index page for Delicado Album Details
Avalon  - Jumping Jacques - 1968
Label: Petra SRL 303908ZA (Italy)
Format: CD
From: France
My rating: 8/10

Entered: 11/25/2002
Last updated: 05/03/2003

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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!

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