Category Archives: Now Sound

Bright Lights

Bright Lights!

Like AM Radio Dust, its companion volume, Bright Lights is just as much an exploration of lost spaces and places as it is of sound.

I hope you enjoy it.

Bright Lights
(single MP3 file)

Susan Rafey, “The Big Hurt”
Jerry Lee Trio, “Banshee”
Rick Durham and the Dynamics, “Southern Love”
Stan with the Marauders, “Echo Valley”
Maggie Ingram with the Ingramettes, “Melody of Love”
Zena Ayo, “Long Long Gone”
Mike Baltch Quartet, “Delilah”
Cheryl Thompson, “Black Night”
The Checker Dots, “Alpha Omega”
Fantastic Dee-Jays, “This Love of Ours”
The What Four, “Gemini 4″
Carole King, “A Road to Nowhere”
The Bittersweets, “Hurtin’ Kind”
Charles Wright and the Malibus, “Runky”
The Missing Links, “I Cried Goodbye”
J. Gale and the Games, “A Million Nothings”
The Benjamin Specials Gospel Singers, “I Am on the Right Road Now”
Link Wray, “Girl from the North Country”
Shirley Mc Donald accompanied by The Kay Nines K-9′s, “You”
The Santells, “These Are Love”
Houston and Dorsey, “Ebb Tide”
Dub Benson, “Shaping Up Today”
Henry Kaalekahi, “Hookipa Paka – Maunawili”
Johnny Love, “Rain Drops”
George Johnson, “Capricorn”
Fay Simmons, “Bells”
Cee Cee Carol, “The Right Guy”
Lou Smith, “I’ll Be the One”

Posted in Blues, Country, Exotica/Space-Age, Garage Bands, Girl-Groups, Gospel, Instrumentals/Surf, Jazz Obscura, Mixes, Now Sound, R&B/Vocal Groups, Rock 'n' roll, Soul | 10 Comments

AM Radio Dust

AM Radio Dust

 

A new, or new to Office Naps, mix this week.

AM Radio Dust was my 2009 contribution to the annual CD mix swap over at the Waxidermy forums, the weird id of contemporary record collecting.

AM Radio Dust is a good reflection of where my tastes as a collector and music enthusiast stand.  It’s a parallel universe of sound, a lost, echo-y place of girl-groups, instrumental obscurities, haunted country singers and teen crooners, inadvertent drone and difficult-to-classify, space-age flotsam.

I did choose to re-record (320kpbs) and re-mix the original tracks, however, which suffered from some variable bit rates and generally poor mastering.  As always, nothing was cleaned up, though, no pops or clicks removed.  So here it is.

AM Radio Dust
(single MP3 file)

AM Radio Dust

(zip file with mixed tracks)

The Houstons, “Solar Light”
The Caravelles, “Hey Mama You’ve Been On My Mind”
Jimmy Barden & Donna Byrd, “It’s Never Easy”
Undecided?, “Make Her Cry”
Shadow Casters, “Going to the Moon”
Kumar Basnyet, “Chyangba Ta Naun”
Donald Adkins, “Lonley Side Walks”
Joe D. Gibson, “21 Years (It Takes a Worried Man)”
Jerry Williams & the Epics, “Whatever You Do”
Ervin Litkei, “Music to Play E-S-P By”
The Ultra Mates, “Pitter Patter”
Andrew Paul with Music by The Agents, “A Hearts Not a Toy”
The Desert Rats, “Sohonie”
The Stratfords, “Never Leave Me”
Red Garrison and His Zodiacs, “Chant of the Jungle”
Tracy Pendarvis and the Swampers, “A Thousand Guitars”
Holmes Sisters, “The Love of Jesus”
Ronny Kae, “Swinging Drums”
The Lawrence Comp., “Moon Beams”
Wilbert Harrison, “Happy in Love”
Buddy Long, “It’s Nothin’ to Me”
Johnny Williams, “Another Love”
Bill Osborn – Guitar Solo By Doug Allen, “Bamboo and Rice”
Little John and The Monks, “Black Winds”
Lorrie Collins, “Another Man Done Gone”
Willie Gregg and the Velvetones, “You Fool”
Mona Davis, “I’ll Pick Up My Heart”
Billy Sol and the Thunderbirds, “When You’re Alone”

