Tag Archives: Orchestral

OST: Harper Valley P.T.A.

The title hit, Barbara Eden and selections from Nelson Riddle’s score

A decade after Jeannie C. Riley topped the country chart with Tom T. Hall’s “Harper Valley P.T.A.,” the song was made into a feature film starring Barbara Eden. Eden had turned her early training as a singer, and the fame generated by I Dream of Genie, into a 1967 album for Dot and numerous appearances on television variety shows. For the soundtrack of this 1978 film she sang the Tom T. Hall songs “Mr. Harper” and “Widow Jones,” the latter released as a single. The album leads off with the stereo version of the title tune, and adds well-known songs by Jerry Lee Lewis (“High School Confidential”) and Johnny Cash (“Ballad of a Teenage Queen”) to Carol Channing’s cover of “Whatever Happened to Charlie Brown.” Of more interest to soundtrack collectors will be Nelson Riddle’s instrumental pieces, which include swing, late-night jazz and a classical pastiche. Unfortunately, though listenable, the fidelity of the Riddle tracks doesn’t match that of the rest of the album. Worth getting, but someone should take another look in the vault for better source material. [©2019 Hyperbolium]

Art Decade: Art Decade


This Boston quartet, led by singer-songwriter and orchestrator Ben Talmi, has been seeded with the orchestral rock DNA of ELO, and grown under the golden hooks and harmonies of 1960s sunshine pop. But these sonic nods to earlier times aren’t mere nostalgia, as they’re updated with modern-pop melodies that suggest Blind Pilot, Keane and others, and complex arrangements that drink from the same production fountain as Sufjan Stevens and the Explorer’s Club. The lead off, “No One’s Waiting,” is a masterpiece whose brooding introduction feints in the same direction as Eric Carmen’s “Sunrise” before kicking into gear with swirling strings and a soaring vocal that hangs the title on a perfect melodic hook. Talmi’s layered vocals interlace with violins and cellos as the four-piece rocks the song to a thrilling conclusion.

It’s one thing to have a talented and sympathetic orchestrator decorate your songs, but quite another to have the orchestration composed in the songwriter’s head. Think Brian Wilson rather than George Martin. Talmi’s songs are built from words, rhymes, melodies, meters and vocals, but it’s the way they interplay with the rock instruments, and the rock instruments interplay with the strings and brass that gives these songs both their delicacy and power. Art Decade is a top notch modern-rock band on their own, but when supplemented by the orchestral elements, they gain a thrilling extra dimension. The songs draw impressions with poetic imagery and vocal tone, and highlight emotional moments with the arrangements.

Talmi’s songwriting encompasses the winsome side of the three B’s (Beatles, Big Star and Badfinger), the darkness of Paul Simon and Nick Drake, but most often the melancholy of Brian Wilson. “So I Thought” combines a bouncy McCartney-styled chorus with a lyric that leans to the uncomfortable self-discovery of Pet Sounds, and in “Idle Talks,” Talmi declares “I’m stuck here swimming with words that drown me out from the truth.” There are moments of light, including the emotional support of “No One’s Waiting” and attraction of “Walking Together,” but more often inability turns to indecision and ambivalence as Talmi vacillates between reducing and increasing distance. If you ever wondered what Elliot Smith would sound like as produced by Jeff Lynne, Art Decade’s second full-length album will give you a hint. [©2014 Hyperbolium]

Art Decade’s Facebook Page

Hypercast #2: In Memoriam 2013

A collection of music from some of the artists who passed away in 2013.

Ray Price Heartaches by the Number
Tompall Glaser Drinking Them Beers
Richie Havens High Flyin’ Bird
The Standells (Dick Dodd) Dirty Water
Game Theory (Scott Miller) Jimmy Still Comes Around
Ten Years After (Alvin Lee) I’d Love to Change the World
Sammy Johns Chevy Van
Junior Murvin Police and Thieves
Bobby “Blue” Bland Cry Cry Cry
Jewel Akins The Birds and the Bees
Eydie Gormé Blame it on the Bossa Nova
Bob Brozman Stack O Lee Aloha
Bob Thompson Mmm Nice!
Divinyls (Chrissy Amphlett) I Touch Myself
Annette Funicello California Sun
The Doors (Ray Manzarek) Light My Fire
Slim Whitman I Remember You
Noel Harrison Suzanne
The Velvet Underground (Lou Reed) Pale Blue Eyes
George Jones I’ve Aged Twenty Years in Five
Patti Page Tennessee Waltz
Cowboy Jack Clement I Guess Things Happen That Way
JJ Cale After Midnight
Ray Price For the Good Times

David Axelrod: David Axelrod’s Rock Interpretation of Handel’s Messiah

1971 rock orchestrations of Handel’s Messiah

Producer/arranger David Axelrod’s rock interpretation of Handel’s Messiah has twin histories. Originally released in 1971, it was part of a stream of God rock that included Jesus Christ Superstar, Godspell and popular hits like “Spirit in the Sky,” “One Toke Over the Line” and “Jesus is Just Alright.” But as part of Axelrod’s personal oeuvre, it also followed in the footsteps of his literary and social-themed works of the late ’60s and his 1968 albums with (or perhaps, “as”) the Electric Prunes, Mass in F Minor and Release of an Oath. Taken in the retrospective stride of his full career, the album now feels less tethered to its 1971 theatrical contemporaries than to Axelrod’s long-running exploration of concept albums, jazz, soul and rock orchestration.

All four of those influences are heard here, with string arrangements that are as much Chicago soul as philharmonic concert hall, and full-kit drumming and fuzz guitars that reach back to his earlier experiments with psychedelia. The album was recorded with key Los Angeles sessions players, such as Carol Kaye, and features a 38-piece orchestra conducted by jazz legend (and Axelrod collaborator) Cannonball Adderley. Axelrod astutely observed that by 1971, rock music had developed album-oriented fans whose attention span was longer than the two-minutes-forty of AM radio hits, and that FM radio had developed listeners whose tastes spanned beyond pop music.

In contrast to his earlier instrumental work, and in deference to the piece being an oratorio, Axelrod arranged this with vocals, though sung in shades of soul and gospel that befit the era and arrangements, rather than with classical choruses. Axelrod interlaces electrically-orchestrated pieces with more strictly symphonic arrangements, such as “Pastoral Symphony,” lending the finished work the imprimatur of both rock and classical music. The set’s uncredited stars are its recitative leads, whose lead vocals give soul power to “And the Glory of the Lord,” “Behold” and “And the Angel Said Unto Them.”

There are moments of EL&P-like prog-rock, but the album’s bombast is mostly contained to the keystone “Hallelujah,” on which the backing gospel chorus melds with the familiar melody into a stagey declaration.  The closing “Worthy is the Lamb” brings the tone back on course. Real Gone’s reissue includes the album’s original nine tracks and no bonuses, housed in a gatefold mini-LP sleeve and featuring a six-page booklet with notes by Ritchie Unterberger. This is likely to be of interest primarily to Axelrod’s fans, though those interested in the early ‘70s God Rock phenomenon (and those who’ve enjoyed Andy Belling’s 1972 New Messiah or the more recent Messiah Rocks) should also find time for this one. [©2012 hyperbolium dot com]

Various Artists: Cameo Parkway Holiday Hits

Holiday odds and sods from the legendary Cameo Parkway vault

With the departure of Gordon Anderson from Collectors’ Choice, and the apparent sidelining of the label’s activities, their reissue program for the Cameo-Parkway catalog has moved with Anderson to his new label, Real Gone. This eighteen-track set of holiday-themed material combines tunes from two of the label’s stars, Bobby Rydell and Chubby Checker and two of the label’s fine doo-wop groups, the Cameos and Jaynells. The track-list features a number of fun one-offs, including Bob Seger’s rock ‘n’ soul “Sock it to Me Santa,” Toni Sante’s Spanish-language girl group “Donde Esta Santa Clause?,” and a funny Bob Dylan lampoon, Bobby the Poet singing “White Christmas,” as introduced by a Bobby Kennedy impressionist. There are also two versions of “Auld Lang Syne,” one in ragtime style by Beethoven Ben (in actuality, label co-founder Bernie Lowe), and one as bluegrass by The Lonesome Travelers, featuring the legendary Norman Blake on mandolin!

Less interesting are seven cuts split between the big band instrumentals of the Rudolph Statler Orchestra and the orchestral sounds of the International Pop Orchestra. Neither unit has anything to do with the Cameo Parkway house band sound (though, to be fair, neither do the Lonesome Travelers), and the arrangements are generic. This set was previously issued by ABKCO as Holiday Hits from Cameo Parkway, and it’s reissued here with the addition of the B-side “Jingle Bell Imitations,” in which Rydell and Checker run through the styles of Elvis Presley, Bobby Darin, Fats Domino, Frank Fontaine and the Chipmunks. It’s a shame Cameo Parkway never gathered Checker, Rydell, Dee Dee Sharp, the Orlons, Tymes and others to record a proper holiday album. Still, if you factor out the instrumentals, there are many fine rarities here to add to your holiday playlist. Nicely mastered mono on 1, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 15, 18, and stereo elsewhere. The booklet includes terrific liner notes by Gene Sculatti and discographical details. [©2012 hyperbolium dot com]

OST: EA Sports NCAA Football 12

Get pumped for any game

Colin O’Malley’s music cues for EA Sports’ latest edition of their NCAA football video game [PS3 Xbox] stand on their own as inspirational orchestral pieces. If you like the dramatic soundtracks of NFL Films, you’ll enjoy the rousing martial rhythms and soaring brass of these bass and percussion-heavy arrangements. It’s not clear how the musical themes actually relate to titles like “Turnover” and “Coaches Corner” – though you might absentmindedly find yourself avoiding the D-line as “Defense Wins Championships” marches through your living room, or introducing your friends to the television audience as “Pregame Show” rolls. Any one of these pieces could get you to look deeply within your athletic soul to convert a critical fourth down or tip a ball out of the end-zone with your outstretched fingers. Or they could just rouse you to the kitchen to refill the chips and dips. O’Malley’s written for the United States Airforce, CNN and DC Comics, and you can hear both world-beating dominance and military starch in these pieces. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]