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

Album Review: Blood Incantation – Timewave Zero (2022, Century Media)

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It has long been my contention that as extreme metal musicians “mature” (read: get older and want to try something beyond just metal), they tend to go one of two routes: stripping things back for a folk/country project or delving into full on prog territory. With their latest release Timewave Zero, Denver death metallers Blood Incantation fall squarely in the latter camp.

Of course, it’s not quite accurate to say that Blood Incantation “went prog.” After all, there’s always been a touch of the progressive and psychedelic in their previous output, but on Timewave Zero, they’ve basically taken anything overtly ‘metal’ out of the equation, trading guitars and death growls for spaced out synth explorations that bring to mind the likes of Tangerine Dream more than they do Morbid Angel or Cannibal Corpse.

Consisting of a pair of ambient compositions entitled “Io” and “Ea”, each roughly 20 minutes in length, the album has a bit of a film score vibe (again, the Tangerine Dream influence is evident throughout) as each track slowly takes the listener on a sonic journey. Fans looking for something heavier might be disappointed, but the album generally works as a bit of a detour from the band’s usual path, showing what they’re capable of when branching out beyond the boundaries of their genre. With Timewave Zero, Blood Incantation have essentially taken the atmospheric elements touched upon in their previous work and turned them up to eleven.

Timewave Zero is out this Friday, February 25 via Century Media Records.

Album Review: Wolf Alice-Blue Weekend (2021, Dirty Hit)

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No, it’s not Christmas yet. But as I wrote this, there was a team of Chicago fire department firefighters right outside my window. That automagically warm and fuzzy green-red combo dabbed with the blue of Chicago PD, rebounded from the opposite apartment’s yellow brick lattice, finally seeping into my eyeballs. Then I looked down at this album’s cover with the exact same mixture, even the watercolor haze, here in my apartment reproduced by the lax window cleaning over the past many months.

I can see how Wolf Alice resemble firefighters – versatile jack-of-all trades who escape genres with as much confidence and ease as one must when responding to a fast shifting blaze. They were frequently criticized on dithering between styles and lacking in commitment, shoegazing with the other foot on indie rock slathered in back-country twang sauce. I think such a complaint misses the mark. They are simply both comfortable and fluent across multiple ways of making music. In their third full length album, Blue Weekend, Wolf Alice clearly assert their maturity beyond 2015’s My Love is Cool. Although they have not strayed far from the similar ingredients of decisive melodies, big choruses, screaming recitations, and ascending volume/scale, the alchemy that emulsifies these together has certainly improved.

So, indeed, the “production value” is much higher, perhaps attributable to their incidental aging and experience accumulation. But there is also a somewhat attendant loss in rawness as their arrangements become highly polished. As engaging and enjoyable as the tracks are, the sum of the parts does not match Visions of a Life for, well, vision. And attitude.

As if implicitly understanding we may have come directly from the two previous albums, however, Blue Weekend starts off with “The Beach” as palate cleanser and “The Beach II” as a chaser. Between those sand patches, Ellie Rowsell’s highly malleable voice, whether through the quick changes in registers of “Lipstick on the Glass” or the delicate yet precise “How Can I Make It OK?”, remains the backbone of the band’s incredible range. With melodic lines that never fail to impress, my favorite on the album might be the short and sweet ballad “No Hard Feelings”. Overall, though you might not be sated in any one stream, it is quite difficult to go off a wrong path on Blue Weekend.

There was one more window, way off in the distance, that pumped out the same tri-color light in a light-house like rotation. But that was just some random disco ball. I wondered if a disco ball was on beach number two… it was definitely better than the Scottish play on the first.

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.