Posted in Country, Exotica/Space-Age, Garage Bands, Gospel, Instrumentals/Surf, Mixes, Now Sound, R&B/Vocal Groups, Rock 'n' roll | 18 Comments

The Middle East after hours, part two

In the first half of the 1960s, when this week’s selections were recorded, exotica hadn’t waned as a commercial or creative force.  And the Arabic world was one peculiar, and significant, branch of the exotica tree.   It was a branch informed by a limited, loose and now-quaint geographic and cultural projection that was fired in turn by pop culture, especially the Middle East of Lawrence of Arabia, Cleopatra, Columbia’s various Sinbad movies, and a million other spy and swashbuckler adventures.

Even the ostensibly “authentic” National Geographic’s post-War construction of the Middle East, while well-intentioned, relayed a certain romantic exoticism.  This is not to suggest that the average American’s knowledge has gotten any less limited.  It’s just that the clichés have changed.  The image of the Arab World of the ‘50s and ‘60s – Hollywood and Madison Avenue’s in particular – was variously opulent, desolate and mysterious, a pleasure palace of sheiks, zaftig belly dancers, hookahs and silk and incense and candles.

Belly Dancer

Nothing but high Orientalist camp this week on Office Naps. Image cropped from cover of the 101 Strings' East of Suez album.

Every single one of these clichés would find its way into popular music in turn.  This was nothing new, obviously: one needn’t look any further than Ravel’s Bolero for musical antecedents.  There were ethnic field recordings and domestic releases of Lebanese and Egyptian pop (see Philips’ and Capitol Records’ International series, for one) to be had, of course, but for the most part the ‘60s proved some sort of musical peak for our cultural approximations of the “Orient,” from Dick Dale’s “Miserlou” at one of the decade to a lot of the faux-Eastern psychedelic rock (which is exotica) at the other.  And every imaginable version of “Caravan,” “Delilah” and the theme from Lawrence of Arabia along the way.  Even the extremely popular belly-dance LPs that nominally contained authentic music were packaged in lurid jackets that invoked every imaginable stereotype.

Most importantly, though, there were many, many glorious and gloriously obscure 45s that exploited the camels-and-caravans fantasy to the nth degree.  (See the Exotica Project for a number of these faux-Eastern gems.)    A fun post this week and a follow-up to this early dispatch as we explore few more of them.  Aqaba!

The Merits, Arabian Jerk (Bandstand USA BA-20165-A)1.  The Merits, Arabian Jerk (Bandstand USA BA-20165-A)
A white group from the Memphis area, little is known about the Merits, and nothing conclusive can be stated about either Wade Tillman (or Tilmon) or Carlton Reynolds, the authors of “Arabian Jerk.”

Bandstand USA was one of several subsidiaries of Goldwax Records, Quinton Claunch and Rudolph “Doc” Russell’s excellent label that, after Stax and Hi Records, did much to advance the region’s R&B and soul talent (including O.V. Wright, James Carr, the Ovations, and Spencer Wiggins, among others) in the mid-‘60s.  Also among the Goldwax discography are some country artist and garage band releases.  But nothing quite like 1965’s “Arabian Jerk,” an inspired, slinky example of organ-fueled casbah hokum if ever there was one.

Its flipside (“Please Please Little Girl”) is an odd thing lying somewhere betwixt garage band and Stax R&B outtake.  This seems to have been the Merits’ only 45.

Jack La Forge, The Cleopatra Kick (Regina R-284)2.  Jack La Forge, The Cleopatra Kick (Regina R-284)
New York City-based pianist, organist, composer and bandleader Jack La Forge was in his time fairly prolific.

Born in 1926, La Forge seems to have been foremost a businessman , though one with obvious inclinations for playing music.   His Regina Records, which he founded and operated, enjoyed a brief but busy run between 1963 and 1965.   Among the Regina discography would be good albums by jazz saxophonist Charlie Mariano, nightclub singer Frances Faye (to whom he’d once been engaged) and obscure singer Sylvia DeSayles (to whom he’d recently become engaged), along with some interesting girl-group, jazz, instrumental and R&B 45s.

