Impossible to forget once seen in the wild and perfect on the wall of your Austin Powers pad but which E-numbered Graphreaks-designed lps really deliver?
Circle of Sound
Candy Stripe and Circle Series
2344 002 SELECT Illustration: David Roe
Treat yourself to this Circle Of Sound crown jewel. Kicking off fast and furious with El Soul Condor, it’s big beat Latin with horn stabs and Hammond from the off. Little Joe is the best track here with its subtle soul yearning in the horns but there's open breaks at the end of Aquarius as it segues into Let The Sunshine In even though people don’t buy lps for that sort of thing anymore.
These Boots Are Made For Walking is groovy and Fever is a percussive dancefloor pleaser. The whole lp has an energising rush to it.
This is a much better sleeve than the original MPS release too.
2344 004 SELECT Illustration: Ian Beck
Pop-xotica rules! Remove your furrowed brow, drop the stylus on If I Were A Rich Man and smile. This is not just an lp of pop covers either. Barber’s original Precisely Percussion could happily have graced the credits of any rubbish early 70s UK comedy show.
There is some surprisingly experimental synth and xylophone stuff lurking too on bizarre versions of Hare Krishna and Midnight Cowboy. Mah-Na-Mah-Na is exactly what you’d expect and Big Spender is as camp as it ever was. To complete this audio finger-painting of early 70s EZ there are random bursts of Ba Da Ba Da –ing all over the shop.
2344 005 SELECT Illustration: Barry Glynn
Carlos is no slouch when it comes to delivering some tasty Latin though his highs are few and far between. Mindful of One Mint Julep goodness elsewhere we approached with optimism.
Sadly, Carlos slaughters most tracks here either by over-cha-cha-cha-ing the arrangements or messing up fine compositions like Gentle On My Mind and Phoenix with sloppy orchestration.
Samba De Orfeu and La Bamba are both played waaay too fast and not in a good speed lounge kinda way either. Aquarius is nearly a Redeeming Feature (© someblokecalledfuz on VG+) but wears out its welcome very fast by being over-strident.
No cheroot for Carlos I'm afraid.
2460 104 SELECT Illustration: Paul Harbutt
Beautifully recorded and as Gay Paree Francais as Paris itself. This is perfect if you like accordion with orchestra or you're seeking an instant soundtrack for your French Holiday video. If it’s non to both then avoid this lp like la plague.
If it’s oui to the video idea then the Frenchiest track to frappe avec le stylus is Les Mots D’Amour. If Upbeat Benny Hill Accordion is your sac particular then The Poor People Of Paris is hot. Finale but non petite, the Accordion Waltz Award winner is Padam, Padam which is cool in a gently mad way.
Check out the tonal quality of Paul Harbutt's watercolour on the cover. Beautiful work.
2460 109 SELECT Illustration: Barry Glynn
Solo violin rarely hits the spot except in a classical setting. Noel Pointer lps drive us crazy and Elliott Fisher’s purportedly funky violin lp is not a forumusic favourite.
The classic Black Eyes is never done badly except here of course, where it’s neither majestic nor mysterious. Ralph Elman and his Bohemian Players played on radio broadcasts throughout the 40s and 50s and he also lead the Ron Goodwin Orchestra.
Paradoxically the Ron Goodwin Orchestra do a superb Black Eyes on a cheap Studio 2 Stereo lp so for good Black Eyes get that and not this.
2460 110 SELECT Illustration: Paul Harbutt
Britain’s longest established brass group formed in 1963 when three Royal College of Music trombonists revived the neglected music of Giovani Gabrieli.
Producer Richard Hill has connected the brass to standard rock and peppered his arrangements with percussion and Hammond organ. It flags in places but on Tears of a Clown, Band Of Gold and Up The Ladder To The Roof the bright brass blasts are set to a Glam-like stomp with Hammond and electric guitar jamming free. In The Summertime has a surprisingly funky breakbeat and percussion outro that’s unfortunately muddied by silly school playground noises. Pick this up for brass or maybe silver but not gold.
2460 115 SELECT Illustration:Richard Dalkins
Oh yes! This is all about The Frog and it's an absolute arm-hair raiser. Donato’s song is excellent anyway of course, but on this the rasping trombones just build and build like they're testifyin'. It’s a real sonic delight so play it good and loud.
Work Song is another gem which is proper 60s-style groovy and cobweb blasting brass at the same timeand if you fancy spy thriller-style takes on Bacharach’s What The World Need Now and The Doors Light My Fire then you’ll find them here.
If blasting trombones get you high then this is a must-have lp and we think it's exclusive to this Polydor series too.
Top parping 'bones action!
