The Lords of Lounge – Volume 3

Here we go again – ten new generous portions of the finest fromage for your enjoyment, fresh from the deli-counter of grooviness that is the world of lounge…

Enjoy!

Brian Bennett

For the best part of 30 years Brian Bennett lived a secret double life…in the public eye as the drummer with the balls-achingly tedious combo The Shadows, hiding behind Cliff & Hank’s perma-grins…and then afterwards retreating to the darkened corners of London’s recording studios where he metamorphosised into the composer of hundreds of hours’ worth of jazzy soundtrack and library material. A major session face with the likes of Joe Meek through the early rock years, Bennett later took the reigns as not only Cliff Richard’s musical director in his solo years, but also trudging around with the likes of Tom Jones and, God save us, Denis ‘Minder’ Waterman. Bennett’s library work is virtually unknown to the popular consciousness, yet also instantly familiar to almost everyone and eagerly sought by the determined few. See our guide to collecting British library albums for more..

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His first release, which highlighted his jazzy tendencies, was ‘Change Of Direction’ (EMI, 1967). Working with his session right-hand-man Alan Hawkshaw, the album shows the depth of the work he could produce – from beaty cover-versions like ‘Sunshine Superman’ and ‘On Broadway’ to organ-driven originals ‘Slippery Jim Grize’ and ‘Tricycle’. Much of the album features the oh-so-sweet flute of Alan Skidmore and was produced by Shads Svengali Norrie Paramour.

The most desirable of Bennett’s solo releases has to be ‘The Illustrated London Noise’ (Studio2Stereo, 1969). This is no different to the other Bennett solo albums; a few great tracks, a few okay tracks and some you’d rather not play again! Top of the pile is the well-known ‘Soul Mission’ with it’s thumpin’ drums and catchy organ groove. Other Bennett originals include ‘Chameleon’ – great track… and bennett-noise‘General Mojo’s Well-Laid Plan’ is a great version, worth your time. Add to this a couple of Beatles tunes performed in a swingin’ fashion and we’re home and dry.

There’s no escaping the past, and Bennett’s involvement in The Shadows has recently lead to certain titles from their voluminous back catalogue being bigged-up something rotten on dealer lists and of course, the dreaded Ebay, primarily due to the involvement of Brian’s pal Alan Hawkshaw on the organ. The first of these is ‘Shades Of Rock’ (EMI, 1970), where the band soldier on grimly through an album full of cover versions; some good, some bad, some awful, rather depending on how stupid Hank wanted to make his axe sound that day, bless him. ‘Proud Mary’ is none too bad and ‘Satisfaction’ just about emerges intact, but that’s about yer lot!

Since it has recently been reissued on CD billed as ‘Brian Bennett’s Collage’, we had better include ‘Misty’ (Studio2Stereo, 1973). By-and-large its a sedate affair, with one nice moody groover in the shape of ‘Madrid’ that dealers will have you pay well over the odds for.

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More Shads action, but no Hawkshaw involvement on this one, and more’s the pity. However you might well see ‘Specs Appeal’ (EMI, 1975) going for far too much money in trendy stores due to the presence of the very pedestrian drum intro to ‘Spider Juice’. Actually, the track itself isn’t so bad really, with dear old Hank giving his axe some stick for once on a track you could easily mistake for something off a later Bennett library album…trouble is, it was Hank wot rote it!

The final bit of worthwhile Shads is with ‘Rarities’ (EMI, 1978), a compilation issued as a companion to the demise of their latest incarnation at the time…but they’d be back, and it would be even more twangy! Ooof! Let’s not dwell on those horrors, but instead focus on the pair of rather nice tracks here. The amusingly titled ‘Scotch On The Socks’ is pretty rousing stuff, with Hank coming over all Jeff Beck (60’s version). Elsewhere, you’ll also find ‘Boogatoo'; funky, yet tinged with a little too much shrill twanging for comfort…

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Back to Mr. Bennett’s own stuff, and an album well worth investing in, despite its title is ‘Voyage, A Journey Into Discoid Funk’, (DJM, 1978). On the whole it’s a bit slap-bass-tastic and features Francis Monkman on synthesiser – the man who graced John Keatings’ ‘Space Experience’ albums. The exception is the majestic ‘Solstice’, which has been deservedly pillaged by samplers down the years. A slow-paced number that moves along in a very Bob James kinda way, incorporating smooth space-age synths. Unfortunately someone bought the bass player a flanger for Christmas, so throughout the rest of the tracks we are ‘treated’ to a bit too much of that new toy for anyone’s liking, thank you very much.

