Monthly Archives: November 2002

Two interesting items arrived today.

Compilation - David Whitaker: 'The David Whitaker Songbook' (CD; Tricatel; 1965-1998)
Show Details
click to see larger image and full details
This is a fascinating compilation of music touched by the hand of David Whitaker, a film composer I discovered completely by accident last year. I bought a Colgems label sampler LP, mainly in order to hear a track or two from Lalo Schifrin’s notoriously rare Murderer’s Row soundtrack. But the track that stuck out was David Whitaker’s ‘Hammerhead’s apartment’ (audio), a beautiful and rich piece from the soundtrack to a 1968 Vince Edwards movie, Hammerhead.

There are 21 tracks on this disc, a mix of pop work for which Whitaker was the arranger and original soundtrack or soundtrack-related work that he has scored.

It turns out that Whitaker also arranged many of my favorite 60s pop songs, including work by Nico (the same early track I recommend at musical taste), Lee Hazlewood, and France Gall. The Hazlewood track is from Cowboy in Sweden; I recall remarking to myself in the past on the incredible richness of the string sound in that song. The France Gall song is an astounding sitar/orchestral pop track called 'Chanson Indienne,' which was new to me.

This compilation also boasts the original track by the Andrew Oldham Orchestra that The Verve sampled for 'Bittersweet Symphony'. I recall that they made a terrible stink at the time about having to sign the composer rights over to someone else, claiming that really they wrote the song, and just borrowed a few notes. Perhaps they didn’t say that—I don’t actually know the details of the case—but I can say that other than the melody (which is pretty obvious anyway), they added nothing to this track! In fact, they left some nice bits out! In his short note, Whitaker says 'bollocks to The Verve!', and listening to this disc, I can’t help agreeing with him.

Other than 'Hood explores the Triton' from Hammerhead, I find the film score work slightly less accessible than the rest of the disc. It's still very good though, and includes recent work (a piano piece from Harry un ami qui vous veut du bien; a cool film, I thought, incidentally) as well as late 60s material from Run wild, run free.

A good proportion of the tracks are from Whitaker's 'fake score' album, Music to Spy By, which I once failed to buy on ebay. All seem to be astoundingly good - soft, stylish orchestral instrumentals in a slightly muted style. Whitaker is apparently good friends with Bertrand Burgalat, and you can definitely hear the influence in Burgalat's work – echoey strings, supplemented occasionally by bouncy basslines.

The most incredible thing that strikes me after hearing this collection is that I had previously been ignorant of Whitaker's involvement in much of my favorite music (I even have the CD single that his version of Air's 'remember' is taken from!). This is a great disc, which I highly recommend to Schifrin and Morricone fans.

Jumping Jacques: 'Avalon' (CD; Petra SRL; 1968)
Show Details
click to see larger image and full details
What an incredible record! I think if I listened to this every day, I’d go insane, but it’s impossible not to be impressed by it all the same. Jumping Jacques were apparently a vocal group from France. The instrumentation is simple, with drums and bass behind many layers of ludicrously peppy wordless vocals. The most obvious comparisons to make are the Swingle Singers and Les Double Six, but this group is taking the entire ‘percussive wordless harmony vocals’ sound to level beyond that of most groups. For example, their sound is similar to Os 3 Morais, but more extreme.

For a group as obscure and apparently unknown as this (I had heard of them only through a bootleg compilation of a few years ago called ‘Beat Actione’), the singing is remarkably good, with the female singers hitting similar high notes to those of the Gals & Pals. All the tracks are 2 to 3 minutes in length. It’s slightly hard to choose between them. The styles vary slightly – some, such as ‘la terre, le ciel et l’eau’ focus on quirky percussive vocal effects, while others are more straightforward and accessible pop bossa tracks. ‘Just a little midnight swim’ is a nice cut with dense vocals. The effect is like a cross between the Novi Singers and a late-60s Piero Piccioni or Ennio Morricone soundtrack.

Some of the tracks definitely veer into novelty territory. ‘Avalon’ is bizarre. An Al Jolson composition, it features gulping and muppet-style effects. An accordion-type sound continues in the background, and I think this is in fact made up of multiple spliced sections of sped up vocal notes. It sounds like little mice. Bizarre! ‘Chili peppers’ is kind of ridiculous as well.