But more than anything Regina Records seems to have served as a sort of outlet for La Forge’s own musical penchant – there are at least seven full-length albums of piano-based orchestral pops fare attributed to him (not to mention his first LP – 1962’s Hawaii & I – recorded for Purpletone Records, or his last – 1966’s Hit the Road, Jack – recorded for Audio Fidelity).   These albums have been largely forgotten.  It’s not that the stuff is bad – covers of hip fare like “Hit the Road, Jack” and “Comin’ Home Baby” are fun – it’s just that for the most part there’s none of the studio whiz-bang or stereophonic adventure that rescue this particular brand of easy-listening retread LP.

“The Cleopatra Kick,” from 1963, is the big, mod exception to that.  An original, with an electric harpsichord put to particularly deft use, the thundering arrangements and misterioso atmosphere here are provided in part by the great Don Sebesky, a studio man with his own proud legacy of now-sound-style grooviness.

La Forge died sadly early, stricken by a heart attack in early 1966 at the age of forty.

The Embers and Joe Mack Lackey, Alexandria (Newtime 513B)3.  The Embers and Joe Mack Lackey, Alexandria (Newtime 513B)|
A possibly-Philadelphia-based group who, after writing about them nearly three years ago, remain as elusive as ever.  Its flipside (“Burning Up the Airways”) offers no clues, and I’m still not entirely confident of the connection between this Embers and the Embers of “Peter Gunn Cha Cha” fame, to be honest.  And there may also be a connection to the Embers who backed Pete Bennett on his Booker T. & the MGs-inspired “Fever” from 1961.

Regardless of any tenuous links that can be drawn here, this thumpingly great selection, recorded in 1962, represents something that gets a lot of genuine appreciation around here: the continuous triumph of pop exoticism over authenticity.

Newtime was part of the Newtown family of record labels, which most famously issued some early 45s by Patti Labelle.

Posted in Exotica/Space-Age, Instrumentals/Surf, Jazz Obscura, Latin, Now Sound, The Exotica Project | 1 Comment

Office Naps Summer 2010 Psychedelic Pop mix

The fifth installment of the Office Naps psychedelic pop mix. Sunshine dreams, bad trips, and modern astrology for Today’s Teen.

Office Naps Summer 2010 Psychedelic Pop mix
Pinnochio & the Puppets, Fusion (7″ 45, Mercury)
Jackie & Gayle, Remember (7″ 45, United Artists)
Lynn LaSalle, Randee Ramjet (7″ 45, Hy Nibble)
Nite People, Is This a Dream (7″ 45, Page One, UK)
Blossom Toes, Telegram Tuesday (We Are Ever So Clean, Marmalade, UK)
John Dunn, I’m a Deeper Blue (7″ 45, Flick City)
Cherro King, I’m So Afraid I’ve Lost You (7″ 45, Commerce)
Preston, Water Falls (7″ 45, Sound Patterns)
The Tears, Rat Race (7″ 45, Onyx)
Don Voegeli, Sound Patterns with Logo (Four) (excerpt) (Four Notes in Search of a Tune, vol. 2, University of Wisconsin – Extension)
Mort Garson & Jacques Wilson, I’ve Been Over the Rainbow (The Wozard Of Iz: An Electronic Odyssey, A&M)
Gossip, Whispering Wind (7″ 45, Gossip)
The Mirage, Tomorrow Never Knows (7″ 45, Philips, UK)
East Side Kids, Little Bird (7″ 45, Valhalla)
Jerry Goldsmith, Trip (Sebastian, soundtrack, Dot)
Kaleidoscope , A Dream for Julie (7″ 45, Fontana, UK)
The Appletree Theatre, What a Way to Go (7″ 45, Verve Forecast)
Zodiac Cosmic Sounds (Mort Garson), Pisces – The Peace Piper (Zodiac Cosmic Sounds: celestial counterpoint with words and music, Elektra)
Johnny Thompson Quintet, For Us There’ll Be No Tomorrow (7″ 45, Guitarsville)
ESB, Let Me Touch You (7″ 45, Inarts)
Apperson Jackrabbit, Candy Cane Sound (7″ 45, Steamer)
Action Unlimited, My Heart Cries Out (7″ 45, Parkway)
The Cadaver, Haven’t Got the Time (7″ 45, Kaleidoscope)
The Executives, Moving in a Circle (7″ 45, Festival, Australia)
Tom Dissevelt, Spearhead (Fantasy in Orbit, Philips)
Smokey and His Sister, Imagination (Smokey & His Sister, Warner Brothers)
The Common People, Here, There, and Everywhere (7″ 45, United of flbl&g)

Posted in Garage Bands, Mixes, Now Sound, Psychedelic/Pop | 8 Comments

Office Naps Winter 2008 Psychedelic Pop mix

The latest version of the psychedelic pop mix, streamlined and scratchier than ever.