One Bennett album to give the body-swerve to has to be the awful ‘Rock Dreams’ (DJM, 1977): proper Shads style songs throughout we are very much afraid to say…nasty !

Claude Denjean

After studying classical music in Paris as a teenager, Denjean felt the lure of more contemporary things and he formed his own dance band and accompanied several popular French singers of the day, performers with names that mean nothing to us Brits. However, soon he struck paydirt on an international scale by arranging for Charles Aznavour. Denjean clearly built up a nice little nest-egg from all of this, as he later quit France and relocated to Canada. With the newfound freedom of not having to provide syrupy backing for tired old cabaret acts he dived headlong into the world of electronic music when he discovered the Moog synthesiser. We might not know much about the man, but his legacy is a fine one.

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In fact ‘Moog’ (Phase 4, 1971) must be one of the most essential Moog-ified albums there are. The song choices look lame at first glance, but it’s the extensive use of the wibble button that really bigs this one up. Many Moog albums were produced during the 70’s with some dude just going through the motions with lackluster pop melodies. Not so here. Bright invention springs forth with great regularity and the up-tempo numbers are simply stunning. In the world of Moog, it’s really difficult to beat his takes on ‘Venus’ and ‘Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye’…They are just steaming! Easily picked up wherever cheese is sold, so shame on you if you haven’t got a copy already.

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There are a couple more Moog-styled offerings from Denjean to check out, and the follow up ‘Open Circuit’ (Phase 4, 1973) is worth a dabble, though strangely commanding a higher price, yet offering substantially less. A decent run through of ‘Let’s Stay Together’ is the only highlight apart from the very, very wonderfully ‘Kiss This’, on which a mucky-sounding French bird occasionally makes just that very reasonable invitation over a big beaty backing that really cooks. Rude not to!

A few years pass before the next release, and it is clear that these were the disco years, as ‘Moods’ (Phase 4, 1977) is more than a bit ‘Fifth Of Beethoven’ in places, as a few stuffy perennial themes are approached, such as ‘My Way’ and ‘Claude_Denjean-moodsMoon River’ All is not lost, as the Moog is retained throughout, and works best on the up-tempo Latin numbers ‘Desormais’ and ‘El Cumbanchero’. Also, there is a slightly disturbing Moody Blues connection, with Denjean’s own personal homage ‘Memories Of The Moody Blues’, churning up ‘Nights In White Satin’ in epic style. Couple this with the similarity throughout with the style of Jeff Wayne’s ‘War Of The Worlds’, released the following year, which of course had Justin Hayward all over it, and you start to see the bigger picture!

Johnny Harris

Johnny Harris was a very big player in the world of Lounge, and yet all too often remained behind the scenes, but who would really want to take the blame for the likes of Englebert Humperdinck? Harris started out tooting away as a trumpeter after graduating from the Guildhall School of Music and gradually made his way up the musical ranks to that of band leader and arranger. As well as the albums featured here, you’ll find his work peppered over many TV and film soundtracks of American origin during the late 70’s and early 80’s, when Harris relocated to Hollywood, most notably perhaps being his background music for Wonder Woman! Blimey!

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An early effort that will reward your bravery is the Guitar Workshop album, ‘Pop go the Classics’ (Pye, 1966). Harris takes the majority of the arrangement credits and Tony Hatch chips in with a couple of his own, as some jazzy session men like Ronnie Verrell are let lose on a few classical tunes. It works a whole lot better than you’d think, with at least a couple of beaty movers to enjoy and the odd cracking drum break hiding away in there too…G’wan, give it a whirl!

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Its back to earth with a bump on ‘Plays Lionel Bart’ (UA, 1966), unless your longings for bright and breezy trots of stuff from Oliver! are overly large. The one pictured here is a 70’s reissue on the cheapie Sunset label, but we don’t advise that you lose any beauty sleep trying to track down the original…

The year 1970 was a very good ‘un for Johnny Harris. For a start he was brought in to conduct and arrange the sessions for ‘Something’ (UA, 1970) which at the time probably seemed little more than yet another Shirley Bassey album. But Harris had a plan…

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He brought in a tiny combo named Heads, Hands And Feet to provide the backing, instead of the pearl-dripping orchestral extravaganza that old Dame Shirl usually busted her nuts over. This new setting did the stuff all right. The old gal belts out ‘Light My Fire’ like few others before or since, over a funky little backdrop brushed with flute and brassy stabs. Magic! Same goes for the take on ‘Spinning Wheel’. Shame is that all the other numbers, while all maintaining the same small-scale basic tracks, are smothered in a hundred million bloody violins in the prescribed manner and are thus rendered entirely useless as a result.I’ll bet this was done at record company insistence or after Mr. Harris was finished with the sessions. Bastards!

