Classic Albums

The Lost Art Of Liner Notes: Geoff Love & his Orchestra – Latin With Love (1976, Quality Records)

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For no particular reason (OK, boredom is probably the reason), I’ve decided to resurrect our Lost Art of Liner Notes series wherein I examine the sometimes weird little essays people used to write on the back of album covers. FYI, The likelihood that I will soon get bored of this and stop doing it again is pretty high, almost certain, in fact.

In the meantime, let’s look at Latin With Love, a collection of songs from British orchestra leader Geoff Love, pictured in the corner of the album cover looking like he could not give less of a shit about being featured on the cover.

Seriously, look at this guy – just nonchalant as hell!

The liner notes for this album, written by one Nigel Hunter (no idea who he is, but it’s safe to assume he’s not the guy from Chumbawamba), begin by working under the assumption that anyone would find album titles with cheap puns on Geoff’s surname to be “interesting and relevant” when really, it’s the most obvious and easy thing to do. He then weirdly goes on to list two albums without love in the title at all, but seeing as how he included all the catalogue numbers, there was likely some push from the label to include as much promotion for their back cataolgue as possible. The second paragraph then resorts to a lot of name dropping, while the final three paragraphs are focused on describing in detail each instrument featured on the album, making sure to mention every song title as well, just so you don’t get surprised by any of it. Or maybe it’s because ol’ Nigel Hunter got paid by the word to write this thing? Probably the latter.

And now, on to the liner notes:

A surname like Love is ideal when it comes to selecting interesting and relevant album titles. Hence we have already enjoyed LPs called “Big Love Movie themes (RS103), with a neat double meaning, and “love With Love” (RS107),to say nothing of others, Love-less in title but not in origin, such as Big Western Movie Themes” (RS104); “Big War Movie Themes” (R105)

The Love in question is, of course, Geoff Love. One of Britain’s most distinguished and successful musical directors and arrangers, and certainly one of the most popular with the public and his fellow musicians, with a constantly cheerful and amiable nature as befits his surname. Geoff has worked with and won the unstinted admiration of some of the greatest names of international show business, including Shirley bassey, Howard Keel, Judy Garland, Paul Robeson, Vera Lynn, Frankie Vaughan and Des O’Connor. As an artistin his own right, Geoff’s albums mentioned above have proved to be amongst the best-selling records in the history of the label.

His latest is “Latin With Love”, and is destined for the same popularity. Geoff selected twelve of the perennially favorite melodies from Latin-America or inspired by that colouful sub-continent, and arranged them for an orchestra comprising four trumpets doubling fluegel horns, four trombones, five woodwind, twelve violins, four violas, four cellos, piano, two guitars, bass doubling bassguitar, one drummer, and three Latin-American percussion. The results are ear-catching and immensely enjoyable.

La Bamba, that lively dance speciality from vera Cruz in Mexico, provides a suitably bright opener with all sections of the orchestra spotlighted and a growling jungle flute solo. the mellow evocation of that area in New York city known as Spanish Harlem begins with marimba and piano setting the easy pace and a cor anglais solo later, Guantanamera receives an appropriate Afro-Cuban atmosphere with the brass shining over the cha cha cha beat, and Sucu Sucu of Argentine origin gets a sprightly samba treatment here. Another Brazilian tempo in the form of the bossa nova ensues as a second Music for Pleasure Latin music maestro, Duncan Lamont, is featured on tenor saxophone in The Girl From Ipanema, and the bossa mood is maintained for One Note Samba with fluegel horns prominent.

The second side begins noticeable South Of the Border as Geoff coaxes a Mexican mariachi sound from the trumpets in cha cha cha time, and then we meet the beautiful Maria Elena portrayed in bolero style by the guitar against a background of muted trombones, followed later by piano, string, oboe, and a key change into a full ensemble passsage. Marimba and trumpets open Spanish Eyes in baion time, with the rest of the orchestra joining in in turn, and then comes the famous prototype bossa nova, Desafinado, introduced by woodwind and trombones before the fluegel horns take the theme.

Nigel Hunter

Retro Album Review: The Selecter-Too Much Pressure (1980, 2 Tone Records)

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In a twisted way, some blues enthusiasts could be mistakenly interpreted as masochists. Just realizing that one is in fact distilling sonic pleasure from painful experiences, with only the emotional range to sympathize not empathize with the struggles of the people who felt, wrote, and must keep plodding through with the daily blues. On that far-off wavelength, the same alternative lens could be placed on much of classical music – simply contextualize Mozart’s keyboard pieces not as high culture touchstones but the onion, mustard, and relish that dresses the weiner and franks of ritualized Prussian aristocratic courtship. Try to flush that scene down the toilet the next time you cue up a piano sonata.