If anything, people tend to remember the decade for the sitars and sunshine harmonies and fuzzed-out guitars. The reputation is not entirely undeserved. But I am here to say that it was echo, great heaping slabs of it, that really makes things go ‘round.

Anyway, there were a million deserving songs that didn’t make the mix, and we wish them good luck in their future pursuits.

Office Naps Winter 2008 Psychedelic Pop mix
Blair Smith, Vision of Molly (7”, Pompeii)
The Sunshine Trolley, Cover Me Babe (7”, Trump)

The Gallants, Robin’s Blues (7”, Capitol)

Opus I, Backseat ’38 Dodge (7”, Mustang)

Things to Come
, Come Alive (7”, Warner Brothers)
The Gates of Eden, Elegy (7”, Warner Brothers)
Sagittarius, The Truth Is Not Real (Present Tense, Columbia)
The West Coast Workshop, Ode to Jackie, Dorothy and Alyce (The Wizard of Oz and Other Trans Love Trips, Capitol)
The Models, Bend Me, Shape Me (7”, MGM)
Unknown Korean Composer, Side 2 Track 4 (Heavenly Home Coming to Stars, part II soundtrack, SRB Korea)
The Parade, This Old Melody (7”, A&M;)
Ian Freebairn-Smith, Other Hawaii (TV Track) (The Other Side of Clouds EP, Proud Bird)
6 7/8, Ski-Daddle (7”, Dot)
Ustad Vilayat Khan, Title Music: Tom’s Arrival (The Guru soundtrack, RCA)
Click, Fat Lady in the Wicker Chair (7”, Laurie)
The Advancement, Child At Play (The Advancement, Philips)
Hearts and Flowers, Tin Angel (Will You Ever Come Down) (7”, Capitol)
Bill & Howdy, Misty Morning Confrontation (7”, Verve-Forecast)
The Pretty Things, My Time (7”, Fontana UK)
Somebody’s Children, Shadows (7”, Uptown)
London Phogg, The Times to Come (7”, A&M;)
The Relations, The Image (7”, Reena)
The Brain Train, Me (7”, Titan)
The Robbs, Castles in the Air (7”, Atlantic)
Evie Sands, It’s This I Am, I Find (7”, A&M;)
Ananda Shankar, Snow Flower (Ananda Shankar, Reprise)
The Fallen Angels, Most Children Do (The Fallen Angels, Laurie)
The Elite, I’ll Come to You (7”, Charay)
The Vejtables, Shadows (7”, Uptown)
The Electric Tomorrow, The Electric Tomorrow (7”, World-Pacific)

Posted in Garage Bands, Instrumentals/Surf, Miscellaneous Flotsam, Mixes, Now Sound, Psychedelic/Pop | 13 Comments

Oh, Calcutta!

Oh! Calcutta! wanted to be provocative in the worst possible way.

Released Off Broadway in 1969, the musical revue featured sketches of various sexual neuroses and peccadilloes, and included frontal nudity – only the second major musical after Hair to do so. Oh! Calcutta! also had some avant-garde cred – respected British theater critic Kenneth Tynan conceived and assembled the program, with bankable names like Samuel Beckett, Jules Feiffer, Margo Sappington, Dan Greenburg, John Lennon, Jacques Levy and Sam Shepard contributing sketches.

Sometimes mere pedigree and nudity aren’t enough. Sometimes weak writing and silly, rigidly heterosexual humor will earn you a reputation as an inconsequential diversion. New York Times critic Clive Barnes concluded after the opening: “To be honest, I think I can recommend the show with any vigor only to people who are extraordinarily underprivileged either sexually, socially or emotionally.” Musical theater was only beginning to embrace the counter-culture’s possibilities, but others, like Stag Movie, The Faggot, or Let My People Come – or Hair, for that matter – would explore sexual politics more gracefully and more incisively. None of this deterred curious patrons, however, who made Oh! Calcutta! both an instant sensation and, over the course of its original run as well as a record-setting revival begun in 1976, a long-lasting tourist staple.