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The evidence of this is contained within the grooves of Harris’ own ‘Movements’ (Warner Bros, 1970).Here we have for all to see, the very same backing tracks for ‘Light My Fire’ and ‘Something’, plus a whole albums’ worth of top groovers. Wow, you don’t see this for cheap, and rightly so. This whole album must have been laid down during the studio downtime for ‘Something’. It’s the same band all right, but boy are they let loose here. No longer tied into stodgy standards they let rip at Harris’ originals for the soundtrack of the David Hemmings movie ‘Fragments of Fear’. That number is something special indeed – slow and moody with acres of flute, keys and wah-wah guitar that stretch out for ever and ever.

It’s followed up by the most frenetic drum & bass workout there is, bar none. ‘Stepping Stones’ just rattles along for ages as instruments compete for speed and endurance. It’s like nothing else you ever did hear. This spirit is echoed over on side two where there are possibly the strangest and strongest interpretations of ‘Give Peace A Chance’ and ‘Paint It Black’ that are inexistence. This is one killer of an album. Gawd bless you Mr. Harris!

harris-morning

A hard act to follow indeed, but after a couple of years of so-so film themes like ‘Man In The Wilderness’ Harris returned with a very grand statement in the shape of ‘All To Bring You Morning’ (Warner Bros, 1973). The album is a tad more orchestral than its predecessor, with a couple more of his favoured Beatles-related covers that aren’t anything to write home about. The monolith around which the rest of the tracks congregate is the 14-minute title track. Blimey! It’s BIG! Split into four distinct passages, in turn gentle and fiercely beaty, it delivers in the most majestic fashion, going through everything from cop show wah guitar to laid-back funk and a rather disturbing, yet thankfully brief passage where the unmistakably shrill and whining vocals of Jon Anderson are to be heard. The Y*s connection is indeed heavy as both Steve Howe and Alan White appear throughout. Bit of a puzzle that, as they certainly didn’t need the session fee at the time. Unfortunately for us, they were probably down the corridor struggling with ‘Tales Of Topographic Oceans’, and therefore were in dire need of a bit of light relief. Bastards!

Francis Lai

Lai, poor fella, started out as Edith Piaf’s accompanist in her last days in Paris. Before long, he was moving with the French movie set and won an Oscar for the soundtrack to Claude Lelouch’s ‘A Man and A Woman’. Such luminaries as Roger Vadim and Jean-Luc Goddard were soon swarming like bees round a honey pot trying to squeeze another soundtrack smash out of him. In the end, Lai composed the music for more than one hundred films, from the saucy (‘Emmanuelle II’) to the stultifying (‘International Velvet’), but is perhaps most famous for his nauseating theme for “‘Love Story’, although these days everyone this side of the pond will recognise his sparkling Eurotrash theme ‘Saint Tropez’.

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Let’s kick things off with a Lai soundtrack that delivers a lot more than you’d think. Everyone will be familiar with the breezy title theme for ‘Live For Life (UA, 1967), of which there are numerous versions here, the best being saved until the end and possessing much ooh-la-la! There’s also the beaty vocal track ‘All At Once Its Love’ that really is rather excellent and then the smashing la-la pop of ‘Zoom’ with some sweet organ and banging drums for your money. Its a happy accident that the trio of tracks that you’ll keep returning to are sequenced at the end of the LP, which saves on track skipping. Most considerate!

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The hit rate rises substantially on ‘I’ll Never Forget What’s’isname’ (Decca, 1968), as it is laced with a good half-dozen little belters for your money. There’s a couple falling into each of three categories; beaty pop vocal groovers, like ‘Party Music-Show Out’ and ‘Keep it Cool'; smooth seductive slow instrumentals like ‘Boutique Music’ and ‘Meeting Susannah’, and then the real money shots; a pair of great funky numbers with ‘Radio Music’ and ‘Party Music’, which are both utterly excellent!!!

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Hmmm…not exactly a great many opportunities to slip cheesy groovers into the soundtrack for a thriller that used the winter Olympics as a backdrop, but Lai still delivers an interesting, if not funky score for ‘Thirteen Days in France’ (Sonet, 1969). A good half of the cuts are ballads sung in French…not really an enticing prospect…but there are a couple of jazzy orchestral numbers to enjoy, especially the frenetic and pacey ‘Descente’. One for confirmed Lai-lovers to be honest.

