|Movements - Johnny Harris - 1969-1970|
|Label: Warner 8122-73602-2 (UK)|
My rating: 7/10
Last updated: 05/03/2003
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|I came to this album after hearing Francis Lai's great version of 'Footprints on the moon' on a 70s LP I have by him. Johnny Harris composed that track, which was apparently used on British TV by the BBC to accompany footage of the moon landing.
It turns out that the LP is more famous for 'stepping stones', a funky, upbeat track with a lot of wah wah guitar, which was used in a Levi commercial a few years ago. The album has become very hard to come by, with even bootleg vinyl copies selling for big money. So I was pleased when I heard about this CD. I was even more pleased when I opened it up: there's a thick booklet with background information and interview snippets with Johnny Harris, and the artwork is faithfully reproduced.
The music is also delightful for the most part. The album opens with "Fragment of fear," a catchy and slow-burning soundtrack piece with a synthesized piano, funky drums, flute, and organ. The use of the piano reminds me of some of the better work by Pete Moore, another good UK session arranger of the 60s and 70s.
The short 'reprise,' from the same soundtrack score, is slow and repetitive, sounding like a Satie piece, but arranged for a guitar. Next up is the aforementioned 'Stepping Stones'. This features a violent-sounding flute and a fiercely-paced beat with some wicked percussion. While the sound is undeniably cool, it's repetitive, and I find the track a little overlong at 5:21.
The liner notes express Harris's apparent distaste for his record company's insistence that he include cover versions of contemporary songs on his album. Even so, his take on 'Something' is ok. It's long at over 6 minutes, and explodes into life for the last minute, with that kind of brassy, funky, stringy, and hip feel that the whole UK 'funky easy' sound is known for.
The next cover is 'Give Peace a Chance,' and it's pretty bizarre. The arrangement is extremely hip, but the song is not. The vocal, which I think is by Harris himself, is very low in the mix, and is joined by a pretty cheesy-sounding female chorus. Overall the track has quite a cool 'Hair'-style vibe to it, but I don't think I'd choose to listen to it that often.
The reason for my purchase comes next, in the shape of Harris's original version of 'Footprints on the Moon', which has apparently been sampled by some talented dudes ('wiseguys', I think). Anyway, Harris's version is pretty cool: a little less slushy than Francis Lai's, with more of an airy feel to it. The tune is really rather enchanting, and I highly recommend that you check it out if you didn't hear it already. I guess my only complaint about this version is that in the chorus section, it becomes rather bombastic, with full orchestra and choir. And the ending isn't quite as cool as in Francis Lai's version. Still, it's a winner.
The album concludes with a trio of covers. 'Light my fire' is first, and I never thought I'd hear myself say this, but I actually find I miss Shirley Bassey's vocals slightly. Again, the arrangement is a little bombastic, but it's great fun. 'Wichita Lineman' is a very pleasant 'footprints'-style arrangement, with a slow, gently funky feel to it. 'Paint it Black' is very interesting. A slow descending chord sequence with a funky beat introduces the track, and then after you've forgotten that this is 'Paint it Black,' the tune comes in, played slowly on the piano. I kind of wish that was it, but in fact, the orchestra goes mental just over half-way through the song, and the remainder is played out at double speed with a huge beat.
This CD reissue contains 2 bonus tracks, 'Lulu's theme', a fast, rocking instrumental, and a mono version of 'Footprints..'
Overall, this record hints at utter brilliance, but in the end doesn't completely do it for me. There are some fantastic moments, and 3 or 4 excellent tracks, but the arrangements sometimes get slighly too brassy and bombastic for my taste. Hey, maybe that's just today though. It's still a very nice record and a very well put together reissue.
1. Fragment of fear
3. Stepping stones
5. Give peace a chance
6. Footprints on the moon
7. Light my fire
8. Wichita lineman
9. Paint it black
10. Lulu's theme (mono - bonus track)
11. Footprints on the moon (mono - bonus track)