I regret having been so silent recently, because I have been discovering lots of incredible music, often unexpectedly. Last week I downloaded an unknown foreign-language version of Lee Hazlewood’s ‘Houston’. After some research, it turned out that it was in Finnish, and I was led to the absolutely amazing Database of The Finnish Institute of Recorded Sound 1901 – 1999. This site has details over 277000 records released in Finland, all kept in a well-designed database. What this means is that you can search on song title, composer etc. and bring out a list of all (well, most) Finnish recordings of that song or by that composer. Many of these are examples of a phenomenon that is always fascinating to me: foreign-language versions of English-language pop songs. I stayed up pretty late the night I first found this database, and I’ve already discovered some artists that would otherwise have remained forever lost to me. More on these in the coming weeks.
I’ve also had a bit of a resurgence of interest in late 1950s/early 1960s sleazy rock/jazz tracks. That wasn’t a very good description. I’m talking about the kind of stuff featured on the Swing for a Crime compilation. I discovered the amazingly sleazy and brilliant singer Kay Martin a few months ago. But oddly enough what brought me back to Swing for a Crime was an album by Albert Van Dam (not to be confused with Art Van Damme, the accordianist) that I found last week. I gather that Albert was a sleazy orchestral bandleader, working from the 50s through to (at least) the 80s. The record I bought was a rather ridiculous 1975 effort described below, ‘dedicated to beautiful women’, but it turns out that his earlier work was in that rocking 50s style.
Another artist featured on Swing for a Crime is Cozy Cole. As far as I can tell, Cozy was an organist who liked to say the name of the song in a deep voice at the beginning of the track. ‘Topsy Part 2′ is a superb track that I’ve just found on 45.
Finally (well, that’s not all, but it’s all for today), I’ve been listening to two different ‘songbook’ style compilations of the work of Roger Nichols, one put together by Musical Taste member eftimihn, and the other by another person somewhere on the web. Very interesting stuff.
Albert Van Dam: 'Soft Shoulders and Dangerous Curves' (LP; Unknown; 1975)
I'm afraid this album had to be bought. A whole album of original 'musical fantasies about women', one of which is called 'Lesbos-a-nova' was simply more than I could resist.
Not surprisingly, the album disappoints as much as it entertains. Overall, it has an excellent sleazy mid-70s Bilitis/Emmanuelle-style groove, with strings and sparse electronic effects. But it's not always very tasteful, and the aforementioned 'Lesbos-a-nova' track is particularly disappointing. The best tracks are the opener, 'Soft Shoulders and Dangerous Curves' (which has a brief disco section in the middle), and 'Supergirl'.
The arrangements are by well-known UK conductor Simon Park. The album appears to be a private pressing.
Evinha: 'Eva 2001' (LP; Odeon; 1968)
I discovered Evinha only recently. She was a contemporary of Claudia on the Odeon label in Brazil, and thus her albums have similar arrangements. Evinha went on to form the Trio Esperanca, but it was with this album that she recorded what I think was her first big hit, 'Casaco Marron'. This beautiful and tender ballad opens the album. The whole thing is very pleasant, with a couple of lesser-known Marcos Valle/Paulo Sergio Valle tracks thrown in as well. Evinha's voice is not particularly strong, but it has a kind of vulnerable sound to it that appeals to me. The backings and orchestrations are superb.
Probably the 'grooviest' track is 'Vou Seguindo,' but the whole album is a winner.
Franck Pourcel: 'L'Enfant Roi' (LP; Pathe; 1970)
This was my final French easy listening purchase of the day, and unfortunately it has little to recommend it. I was encouraged by the fact that one track was composed by Morricone and another by Polnereff. But that wasn't enough. I've had good Pourcels before, but I think overall Paul Mauriat is the better arranger
Franck Pourcel: 'Paraphonic' (LP; EMI-Pathe; 1969)
I bought this album many years ago in Amsterdam, attracted by both its beautiful cover and the version of 'Daydream'. Of course, the whole 'daydream' thing is a bit of a minefield. Most 60s versions of 'Daydream' you find are covers of the John Sebastian/Lovin' Spoonful hit. Some others are the Duke Ellington 'Day Dream'. Good as these are, I'm more interested in digging up versions of the Wallace Collection's Belgian hit (recommended over at musical taste). This was recorded far less often, so I was pleased to add this excellent icy, moody version to my collection. The rest of the album is a bit up-and-down; there's a nice version of 'Good morning starshine', but not a lot else.