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As if the Olympics wasn’t bad enough, ‘Hannibal Brooks’ (UA, 1969) is a war film about an elephant…any funk to find then? You Betcha!!! Admittedly, most of the tracks have a decidedly military feel to them, but persevere and you will come across a pair of cracking beaty groovers; ‘Elephant Shake’ and ‘Lucy’s Theme’. Both have the requisite elephantine brass, but matched up with urgent drums they really do the biz!

Hello-Goodbye’ (20th Century, 1970) was one of those cheeky pan-European movies of the day, with stars from all corners being groovy on the Riviera. Inexplicably the romantic lead appears to be Michael Crawford, who shall forever remain as Frank Spencer round these parts, no matter how hard he tries to forget. Never mind, for there are a good few spanking tunes to enjoy. ‘Journey To Marseilles’ starts off slowly then fills up with Gallic funk and ‘Destination Le Havre’ is splendidly dramatic and very Roy Budd. Top of the heap has to be ‘No Need To Cry’, with a decent vocal version and a blinding instrumental take both full of freaky fuzz guitars and swinging Mademoiselles. Magnifique!

Rider in the Rain

Here’s one for the Lai connoisseur; ‘Rider on the Rain’ (Somethin’ Else, 1970) is often a very ponderous and dark offering, most likely in keeping with the film itself. Its enjoyable listening, right enough, with lost of minute-long tracks that you wish were longer, like the sitar and vibes cut ‘Theme des Voitures’ and a clutch of nice jazzy tunes too numerous to mention. There is one solitary beaty groover to be had; ‘Theme Bestial’, which again is criminally short at just over a minute…

Oh dear. Just when Lai was on a roll, he goes and coughs up a couple of duffers. Despite what you’ll be thinking, ‘Love Story’ (Paramount, 1970) does have a couple of nice tunes on it; the wistful ‘Snow Frolic’ and the equally pleasing ‘I Love You Phil’…sentiments that sound a bit ‘Eastenders’ in this day and age. Another one you’ll only want to grab for pence if you can is ‘The Legend Of Frenchie King’ (MFP, 1972), although it usually books for stupid money with the Bardot-factor weighing a heavy toll. There is only one decent track really, as you can imagine being a western its banjo-packed, but ‘Attack On The Train’ gives up the goods on its all too brief appearance.

Next up is a UK-only compilation ‘The Man & His Music’ (MFP, 1974). This serves as a showcase for an awful lot of movie theme schlock, but tips us the wink to look out for his soundtrack to ‘African Summer’ as the title track presented here is a stormer, full of saucy sax and piano.

Here we are then! At the height of her fame at the turn of the 70’s, monsieur Lai had the odious task of writing some tunes for Brigitte Bardot’s regular TV specials…poor chap! You’ll find them, along with some smashing Gainsbourg tracks and some other rather limp gear on ‘Brigitte Bardot’ (AZ, 1974). Arranged by Christian Gaubert in the most cheesy fashion, ‘Marseillaise Generique’ and ‘Saint Tropez’ are of course fantastic in ways only French la-la pop can be…nuff said!

Again featuring arrangements by Christian Gaubert, ‘The Baby Sitter’ (RCA, 1975) is something of a departure in style for Lai, as he takes on board a good dose of that ‘discoid-funk’ thing for the best tracks. Most of the tracks are drama-building orchestral pieces, but with the two tracks entitled ‘Ann’s Theme’ the Fender-Rhodes is wheeled out and the band get down and groove for a good long stretch, making this one very desirable album that doesn’t grow on trees!

Oooh La La! Naughty Sylvia Kristel sings for us on ‘Emmanuelle 2′ (WIP, 1975). Not the height of her, ahem, talents, its fair to say! This soundtrack is not one of your sleazy, funky porno efforts, oh no: it’s an altogether classier affair. Shame really. For the most part it’s a bit on the sedate side, with lingering strings and so forth. Just about the only highlight is the Moog-laden ‘Les Fantasmes D’Emmanuelle’, which is very reminiscent of one of the slower tracks from any of the John Keating ‘Space Experience’ albums. Think of space stations in docking procedure, hmmm, that must be it…

Finally, ‘Bilitis’ (Warners, 1977) is one that is most regularly seen priced up in shops with a massive ‘BREAK’ sticker on it, but can be regularly spotted for pence. Never seen the film, but from the sleeve we can take a wild guess that it concerns certain young nymphets and their ‘sexual awakenings’! Nice! There are a couple of extended late period funky cheese workouts that are up to muster, namely ‘I Need A Man’ (bet she got one !) and ‘Rainbow’ (containing the aforementioned two seconds of drums).

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