But the original cast recording for Oh! Calcutta! (originally released in 1969 on Aidart Records, a tiny affiliate of United Artists Records) is another story. Composed and performed by Robert Dennis, Stanley Walden, and the young Peter Schickele (of P.D.Q. Bach and Schickele Mix fame), operating here as the Open Window, the score consists of songs and instrumental interludes that accompanied and divided the revue’s sketches, rather than being full-blown musical numbers. It was similarly derided in contemporary reviews, and it did not sell well, but the original score stands up today as superior even to the great Hair score. There is excellent psychedelic pop to be found in among the heavily arranged chamber-rock.

Thankfully, America’s easy listening bandleaders were not oblivious to the resilient groove of the title track. Alongside “Aquarius,” “Last Tango in Paris” or “The Windmills of Your Mind,” “Oh, Calcutta” was popular, albeit briefly, among those meisters still optimistic about bridging that cursed generational divide. Ferrante and Teicher did a swell job of it and so did, all things considered, Al De Lory: I suspect any version of “Oh, Calcutta” merits at least a casual listen.

1. The Dave Pell Singers, Oh, Calcutta (Liberty)
Born in New York City in 1925, saxophonist Dave Pell’s formative professional gigs were with Tony Pastor’s big band. Upon relocating to California in mid-‘40s, he’d join a succession of bandleaders: Bob Crosby, Bobby Sherwood, Bob Astor, and, finally – between 1947 and 1955 – Les Brown and His Band of Renown.

These were competent bands, popular but hardly the cutting edge of jazz. Indeed, Pell’s entire trajectory would be characterized by this sort of commercial orientation. In addition to a series of budget-oriented big band tribute albums, Pell released many decent-selling jazz records throughout the ‘50s with a smaller group – his popular octet (many of its members borrowed in turn from the young modernists of Brown’s orchestra). Even these dates, while sophisticated, were on the more conservative, tightly arranged side of West Coast jazz.

There has always been that pragmatic streak among certain jazz talents, the pull to the more reliable life of studio arranging, directing and producing. Post-War musicians like Shorty Rogers and Quincy Jones made big names for themselves thusly, while many others – the Bob Florences, Manny Albams, and Johnny Mandels of this world – toiled further from the spotlight. This pragmatism diminishes none of their art, necessarily – especially some of their wilder soundtrack moments – but it does open a certain distance from their “authentic” jazz roots. Dave Pell? Just part of the trend.

Pell’s years as studio musician (he would back Mel Torme and June Christy, among many others), octet leader, and budget record label producer (for the infamous Tops Records) led, by the early ‘60s, to a turn as a producer and A&R; man at Liberty Records, then one of the more successful post-War California labels. Experience in the industry clearly had served Pell well. At Liberty he had produced pop records in a big way for artists like Gary Lewis, Bobby Vee, the Ventures, Martin Denny, Gene McDaniels and the young Vicki Carr. Pell’s time there also included a few of his own albums – two commercial pop/jazz records in 1963, and finally, in 1969, the Dave Pell Singers’ Mah-Na-Mah-Na LP. Everything about that album, including this glorious selection, was a quick study in studio-tempered grooviness, raining down sunshine down all over Orange County. What generation gap?

After the Liberty marque was bought by United Artists Records in the late ‘60s, Pell worked behind-the-scenes in the Los Angeles industry, scoring and coordinating music for the television shows Stand Up and Cheer and The Real Tom Kennedy Show as well as a rash of Burt Reynolds and Clint Eastwood vehicles: Sharkey’s Machine, Sudden Impact, Cannonball Run II, Honkytonk Man and Paternity. Pell would release two albums with his Lester Young tribute group Prez Conference in the late ‘70s. In more recent decades, Pell revived his octet and founded specialty labels Headfirst Records and Group 7 Records. Dave Pell is still active today.

2. The Milt Okun Arrangement, Oh, Calcutta (Decca)
Milton Okun, born in New York City in 1923, was a junior high music teacher and folk music fan when he joined Harry Belafonte as a pianist and singer (and later as arranger and conductor) in the mid-‘50s.

