Whatever happened to the good ol’ fashioned medley? It seems that by the turn of the 1980’s the style had run its course. Before that…you had some wicked ill charts from Stars On 45 and an Italian producer known as Meco. This was the music your parents were completely okay with you listening to, since it was G-rated, mostly instrumental or “updating” older material and mainly it wasn’t KISS or some other devil worshiping rock. Which is sad, because there’s some good music left on the table as “kitsch” from yesterday.
Those of us from that era will certainly wax nostalgic about the sort of record i’m linking today. I’ve had any number of albums of the like from The Electric Moog Orchestra covering music from Star Wars or Close Encounters of the Third Kind. These movies had iconic music and, importantly, kids AND adults bought them. I bought a Meco single or two at the local Big K or Wal-Mart growing up ($1.89 per 45!) and loved them.
Now onto this particular single. It has a bit of disco and AOR rock flavor to it, and Meco as an arranger does a pretty neat job weaving in some of the familiar though less obvious themes from the “dark side” of John Williams’ score. This is the stuff high school jazz bands were made of. Goofy maybe, but the band frickin’ smokes this stuff, and you have to admit, you love the music of Star Wars. This 45 is long out of print. You could either find a copy gathering dust in someone’s back closet or pull it down here for nostalgia’s sake.
SOURCE: The original 1980 R.S.O. Records pressing of the 45 -> Sony PS-T22 turntable with the V series cartridge -> Technics SA-EX310 stereo receiver -> Lexicon Lambda USB i/o -> Adobe Audition. No EQ, no cleaning up, no click removal, etc.
Walter (Wendy) Carlos was perhaps the first famous synthesizer programmer/performer. At first rock & roll didn’t quite know what to do with synthesizer technology as it began to become commercially available in the late 1960’s. The synthesizer was borne from the college campus and research laboratory, so I suppose it was only natural that the high-brow world of avant-garde classical music became the earliest users of the new technology, followed shortly by foley artists and jingle/commercial composers. Walter Carlos was one of the earliest users of the Moog modular synthesizer and created a runaway smash, Switched On Bach, by painstakingly programming, tuning and multitracking the finicky instrument. The album remains one of the best-selling classical music CD’s of all time. Since Carlos was able to make so much quan off that recording, record execs saw the potential for their own Moog recordings and voila, you had a whole slew of Moog releases. While some of those recordings are charming, none would have the effect of SOB. Shortly thereafter the Moog began to make its way onto popular recordings by The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Monkees and a little known prog group called Emerson, Lake & Palmer.
Fast forward to 1972. Carlos has had success with the soundtrack to A Clockwork Orange, which featured more reworkings of classical music plus the first appearance of an original composition, “Timesteps”. The following year would see Carlos’ first release of all original compositions, Sonic Seasonings.
In this double album Carlos assigns one season thematically to each side of a double LP. Those familiar with SOB will be surprised to discover a more conventional synthesizer album (meaning more atonal and avant-garde) than they are accustomed to from Carlos. (S)he used lots of found sound, field recordings and nature sounds combined with the state-of-the-1972-art Moog modular and multitracking. It’s not as hardcore “sound effect-y” as Subotnik or some of the minimalist 20th century musique concrete composers, but had more of a melodic flair and was arguably a commercialization of the 1960’s laboratory synthesizer composition style.
Carlos would go on to soundtrack Tron and record many other albums, but none quite like Sonic Seasonings. It’s still in print on CD with bonus tracks. Have a listen to it hear first and then buy the CD if you like it.
SOURCE: The original 1972 Columbia Records pressing of the album -> Sony PS-T22 turntable with the V series cartridge -> Technics SA-EX310 stereo receiver -> Lexicon Lambda USB i/o -> Adobe Audition. No EQ, no cleaning up, no click removal, etc.
Yeah, Vangelis. I first became curious about his music 20 years ago when I went through my first wave of prog rock obsession. When I would comb through used vinyl I would often run into copies of the Jon And Vangelis albums and, being a big Yes fan, thought I’d give one of them a try. Yawn. Big yawn. Super disappointing.
Fast forward 15 years and at that point I had become an electronic musician. I started to pay more attention to classic electronic music from sources that I had previously disdained. Jarre and Vangelis in particular. It took until a couple of years ago that i finally found the right Vangelis era, with a used vinyl copy of Heaven and Hell. Then I began to find the right Vangelis.
I say that as though there’s something wrong with his music. I think it’s more a matter of Vangelis being a somewhat singular musical talent. He straddles the fence between groundbreaking New Age electronica, impressionistic orchestral tone poems and over-the-top Wagnerian bombast, sometimes really cool and sometimes really cheesy. And that’s sometimes in just one side-length song! The album I present today consists of Vangelis’s soundtracks to what I think are a couple of European films from the late ’70s. The album compiles “Ignacio” on one side and “Entends-Tu Les Chiens Aboyer” on the other side. The music is definitely in the film score vein, more mood than song. Side one is much more 20th century, side two has more piano and a serious prog rock intro. If you liked Heaven and Hell then I think you’ll dig this album too. It looks like both the vinyl and the CD are long out-of-print and run for serious coin online so try ‘er out here before you buy.
SOURCE: The original 1977 EGG Records French pressing of the album -> Sony PS-T22 turntable with the V series cartridge -> Technics SA-EX310 stereo receiver -> Lexicon Lambda USB i/o -> Adobe Audition. No EQ, no cleaning up, no click removal, etc.