There are nice, quite full arrangements with drums and harpsichord. But it's rather middle of the road, and there's nothing that's really going to set the world on fire. As is often the case with Simon/Garfunkel covers, 'Scarborough Fair/Canticle works best. ‘Homeward Bound’, with a sitar, is quite interesting too. 'Mrs Robinson' is quite hip, but you get the feeling they're trying too hard.
Xylos Inc: 'Pretty Percussion' (LP; Polydor; 1971)
A very nice LP in the Polydor 'circles of sound' series, a group of easy listening records from the early 70s that featured incredibly ugly sleeves and some interesting music.
The album has extremely nice orchestrations, and the layered percussion and recording date give it a similar feel to Les Baxter’s Que Mango. It's a nice mix of contemporary pop and older standards, all done in the same neo-tropical style. There's no standout groovers like Que Mango's 'Tropicando', but it's very pleasant stuff anyway.