Okun parted ways with Belafonte in 1960, thereafter taking on various production and arrangement work around Greenwich Village’s burgeoning folk scene. Alongside several long-forgotten albums of his own folk song interpretations, Okun’s dozens of ‘60s production credits would include obscure singers like Lynn Gold and Ernie Sheldon as well as – thanks to good fortune and a good ear for commercial talent – many of the folk revival’s most popular artists: the Chad Mitchell Trio, the Brothers Four, Peter, Paul & Mary, and Miriam Makeba. The folk revival began foundering in the mid-‘60s; Okun forged ahead with his artists and with newer talents like Laura Nyro. His biggest protégé, however, would be John Denver, a Chad Mitchell Trio alum whom Okun mentored after the Trio’s dissolution, and whom Okun would continue to produce for another decade.

Denver was perhaps his single greatest success, but Okun’s production duties extended to assorted improbables, including ‘70s soft rockers the Starland Vocal Band (of “Afternoon Delight” fame) and future tenor celebrity Placido Domingo in the early ’80s. This is not to mention Okun’s written articles about folk music, his string of song books of the late ‘60s and ‘70s – among them Something to Sing About, Great Songs of the Sixties, Country Music’s Greatest Songs and Great Songs of Lennon and McCartney, or his music education magazine, Music Alive!, begun in 1981.

Okun’s was a broad, impossible-to-pigeonhole career, but fitting this languid 1969 version of “Oh, Calcutta” in somewhere is still a bit of a challenge. It’d been years since Okun had recorded under his own name. This sounded like a studio lark, and it probably was. Lucky record buyers didn’t care about any of that, though. They knew it’d still be life of their next party.

To a great extent, Okun’s business interests have now largely superceded his musical associations. The Cherry Lane Music Group, which Okun founded in 1960, is, as of 2008, a major player in the music publishing business, with publishing, print, digital and licensing divisions and a lucrative, if schizoid, roster that includes Will.I.am and Quincy Jones alongside Ralph Macdonald and Tom Paxton.

Okun is also still active as a director at the Los Angeles Opera.

3. Henry Jerome, Oh, Calcutta (United Artists)
Like Dave Pell and Milt Okun, trumpeter Henry Jerome was a working musician who found his eventual calling in the studio. Born in New York City in 1917, Jerome formed his first dance bands in his late teens. His band, Henry Jerome and His Stepping Tones, was familiar to late ‘30s audiences for its regular appearances along the northeastern ballroom circuit, and for its residencies at (and radio broadcasts from) New York City’s Edison Hotel.

Jerome, hitherto stylistically indebted to Hal Kemp’s dance orchestra, began to update his orchestra with hipper musicians in the early ‘40s. The band – including pianist Al Haig, saxophonist Al Cohn, drummer Tiny Kahn, trombonist/composer Johnny Mandel and guitarist Billy Bauer – would be something of a bop jazz cauldron, though the modernization was mostly for naught. The swing era drew to a close and Jerome finally dissolved his group in the late ‘40s.

After some forgettable mid-‘50s pop albums on MGM and Roulette Records (as well as themes for children’s show Winky-Dink and You in the mid-‘50s and for the Soupy Sales show a few years later), Jerome joined the Decca record label. There, in addition to his work as an A&R; director and producer, he’d release a series of his Brazen Brass stereophonic project albums. By 1967, Jerome was at United Artists Records, where he recorded one more Brazen Brass-style album, and continued his pop productions. Along with pop and country crossover singer Bobbi Martin, these included, not insignificantly, his production of the original Oh! Calcutta! score.

From 1969, I believe this selection is the original theme’s very first cover version. More upbeat than the original, and set at least slightly in the future, this is “Oh, Calcutta” reimagined with a payload of tiny lights and chirping electronics, Destination 1999.

Jerome’s involvement with the record industry tapered off sometime in the very early ‘70s. Sadly, current information about subsequent activities or whereabouts is scarce.

Henry Jerome’s legacy still is known among two peculiar groups, however. Fans of early rock ‘n’ roll recall him for his somewhat unexpected involvement (under the pseudonym Al Mortimer) with Johnny Burnette and the Rock ‘n’ Roll Trio, who waxed some intense rockabilly sides under Jerome’s watch in 1956 and ’57. Fans of unrepentant deregulation, of course, remember Henry Jerome for his ‘40s orchestra, an organization that included not only future Nixon-era White House Counsel Leonard Garment on saxophone, but also future Chairman of the Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan on, against all logic, bass clarinet.