What I probably haven’t made clear so far is the “hip factor” of these tracks. Not every track is like this, but many tracks are extremely “hip”, like ‘Where flamingos fly’, which has a great, “easy” proto-disco feel to it, with gently funky drums. Of course, the real reason I love it is the faint Edda Dell'Orso-style vocal in the background. ‘Haunted House’ is great as well, with some spooky echoey vocalese effects that I wish I’d had for Halloween.

If I was going to level a complaint about these songs, it would be that while the vocal acrobatics and effects are amazing, the compositions themselves aren’t always that memorable. The final track is therefore especially enjoyable to me, since it’s a cover of ‘whispering,’ an old standard that I’m very fond of. The approach is very different to that taken by Dr. Buzzard, but it’s very cool nevertheless.

I think this record is one that I will dip into for individual tracks rather than listening to the whole thing, but it's wonderful stuff all the same. Being a deeply mean individual, I held out on buying the first Jumping Jacques reissue, ‘sugar and spice’, until they got this one in (so I could save on postage). The first one now seems to be utterly sold out. Damn!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


I’ve been grooving to a few bits of mp3 audio recently. The first couple are from the American Song-Poem Music Archive. Their mp3 page features at least one great track: Rodd Keith’s Run Spook Run, a great mix of lo-fi vocals, 50s beatnik styling and wailing brass. The next is the well-known ‘Blind Man’s Penis (Peace and Love)‘. Although I read about this many years ago in RE:Search’s Pranks book, I had never heard it until I happened upon this mp3. If you’re not familiar with it, check out the background story of the track. My favorite lyric is probably “Warts love my nipples/because they are pink/vomit on me baby, yeah yeah yeah,” but it’s all good [yes, I have an extremely dumb sense of humor. The ‘pranks’ book changed my life]. Finally, if you didn’t check out Patience and Prudence‘s ‘Apples on the Lilac Tree‘ (courtesy of Basic Hip), I urge you to do so. Much as I love their earlier recordings, this track has that pseudo-hip 60s orchestral sound that I love so much. I never knew they recorded tracks like this.

Posted in Digital Music | Leave a comment

Very sad about James Coburn. It’s also weird – I watched Charade just this past Sunday.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Yeah. I’ve been kind of busy. Still, sorry for the silence.

Matt linked to the Pitchfork “top 1000 albums of the 80s” feature. It was definitely interesting. Funny – everyone latches onto a few things, but I guess there are few people who are really into all of the 100 albums they talk about. I was surprised at how many of them I own (or have owned) – a full 20 out of 100. They seemed to like them for very different reasons though – the reviewer of ‘Strangeways Here We Come’ dissed ‘Last night I dreamed that somebody loved me,’ my favorite Smiths song ever!

If you’re interested, these were the ones I own. Only really the Pixies, Smiths, Cure, New Order, Joy Division and Cocteau Twins stand out for me as classics.

  • Pixies – Doolittle
  • The Smiths – The Queen Is Dead
  • Pixies – Surfer Rosa
  • Joy Division – Closer
  • Prince & The Revolution – Purple Rain
  • Galaxie 500 – On Fire
  • De La Soul – 3 Feet High and Rising
  • My Bloody Valentine – Isn’t Anything
  • The Jesus & Mary Chain – Psychocandy
  • New Order – Power, Corruption & Lies
  • Sonic Youth – EVOL
  • The Cure – Disintegration
  • The Stone Roses – The Stone Roses
  • Leonard Cohen – I’m Your Man
  • Pixies – Come On Pilgrim
  • Elvis Costello – Imperial Bedroom
  • The Smiths – Strangeways, Here We Come
  • Cocteau Twins – Blue Bell Knoll
  • Kate Bush – Hounds of Love
  • David Bowie – Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I apologize for the complete lack of posts here. I had an exciting weekend away in Amsterdam. It was strange for me. I lived there for 9 months almost 4 years ago. The city seemed both familiar and unfamiliar. It was great to see old friends; less great to get rained on, just like I used to. I picked up a couple of records, one at the Waterlooplein, and the other (Hugo Montenegro playing Morricone) at that nice big store on Prinsengracht.

