Tuesday, September 5, 2017

On The Brink: Return Of The Instro-Hipsters

On The Brink: Return Of The Instro-Hipsters

On the Brink is a collection of 20 previously uncomped and absolutely superb UK instrumentals from the '60s and early '70s, assembled by legendary psych musician and Psychic Circle label-head, Nick Saloman (The Bevis Frond). Presenting session men discovering sitars, orchestras getting into the freaky side of things, hip theme tunes, Hammonds, fuzz and brass. Somehow sophisticated and cheesy simultaneously, these acts created their own musical world of Chelsea apartments, mini-mokes, dark velvet bespoke tailoring and the dolliest birds this side of Battersea Bridge. Welcome to the soundtrack of your own unmade Swinging London movie. Artists include: Mike Vickers, the Jim Sullivan Sound, the Shock Absorbers, Wynder K. Frog, Rita, Offside, the Les Reed Orchestra, David Smith, the Keith Mansfield Orchestra, the Dave Davani Four, the Fidd, Ken Woodman's Piccadilly Brass, the John Schroeder Orchestra, Trax Four, the Mike Cotton Sound, Lee Mason and his Orchestra, the Vic Flick Sound, the Chris Barber Soul Band, Brian Bennett and Stanley Myers.
From the mid-'60s to the early '70s, there were quite a few instrumental releases recorded in the U.K. that seemed geared toward the easy listening market. Or, if the intention wasn't quite as gauche, they certainly weren't meant for the average rock fan, who likely wanted something hipper with more vocals and guitars. Still, even if the limited audience for these might have been (at least in part) listeners who wanted to feel a little hip without getting too far out, the musicians nonetheless couldn't help but be influenced by the rock, soul, and jazz trends of the day. On the Brink: Return of the Instro-Hipsters is a 20-track compilation of cuts from obscure 1965-1973 releases in this mold, with Swinging London go-go-like organs and brass being perhaps the most common (though by no means only) ingredients in the arrangements. There are a few names here that will be known to serious British Invasion fans, like Mike Vickers (from Manfred Mann), Jim Sullivan (the numero uno British rock session guitarist before Jimmy Page eclipsed him), Wynder K. Frog, the Mike Cotton Sound, the Dave Davani Four, Vic Flick (famous for playing on "The James Bond Theme"), and British senior jazz statesman Chris Barber; others are known as top cats in the British easy listening arena and have already been honored by reissues of their own (Ken Woodman and John Schroeder).

While any compilation that takes such an unusual angle to such a heavily mined reissue field as British '60s pop is to be applauded, you'd have a hard time pushing all of this as essential listening, even within its narrow subgenre. A good deal of it really is kind of mundane background soul-rock instrumental music – something that could have worked satisfactorily on B-movie soundtracks of the era, but which doesn't stand too well on its own two feet. There are occasional psychedelic echoes on sitar and screeching fuzz guitar, but these sound more like cheesy appropriations to make the cuts seem more "with it" than they sound like outbursts of creativity. It's only occasionally that the tracks let rip with the groovy organ and devious spy guitar licks lots of curious listeners will really want to hear, as the Dave Davani Four's fine cover of the "Top of the Pops" theme and the Vic Flick Sound's "West of Windward" do on both counts. As for other gut-grabbers, Ken Woodman's Piccadilly Brass' "Mexican Flier" would have worked great as a '60s Bond-like thriller theme, and the Chris Barber Soul Band's "Morning Train" (from 1965) has to be the veteran jazzer's most effective stab at the pop/rock market, with some great Brian Auger organ and an edgy jazz-blues fusion that approximates (but doesn't quite match) the sound of the Graham Bond Organisation. Some worthwhile and fun stuff here, then, but there's a significant gap between the best of it and the rest of it.

Review by Richie Unterberger, Allmusic.com
 
 Tracklist:

01. Mike Vickers - On The Brink (02:23)
02. The Jim Sullivan Sound - She Walks Through The Fair (02:44)
03. The Shock Absorbers - It's Your Thing (02:40)
04. Wynder K. Frog - I'm A Man (03:20)
05. Rita - Sexologie (03:17)
06. Offside - Small Deal (02:08)
07. The Les Reed Orchestra - Big Drum (01:58)
08. David Smith - See Me (02:32)
09. The Keith Mansfield Orchestra - Soul Thing (02:59)
10. The Dave Davani Four - Top Of The Pops (02:12)
11. The Fidd - Happy Walk (02:30)
12. Ken Woodman's Piccadilly Brass - Mexican Flier (02:35)
13. The John Schroeder Orchestra - Nightrider (02:55)
14. Trax Four - Moanin' (02:01)
15. The Mike Cotton Sound - Soul Serenade (02:42)
16. Lee Mason And His Orchestra - Deadly Nightshade (03:03)
17. The Vic Flick Sound - West Of Windward (02:59)
18. The Chris Barber Soul Band - Morning Train (02:28)
19. Brian Bennet - Tricycle (02:50)
20. Stanley Myers - Organ Fantasia in D Major (05:49)
 

3 comments:

RYP said...

DaBoss,
thanks a lot for the 3. Superb! Never thought that the UK had so many Orchestras at that time. The less we had in Germany in the 60/70s died because they became too much expensive... exept the James Last Orchestra that success celebrated with my parents! I couldn't stand it!

Unknown said...

RYP - wow. What a great memory. It's magic of music to transport us through time to trigger and enhance our lives, experiences and memories.

Erkel Devine t said...

Thank you....Groovy

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