Cocktail Music for Robots

an LP Cover Gallery of the Music of the Future (circa 1959)

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Project: Comstock

Music From Outer Space

Frank Comstock

Warner Brothers W 1463 (1962) 

 

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Gallery Portrait and list of titles

If you know other work by Comstock, you know how imaginative yet restrained his arrangements for the traditional orchestra can be. As far as I know, this record is his only documented attempt at blending the new electronic instruments of the time with his trusty orchestra. 

Electronic violin is played by Elliot Fisher. A custom built theremin is played by Paul Tanner. Buddy Cole and Bobby Hammack handle the novachord and hammond organ. Allen Reuss and Trefoni Rizzi add electric guitar. 

Standards such as Out of This World and Stella by Starlight sit nicely amongst original compositions with titles like On the Dark Side of the Moon, Journey to Infinity, and Galaxy. This is luscious melodic fare with an electrosonic twist. While the tempo is consistently ballad like, there is not a bad cut to be found. It never fails to bring a mercury laden tear to a few robots' lenses. 

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Shangri-La

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Robert Maxwell

Decca DL4421 (no date given) 

 

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Gallery Portrait and list of titles

Robert Maxwell has produced a myriad of adventurous yet easy listening albums. The title, Shangri -La suggests an excursion into some form of exotica. 

The generous use of electronic organ mixed with reverb enhanced harp glissandos and shimmering vibraphones pushes this collection of cocktail standards solidly into the robot aesthetic. 

While lacking any direct references to space travel, the ethereal qualities of Maxwell's arrangements of Old Devil Moon and Strange Music quite easily feel at home with landscapes not of this earth. Outer space, or certainly, being on an alternate planet, figures large in robots escape fantasies. 

Subliminal Sounds

 

Leo Diamond 

ABC-Paramount ABC 303 (no date given) 

 

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Gallery Portrait and list of titles

Here harmonica virtuoso, Leo Diamond, goes over the top by creating an interplay of overdub recordings of his specially designed harmonicas against theremin and/or electric organ melodies as arrangements of mostly acknowledged cocktail standards. Each harmonica part was recorded twelve times over on motion picture sound film. Taped sound effects such as wind, ocean waves, crickets, drops of water, lambs mewing, and train whistles appear liberally throughout the arrangements. 

Juxtaposing the sound of a locomotive over the haunting theme of "Laura," may at first seem peculiar, but it works. In fact, every idea on this album could be viewed as "eccentric" at first glance, but there's not a bad cut to be found. There's a consistent mellow surrealness that cannot fail to work the robot circuit. 

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The Twilight Zone

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Marty Manning

Columbia CL 1586 or CS 8386 (1960) 

 

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Gallery Portrait and list of titles

Marty Manning performs on Martenot and Ondioline. Besides traditional woodwinds, piano, trumpet, and drums, this collection of outer space music features Jerry Murad on harmonica, Harry Breuer on vibraphone, Lois Hunt's wordless vocals and special effects by Attilio J. Macero. Other exotic instruments used were the serpent, the bazzimba, tuned logs and tuned bongos.

Somehow the dramatic introductions and percussive and drifting to dissonant melody lines manage to level out to the sublime. In particular, a reverberated harmonica passage midway through "Invitation," is particularly goose-bump inspiring. This is a strong group of genre arrangements and should be used with diplomacy. No DJ wants a robot revolution on their hands.

Futura

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Bernie Green

RCA Victor LSA-2376 (1961) 

 

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The slip sleeve from the handsome die cut cover of Futura begins it's liner notes with the following statement from the composer. "What will music sound like in 1970? In this album we are probing with both ears for full Stereo Action perception. We intend to foreshadow the future sounds and techniques of popular music recording." - Bernie Green circa 1961. This is, after all, Bernie Green's contribution to RCA's Stereo Action series.

Mixboard gymnastics and tape splicing/looping experiments account for most of the futuristic tinge found on this masterpiece. Occasionally, one finds Ferrante and Teicher like prepared piano sounds. A "hush-hush" new sound processing device called the "tonalyzer" is employed on a trumpet melody for Mr. Green's arrangement of "Under Paris Skies." (It sounds something like a cross between a ring modulator and a phase shifter with a healthy dose of reverb.) Otherwise, all instruments are those common to the traditional orchestra. They are simply presented in a new way.

Most are useable cuts for robot parties, but I recommend mixing it up with gentler fare. Bernie Green is very serious about what he is doing here and sometimes steps beyond easy into intentionally cerebral listening. (err...actually all the music reviewed here works on both levels.) My favorite cuts are of his own pen, "Futura" and "Futura (reprise)," but they are not necessarily the most appropriate for backdrop to electronic relaxation. 

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White Goddess

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Frank Hunter

Kapp KL-1136 or KS-3019 (stereo) 

 

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White Goddess by Frank Hunter is an expression of the exotica style that crosses over to the space age by incorporating new electronic instruments of the time. Orienta inspired instruments like chromatic bongos and log drums, bazimba, and Chinese bells sit with wordless female swoons and Ondioline in a small orchestra, conceivable only in robot heaven. With sounds as colorful as these, Hunter's essential approach to arranging works to full advantage. 

The unknown, as seen through the eyes of a space ship wrecked survivor or the high ball soaked neuro sponge of an automaton, takes on Frank Hunter's personal interpretation of nirvana. Every single cut works for robot attended gigs. Eight (8) are original compositions. Standards like "Poinciana," and "Jungle Drums" feel at home with Hunter's tunes. That should give an indication of the quality of the work. 

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More Robot Music - Strings For A Space Age - Bobby Christian and His Orchestra, Electronic Music - The Electrosoniks, Music In Orbit - Ron Goodwin and His Orchestra, Music Out of the Moon/Music for Peace of Mind - Les Baxter/Harry Revel, Music from Out of Space - Harry Revel, Soundproof - Ferrante and Teicher 

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Contact: 
Jack Fetterman
In Hi-Fi Home  

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Contact: 
Scott Springer.
New York City In Hi-Fi In Hi-Fi at Bar d'O Cocktail Music For Robots
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