Leroy Holmes: 'Once Upon a Time in the West' (LP; United Artists; 1968)
I was pleasantly surprised by this album. To be honest, I'm not the biggest fan in the world of spaghetti western music, although I enjoy it when I'm in the mood.
This is a bit of a cash-in album, taking advantage of the fact that many of the original scores that the tracks were taken from had not yet been released.
Although the title track is slightly disappointing, with a bizarre tempo, there are some real winners here. The real standout is the first track, 'The Days of Anger', which has a superb funky groove and some incredibly spooky vocal glissando effects. Jerry Goldsmith's '100 Rifles' is also a winner. Throughout, the guitar work, which I'm sure is by Al Caiola (although it doesn't say), is superb.
Meirelles e sua Orquestra: 'Brazilian Beat' (LP; London; 1970)
This is a 70s reissue from Bolivia, one of the few records I was able to find in La Paz when I was there nearly 6 years ago. Time flies. Some Meirelles records are very sought after. I don't think this is one of them, but it's very nice all the same. Extremely percussive. The best track to my ears is the tasty piano-led version of 'Mas que nada'. It's similar to the Sergio Mendes version, except with some more prominent harmonies added in the chorus by the brass.
Nuoveformesonore: 'Nuoveformesonore' (LP; Curci; 1974)
I'm out of my depth with this one. It's extremely strange experimental modern classical music from Italy. It sounds pretty mental, with instrumentation that consists of vocal, flute, trombone, cello, percussion and guitar. I would make a great music critic, huh...
Paul Mauriat: 'Theme from a Summer Place' (LP; MGM/Verve; 1972)
They were closing up the Salvation Army shop, so I had to choose a selection from the seemingly huge collection of French easy listening LPs quickly. I'm glad I picked up this one. It's hardly an outstanding LP, but the arrangements are quite interesting, and the final track is a real jewel.
Ever since I heard it on a compilation made by a friend, I had wondered who in the world made this incredible version of 'Day by Day'. Over the years, I've bought maybe 5 different albums in an attempt to locate it. As it turns out, it's right here. The track starts out as nice simple sparkly early 70s mood music piece, but then explodes half-way through and becomes really outstandingly funky and energetic. I'd say the album is worth picking up just for this track.
Mine is a US issue, but I gather that some of these tracks (including 'day by day') were issued in the UK on Philips as Summer Memories. Tantalizingly, this issue contains a version of what I presume is Gainsbourg's 'La Decadanse'.
Raymond Lefevre: 'Soul Symphonies' (LP; Barclay; 1973)
I knew this double album of pop adaptations of classical pieces wouldn't be much good, but I still had to buy it when I saw it at a charity shop.
I was right, the arrangements just aren't quite beaty and interesting enough to really hold my interest, but it's still not completely without value. The version of Grieg's 'In the hall of the mountain king,' featuring bongoes and a huge beat, is quite fun, although the Psycho effect of the strings can be a bit trying.
Roberto Menescal: 'The Boy from Ipanema Beach' (LP; Kapp; 1964)
A tasty mid-60s instrumental jazz album featuring Roberto Menescal on guitar, along with Eumir Deodato (some of whose compositions are featured), Joao Palma, Sergio, Hugo Marotta, and Henri. A Brazilian recording packaged for the American market, this isn't particularly wild, but it's extremely nicely done. The opening track is an early instrumental version of 'Nao Bate Coracao', which Astrud Gilberto did so nicely on her Beach Samba album
The Michael John Mood: 'Songs for Swinging Sweethearts' (LP; Marble Arch; 1967)
I picked this up in a charity shop last week. I was hoping for some groovy bossa nova sounds, but was mostly disappointed. The arrangements are by Pete Moore, and the whole thing sounds very British. The mood is far more mid-60s than late 60s though, and some of the tracks are so peppy that they're rather maddening. A few of the tracks do have a Brazilian flavour, and 'Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars' is probably the best of those. I can almost imagine a few of these tracks popping up on one of those Japanese 'Cafe Apres-Midi' compilations, but perhaps they're not quite late enough. The liner notes imply that this is going to be a jazzy vocal LP, and while it is, the group vocals and track choices give it more of a Mike Sammes Singers feel than I would have liked.