The 1.5 year drought of hotdogs and other essentials (definitely not ketchup) has clearly clouded something.

Ska, then, is really a lighter, more upbeat, skankable Jamaican take hiding behind the same root issues as the blues – making it easier to jump and dance to one’s blues lightens but does not dilute them.

The Selecter are a ska band from the working class backdrop of Coventry. The American rust belt took after the universality of the blues. After their own similarly rapid and prolonged decline from manufacturing glory, ska was evolved in English West Midlands to become the (societally) preferred outlet to such “raging angst”. Let’s just say that having an identity and community produces an extremely comforting anchor, and is probably the more placid and productive group activity relative to soccer hooliganism and revolution.

The aesthetics of 2-tone albums were apparently standardized by the few record labels, and reminds me of the dicing tartan on police hats of the UK and oddly, Chicago. Perhaps somewhere, someone had mistaken 2-tone for halftone, and was not half-unpleased with the results? But I digress.

Too Much Pressure is in fact the Selecter’s first of two albums before breaking up officially in 1982 (though they’ve since reformed). I was surprised at the amount of worthwhile numbers in this one album, which for me includes “Missing Words”, “Time Hard”, “They Make Me Mad”, and “Out On The Streets”. These are particularly brilliant, descriptive, and melodically attentive. I might have presumed there would be something that could accompany the intervening panoramic shots for Death In Paradise. Clearing that musical low bar obviously wasn’t even a question, and I should not have prepared to be dismissive and then feigned such “surprise”. This music clearly has staying power. Although imagining it being performed in tuxedo and tailcoats of 400 years into the future is an exercise equally interesting as re-creating 1980s Coventry. I’m sure it’s not hard to find a MET opera that screams “MURDER!!!”

The special edition of The Selecter’s ‘Too Much Pressure’ out now via Chrysalis Records.

The Lost Art Of Liner Notes: The Mom and Dads – Souvenirs (1972. MCA Records)

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There’s been a lot of talk in recent years on the topic of “fake news”, but a close reading of the liner notes for instrumental easy listening band The Mom And Dads’ third album Souvenirs suggests that fake news was already alive and well in the music business back in the day (and still is today, as a look at any overeager, excessively glowing PR email for some random unknown band would indicate).

In his liner notes for the album, Allen Matthews (if indeed that is his real name) refers to the band as “one of the hottest selling recording acts in Canada today” who somehow were the equivalent to The Who, Led Zeppelin, or The Beatles “as far as the over 25’s in this country are concerned.”

Really? I mean, I wasn’t around back then so I can’t say for sure, but for the notes to suggest that the quartet were “superstars” seems a bit of a stretch. I have a hard time believing that all that many people would really be buying and listening to something as aggressively square as this unless they were already approaching retirement age at that point. I mean, over 25? I feel like there’s still a bit of a gap there between mid-20s and whatever age it is that you’d be really into The Mom And Dads. What is going on here? Was this why the hippies said not to trust anyone over 30? Were all these Mom And Dads fans just normcore before there was normcore? Were The Mom And Dads really outselling any of the “so-called contemporary super groups” in Canada? And do they really expect us to believe that a band like The Mom And Dads could reasonably be referred to as “gimmickless”? Wasn’t their gimmick literally that they were a mom … and some dads?

I don’t know, but I do know that their version of “Alley Cat” is kind of a jam … in an elevator music sort of way. Give it a listen while reading the liner notes below and try not to dance like Chris Elliott while you do so:

Doris Crow, Les Welch, Quentin Ratliff and Harold Hendren are names that are, in all probability, not familiar to you, but as a group they represent the members of one of the hottest selling recording acts in Canada today, “The Mom And Dads”.

If The Who, Led Zeppelin and The Beatles, etc., are superstars in the eyes of young Canadians under 25, then it is becoming more and more apparent that The Mom And Dads are also in that category as far as the over 25’s in this country are concerned.

Although not Canadians themselves (they are natives of Spokane, Washington) this group has brought to us a brand of music that has filled a large gap in the entertainment industry that, until recently, we were unaware of. “Old Time Music” was, to all intents and purposes, fading into the past, its consumer appeal considered small, and its entertainment value supposedly almost non-existent until these four people came along and proved to us that, in no small way, this music is still very much a part of today and its appeal is as strong as ever.