Tonight is the big Morricone night. I was pleased to see that NY Press picked the event up. Hopefully it will be a fun evening.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Making a montage of movie clips for the Morricone night last night, I watched some very nasty and very weird films. Autopsy was particularly unpleasant. Cold Eyes of Fear was also kind of nasty, but had that lovely ‘Belinda May’ song in it. I think if you psychoanalyzed me based on the video montage that I put together, you would come away with an impression of me as a strange person. Almost all the clips involved murder, fighting, car chases or sex. There was a 60s pot party (from Danger: Diabolik) thrown in for good measure.

Compilation: 'Mojo Club: Dancefloor Jazz Volume 7' (CD; Motor; 1965-1978)
Show Details
click to see larger image and full details
I discovered the 'Mojo club' series of compilations, named after a club in Hamburg, via online music sharing services. Searching for various Brasilian and soul songs, I noticed many of the filenames were prefaced by 'Mojo club'. So I splashed out and bought this volume from Dusty Groove.

Unfortunately for me, by coincidence, this volume has three (admittedly great) tracks that I already had. There's a whole Brasilian progression, featuring Elis Regina's 'Mundo deserto', Walter Wanderley's 'sambao', and Astrud Gilberto's 'nao bate o coracao'.

Still, there are some nuggets on the rest of the compilation. The general theme is danceable, soulful pop. As you might have figured, this isn't in the mainstream of my taste, so needless to say, there are some tracks that I like a lot more than others. Perhaps the real revelation for me on this compilation is just how good the Love Unlimited Orchestra are. The track included here, 'strange games & things,' may be familiar to many, but it was new to me, and I couldn't believe how great those thick strings sound with a disco beat behind them! Fantastic stuff.

There's quite a bit of 'beaty' material on here. 'El soul condor' by Certain Lions and Tigers is great, as is Manu Dibango's 'wouri'.

I can live without Marvin Gaye's 'calypso blues', but Mary Lou Williams's 'Praise the lord' is a lot of fun, with a jerky, jivey beat and a superb gospel voiceover, with the refrain' come on and clap your hands now.'

The compilation closes with Michel Legrand's 'Maracaibo,' a superb and upbeat 60s big band soul number, very much in the vein of Quincy Jones's 'Soul bossa nova'.

This is a fun compilation; slightly too soul-oriented for my taste, but very enjoyable all the same. There are 10+ volumes in the series, and I suspect all are well worth picking up.

Interpol: 'Turn on the bright lights' (CD; Matador; 2002)
Show Details
click to see larger image and full details
Jonny in buying new release shocker! I bought this because these guys are apparently into some of the same 80s music as me.

'Untitled' is quite good. Very clean sounding. Slightly Joy Division, but with wimpy vocals. It also hints of Echo and the Bunnymen. It's pretty solid, and I think it will grow on me.

'Obstacle 1' (hmm, sounds like Joy Division again). His vocals sound more like Psychedelic Furs here. The guitar playing gives it a nice frenetic early New Order feel though. 'NYC' again has slightly wimpy vocals that really don't appeal to me. The guitar line is softer and gentler. 'PDA' doesn't sound like a promising name for a song. The music is quite good - dark, engergetic and rocky, actually reminding me slightly of My Dad is Dead. Here, the vocals remind me of The Wedding Present.

'Say Hello to the Angels' is a Smiths pastiche, sounding quite convincingly like an outtake from the first album (perhaps with a bit of Orange Juice thrown in). The vocal melody even sounds a bit like the verse of 'this charming man'. 'Hands Away' is slow to get going, but eventually sounds great, with a nice droney sound, augmented by strings.

'Stella was a diver and she was always down' is a simple, repetitive pop song, with nice 80s guitar sounds. It goes on too long though. I've run out of energy to list out and discuss the songs, which I guess is a signal that this isn't a classic album.

Overall, this is a nice enough album, but I can't help feeling that the band have nothing to say, and not quite enough to offer musically. They're capable of some quite cool sounds, and are really quite good. But I have a suspicion that they're not quite good enough to stick around that long. It feels unkind and unreasonable to be writing this, especially since I'm so completely out of the current music scene (in fact, this is the first 2002 release I've bought!). So I wouldn't take my comments too seriously. But as a big Smiths/Joy Division fan, this didn't completely light my fire, although bits of it are great. The first half is definitely easier to get into. The disc is playing for the second time now on my headphones, and already it sounds better. So you never know, maybe this is just a grower.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Sorry for the relative silence this week. I won’t go into details here, but the show last night was rather underwhelming. I mean crappy. Whatever. Today is a new day. I wish anyone reading this a good weekend.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment