Salient. Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Volume 31, Number 21. September 10, 1968
Mutations in recent pop LPs
Mutations in recent pop LPs
In the late fifties there was a distinct difference in the recording standards of pop and classical LPs. In those days Decca, HMV, RCA, DGG and CBS were revolutionising the music world with stereo sound. Recordings were being made that still fare well in comparison with present-day achievements. However, all this development was focussed strictly on the classical catalogues. Pop LPs were always ignored and the standard was as low as the material—distortion, excessive sibilence, no balance between between bass and treble. All this was accepted because supposedly the buyers would play the records on their mechanical-shovel type picks ups.
Nowadays the story is completely different. Specialist pop producers have become a much more important commodity around the studios. Instead of using any old light-music hack the companies now realise that they must employ someone who will produce albums that will stand up to meticulous scrutineering from stereo-buffs. EMI's George Martin responsible for all the Beatle's recorded efforts, blues specialist Mike Vernon on Decca, the incomparable Lee Hazelwood on Reprise, and on the local scene, H.M.V.'s Nick Karavias and Howard Gable.
Although there are some good sounds coming out of America, the majority of outstanding recording come from English studios. Tom Jones: 13 Smash Hits" (Decca SKLM 4909 Stereo) supercedes any other recording of this nature; magnificent "alive" sound with dynamic clarity and inter-channel spread. Tom establishes his pre-eminence in the male vocalist field with fantastic renditions of well-know songs—"You Keep Me Hanging On" "Hold On I'm Coming", "I Was. Made To Love Her", "Keep on Runnine", "Yesterday" and seven others. Fans of Andy Williams, Jerry Vale and all the other "square" singers might resent the manner in which Jones wrestles with his songs, extracting the utmost out of each phrase. Occasionally he overdoes it and the result is a schmaltzy, drawn out 3 minutes 45 seconds of "Danny Boy". But his performance on the rest of the LP is so great that the most sceptical of listeners will be converted.
The musical arrangements by Charles Blackwell and Johnny Harris are excellent and the orchestral playing very good. Surely now that such quality musicians are playing such an important part in these recordings it is not too much to expect a listing of personnel on the sleeve?
Someone should buy Lee Grant a copy of Sher-oo (Parlophonc PCS 7041 Stereo). When Cilia Black first started out she had similar faults as Lee—pitch problems and excessive vibrato. The difference between the two singers is that Cilia has rid herself of these problems whereas Grant's latest LP shows that they are more evident that ever. Singing other artist's songs can be a tricky business but Cilia manages to put her own individual stamp on Pitney's "Something's Gotten Hold of My Heart", the Tremelloes's "Suddenly You Love Me" and improves on Lulu's "Take Me In Your Arms and Love Me". "Follow Me" is one of the most whimsical final tracks I have heard—a tale of Boy Scout/Girl Guide days, full of sexual innuendo and flowing puns on "camping" and "doing your knots".
Round: Amen Corner" (Deram SMLM 1021 Stereo) requires quite a lot of concentrated listening. At first Andy Fairwearner Low's husky soul voice might grate but he has one of the best blues voices of all English group vocalists. The Amen Corner has only had mixed success with singles, they sing an unusual mixture of soul, rock, blues and commercial pop. Their seven piece line-up of vocals, lead and bass guitars, Hammond organ, tenor and baritone saxes and drums, gives them a big, gutsy sound well exploited by engineer Bill Price Practically every track is worthy of mention—their singles "Gin House Blues", and "Bend Me, Shape Me", a bouncy version of the Easybeat's composition "Good Times", plus two surprising revivals "Love Me Tender" and "Can't Get Used to Losing You".
Wear Your Love Like Heaven (Epic BN 26349 Stereo) is a good example of Donovan's stylish ballads of the sixties. The material harks back to Elizabethan times— "mad John's escape", "skip-a-long sam", "little boy in corduroy" and even Shakespeare's "Under the Greenwood Tree". The music is very simple—one or two melodic lines repeated, with a minimum of accompaniment. It is amazing how Donovan has turned out such quality, folksy material and still managed to retain his large "trendy" following.