Posted in Now Sound | 5 Comments

Cinema funky

Just as its antecedents in the mid-‘60s had their sitar interludes and fuzztone atmospherics, the hipper cinema of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s oozed with wah-wah guitars, jazz basslines and funky backbeats. And why not? Whatever Tinseltown’s machinations, film had long been a dramatic and stylish medium, and its soundtrack composers were some of the coolest talents around. Movie and television scores afforded lucrative opportunities for a Lalo Schifrin or Henry Mancini to satisfy some serious interests in jazz and composition, if not to experiment with riffs from psychedelic rock or dark rhythms from funk.

Before funk became an obligatory element of every post-Shaft blaxploitation picture, though, before it became a cliché on primetime television fare like CHiPs, there were this week’s selections. Some of these were written for movies. Some of them weren’t written for the screen but wound up there. Some of these were versions of soundtrack themes that exceeded the original. At one end of town, circa 1970, there were serious young men with serious pedigrees from music conservatories sitting in studios with handfuls of annotated charts. At the other end of town, the poorer part of town, churning funk music spun out in endless iterations. And, in that planetary stretch in between, these selections happened.

1. Roy Budd, Carter (DJM)
Roy Budd was a British musical prodigy who began his professional career as a jazz pianist at the tender age of sixteen. It would be his later soundtrack work for movies like Kidnapped (1971) and The Wild Geese (1978), however, for which Budd would find his lasting fame.

Budd imparted a chilly minimalism to “Carter,” his theme for 1971’s Get Carter, a British thriller starring Michael Caine. One can run down the possibilities all day and still never account for how Budd managed, with only a motley ensemble of bass, Indian tablas, and electric harpsichord and piano, to create a tableau so perfectly redolent of both the stark landscape of northern England and of the gangsters who went shooting about there with characteristic disregard.

Budd passed on in 1993. He was forty-six.

2. Julio Gutierrez, Last Tango in Paris (Vico)
The great Julio Gutierrez emigrated from his native Cuba in the late ‘50s, pursuing his calling in both Miami and New York City with freelance stints as a composer, session pianist and musical director. Despite two very hip ‘60s Latin jazz LPs, Progressive Latin and Havana B.C., Gutierrez would never regain the stature he’d enjoyed in Cuba, where, in addition to leading the legendary Cuban Jam Sessions series, he’d been among his country’s best known modern bandleaders and composers.

1972 would perhaps represent the crowning year for the pornographic movie in its brief-lived moment of mainstream chic, and few soundtrack themes would better encapsulate its adults-only art-house cachet than Argentinean saxophonist Gato Barbieri’s “Last Tango in Paris.” 1972 would also mark one of the final years of Gutierrez’s recording career, but if his would hereafter be one of diminishing visibility, it wasn’t for lack of audacity. Other Latin bandleaders like Mongo Santamaria, Willie Rosario and Tito Puente would tackle Barbieri’s continental boudoir anthem, but no one else would inject it with the same groovily psychedelic flair.

Gutierrez died in New York City in 1990.

3. The Johnny Harris Orchestra, Footprints On the Moon (Warner Brothers)
British-born Johnny Harris first made a name for himself in the mid-‘60s writing arrangements for pop singers like Petula Clark and Jackie Trent. Later in the decade, Harris would produce and arrange sessions for Tom Jones, Englebert Humperdink, Shirley Bassey and other pop acts including the Flirtations. His career arc would also include turns in the late ‘60s touring with Tom Jones and serving as musical director for British singer Lulu’s brief-lived variety show Happening For Lulu.

We are not discussing a serious jazzbo or renegade experimentalist here. Harris’s, rather, was a professional kind of hip, a kind that distinguished itself as a turtleneck-and-beads-wearing young talent in the somewhat staid end of the British pop studio system.

While an ear attuned to the latest in the pop charts meant getting served with unenviable tasks like resuscitating Paul Anka’s career, it also afforded its share of fringe benefits. Like John Schroeder, Harris would release a handful of LPs and 45s under his own name. Albums like 1970’s Movements were uneven affairs, certainly, with polite, state-of-the-art covers of “Light My Fire” and “Give Peace a Chance” along with some more adventurous moments like the funky “Fragments of Fear,” “Stepping Stones” and this selection.