After the initial radio exposure in Alberta, of a single called “The Rangers Waltz”, a surge of devotees began to appear and has grown rapidly as “The Mom And Dads Fever” spread across Canada. The group’s first two albums, “The Mom And Dads” on the Apex label and “Blue Canadian Rockies” on MCA, have outsold many recordings by so-called contemporary super groups and they continue to grow in popularity as more and more people are exposed to this happy, gimmickless, down-to-earth music.

This album, like its predecessors, is imbued with a magic that is pleasant to the ears and touched the heart with a warm glow of nostalgia.

It is filled with songs both familiar and new, all of which are guaranteed to bring you many happy hours of listening and dancing. It’s as if Doris, Les, Quentin and Harold knew what you wanted to hear, because, from “The Rippling River Waltz”, though to “Five Foot Two”, that’s exactly what you get.
June, 1971

Classic Album Review: Skalmold – Baldur (2010, Tutl Records)

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I’ve been on a bit of a nostalgia kick as of late, for several reasons. One of the reasons is the fact that we’ve just wrapped up our coverage of this year’s SXSW, which commonly involves a bit of looking back and reflecting on what went down over the week, and which also often leads me to reminisce in general about past editions of SouthBy. And the realization that I’ve been going to Austin every March since 2011 and that the Panic Manual has had a presence there since 2009 gets me thinking about the past, and also that I’m getting old. The main instigator of all this nostalgia however, was a bit of a Spring cleaning jag I went on earlier this week wherein I uncovered a few artifacts from my time here at Panic Manual, including a bunch of old handwritten notes for potential posts. Yes, back in the day I wrote out many of my original rough drafts by hand – very old school of me.

Among these scraps of paper, I found the beginnings of a planned review of Baldur, the debut album by Icelandic Viking/folk metallers Skálmöld. I do not really remember ever listening to this album, though I do vaguely remember that when I started out writing for Panic Manual, I had big plans to broaden our scope by writing about more metal. And I guess something about this album caught my attention at the time, probably the Berserker Viking dude on the album cover charging forward while holding an axe. It is a somewhat striking image, and one that predates the premiere episodes of Game Of Thrones or Vikings by a bit, so they were a little ahead of the curve I guess.

Anyways, in the interest of not being wasteful, I decided to finish that review up and also delve even further into nostalgia by resurrecting our old Classic Album Reviews series, even though at the time the first draft of this review was started it was a relatively new release. Is Baldur actually worthy of being designated a classic? Not likely, but odds are it might be somebody’s favourite album somewhere in the world, so let’s just go with it.

And now, without any further ado, here’s the first paragraph of a review I started nearly a decade ago:

They say you can’t judge a book (or an album) by its cover. But just look at that cover! It’s practically screaming to be judged. And what it’s saying (in a Viking warrior cry) is “I am awesome.” It’s the kind of cover that kind of tells you exactly what kind of music you will be hearing.

And that’s it. That’s as far as I got with this review, which indicates that I may have never actually sat down and listened to the album, but that I at least had something to say about the cover image that I considered kind of funny at the time. And so after taking a very long break, I’m finally putting pen to paper (virtually speaking) and wrapping this one up. So what does the album actually sound like? And does it hold up?

Initially released on Faroe Islands record label Tutl in 2010, but later rereleased in 2011 on Napalm Records, Baldur was Skálmöld’s introduction to the world. The band has gone on to put out four full length albums in the years since the release of this one. I have listened to none of them. But I have now listened to this one at least, and it’s a pretty solid album as these things go.

For those unfamiliar with Viking metal, it’s pretty much what you might expect from the name – fairly epic sounding stuff full of Nordic chanting and more aggressive vocals as well as plenty of melodic guitar lines along the way. The Viking aspect is not just a refelection of the band’s Icelandic roots, but also represented in the story behind Baldur, a concept album with supernatural elements telling the tale of the titular Viking and his epic quest for revenge after the death of his family. I gathered as much only after reading about the album online – the lyrics are all in Icelandic, so I’m fairly unclear on all the details. Sounds like a cool story though.

And finally, I’ll wrap things up with another note that I found in amongst those papers, this one from a 2011 Summerworks review of a show by Toronto indie folk band Great Bloomers. It didn’t make the cut at the time, not really fitting in anywhere in the review, but now it can finally be revealed (even though it doesn’t really fit at all in this review either). So I leave you with these thoughts, written down on a yellow sticky note on that August evening long ago:

After the show, some dude asked me for change, told me he was 79 years old, then asked me if I was some guy named Herman and/or a cop. I told him I wasn’t but he seemed pretty insistent that I was.

True story. I wonder whatever happened to that guy. And I wonder if he likes Viking metal.