Inspired by the Apollo moon landings and subsequently used for the British ITV Network coverage of NASA’s lunar missions, “Footprints on the Moon” follows in the great tradition of Les Baxter’s Space Escapade or Dick Hyman and Mary Mayo’s Moon Gas, albums where the moon’s surface was imagined more as luminescent lovers’ playground than science’s new frontier. Each reverberating piano note of “Footprints on the Moon” seems to bring the listener one gravity-defying step closer to their astrological love destiny. Careful, Libra, your love investments will soon pay off, but watch for a calculating Capricorn to step across your earth shadow.

Since 1972 Johnny Harris has lived in Los Angeles, working mostly in television composition, most famously for Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and Wonder Woman.

(Thanks go to this site for much of the information on Johnny Harris.)

Posted in Exotica/Space-Age, Jazz Obscura, Latin, Miscellaneous Flotsam, Now Sound, Soul | 7 Comments

Office Naps Middle Eastern Mix

The third installment of the Office Naps mix, and it’s all over the place. From Turkish wah-wah guitars and ’60s garage ragas to Yusef Lateef’s Mecca-wise wail, it’s Middle Eastern only in the loosest possible sense of the term. If there ever there was a darbuka to be struck or an argol to be wrangled, however, it’s probably in there. Enjoy.

-DJ Little Danny

Office Naps Middle Eastern Mix
Rosko With The John Berberian Ensemble, Perfection (Music and Gibran: A Contemporary Interpretation Of the Author Of The Prophet, Verve Forecast)
Charles Kynard & Buddy Collette, Blue Sands (Warm Winds, World-Pacific)
The Freak Scene, Grok! (Psychedelic Psoul, Columbia)
Elias Rahbani, Dance of Maria (Mosaic of the Orient, EMI)
Fifty Foot Hose, Opus 777 (Cauldron, Limelight)
Mohamed “Mike” Hegazi and His Golden Guitar, Nouni (Belly Dance With Zeina, Emi)
The Off-Set, Xanthia (Lisa) (7”, Jubilee)
Lloyd Miller with the Press Keys Quartet, Gol-E Gandom (Oriental Jazz, East-West)
Fairuz, Yalla Tenam Rima (Bint El-Harass, soundtrack, Parlophone)
Istanbul Calgicilari, Sax Gazel (Disco Fasil I, Bip!)
T. Swift & The Electric Bag, Free Form In 6 (Are You Experienced, Custom)
1st Century, Looking Down (7”, Capitol)
Don Randi Trio, Tomorrow Never Knows (Revolver Jazz, Reprise)
The Kaleidoscope, Pulsating Dream (Side Trips, Epic)
Omar Khorshid and His Guitar, Guitar El Chark (Rhythms From the Orient, Voice of Lebanon)
Ozel Turkbas, Bovzovkia Solo (Dance Into Your Sultan’s Heart, Elay)
The Devil’s Anvil, Hala Laya (7”, Columbia)
Ganimian & His Oriental Music, Swingin’ The Blues (Come With Me To the Casbah, Atco)
Okay Temiz, East Breeze (Drummer of Two Worlds, Finnadar)
Clyde Borly & His Percussions, Afromania (Music In 5 Dimensions, Atco)
Sabah with Chahine’s International Orchestra, Hully Gully (Halli Galli Dabka) (Music From a Millionaire’s Playground, Parlophone)
Yusef Lateef, Sister Mamie (Live at Pep’s, Impulse!)
The Rotary Connection, I Took A Ride (Caravan) (Rotary Connection, Cadet Concept)
Dorothy Ashby, Soul Vibrations (Afro-Harping, Cadet)
Herbie Mann, Incense (Impressions of the Middle East, Atlantic)
Lalo Schifrin, The Snake’s Dance (Lalo = Brilliance: The Piano of Lalo Schifrin, Roulette)
Tony Martinez and His Mambo Combo, Pharoah’s Curse (7”, GNP)
Johnny Lewis Trio and Millie, Snake Hips (7”, Coral)
Sonny Lester & His Orchestra, Song of India (Little Egypt Presents More How To Belly-Dance For Your Husband, Roulette)

Posted in Exotica/Space-Age, Garage Bands, Jazz Obscura, Latin, Miscellaneous Flotsam, Mixes, Now Sound, Psychedelic/Pop | 15 Comments