2460 116 SELECT Illustration: Peter Hutton
Full marks to Polydor for trying to get church music to the masses by dressing it up in a groovy sleeve.
Unfortunately, it's very average church music so don't be tempted. The illustration on the cover is an organ adeptly drawn in pen with coloured ink washes. Peter Hutton was a great choice for illustrating this subject as he specialised in drawing machinery, planes and architecture.
His style is tight enough to accurately render every pedal and organ stop but loose enough in line quality and colour to look like a funky Quentin Blake book illustration. Google Peter Hutton's website and check out his work. Well worth a peek.
2460 133 SELECT Illustration: Richard Dalkins
Analyse the song titles mathematically and the concept subtly head-butts you. 5 tracks with the word Fly; 3 with Go or Going; 2 with Away plus one Jet Plane and another called 747. Yup, we’re young, hip and groovy singing ultra-lite sunshine pop.
Up and Away itself is weak and missing the gutsy drumming which propelled the original song and Jimmy Webb’s bank account into the stratosphere. Let Go is the oft-covered vocal version of Canta De Ossana but lacks any beat or urgency. Pete Moore’s Seven Four Seven is plane lame. The Richard Dalkins cover illustration is the best thing here. It’s a very 70s Pop Art blend of watercolour and newspaper monoprint.
2460 141 SELECT 1971 Illustration: Dave Roe
How cool are the four David Roe illustrations in this series? Read the next review for more about him.
This is a great Pop-xotica LP with xylophones to the fore and like the trombone LP ‘Bones Galore this was commissioned specifically for the series.
Polydor clearly had their pick of top session men for these dates. Night and Day is EZ groovy bossa nova with lush strings and rippling xylophones. Aquarius is mystery lounge; all floating flutes and staccato percussion and Summertime mines a similar MI5 seam. If you love your music to be groovy and bossa this LP is a brilliantly produced mixture of both. Fussy audiophiles should hear it on a really good system to feel the sparkling top end. Fnar.
2489 020 SELECT Illustration: Dave Roe
An album of Jim Webb songs could never be bad but this LP drives down a dull MO Road and stays there.
David Roe’s stunning artwork graces three of the best Circle / candy-stripe releases. Liverpudlian David Fairbrother-Roe was a Royal Academy illustrator who designed psychedelic posters for the Isle Of Wight festival before graduating to LP covers for the likes of Jon Anderson and Nazareth. His highly decorative compositions lead him naturally to Tolkienesque subject matter and book illustration and he is still working now.
forumusic are aiming to hook up with him shortly for a profile and to showcase more of his great art work.
2489 021 SELECT Illustration: Alan Lee
Like Sunshower this is lodged firmly in the easy listening bracket. It’s another instrument-based commission by Polydor following the (trom)’Bones and Xylos(phones) template. It’s a very sedate listen for filing under ‘relaxing’ or ‘comatose’ depending on your taste for ‘light easy listening.’ I’m fine with its calming vibe, high Bacharach quotient and the suggestive sexuality on the cover but that faun goat thing needs to stop bloody staring!
Illustrator Alan Lee was eventually the lead concept designer for Peter Jackson’s hugely successful Lord Of The Rings movies. Purchase this for a pound, add the words Lord Of The Rings to your Ebay description and watch the bidding soar. Possibly.
2489 023 SELECT Illustration: Richard Dalkins
Vowing to collect the set in any series will inevitably deliver minor disappointments at some point. Open enough Batman bubblegum packs and eventually you get a lousy Alfred the Butler card. There’s nothing wrong with waltzes per se and even light opera has passable moments but this is awful. Norrie even manages to put Bacharach’s Pussycat down by adding some truly awful large lady operatic singing to it.
The cover is good though! The use of white space focuses attention onto the waltzing couple and the diaphanous dress is beautifully rendered using wet-in-wet technique. Buy this lp as a 50p lesson in watercolour techniques.
2489 024 SELECT 1971 Illustration: Eric Boman
One nipple is often a bad omen. Three nipples doubly so. Nipples plus Norrie Paramor and the math goes off the scale. Nick Ingman has done some gorgeous production on his own lps where lush is not slush and sweet is not saccharine but I suspect Norrie arrived to record this with an entourage of large opera ladies to batter Nick into making Great Waltzes Part Two.
Nick was very young when this was recorded and was Assistant Producer and Arranger for the Norrie Paramor Organisation. Producing the work of his boss at 23? There was only ever going to be one winner. This is a lame lp and two of the cover nipples belong to Tarzan. Poor show all round.
2489 030 SELECT Illustration: Ian Beck
The appeal of pub sing-a-long banjo music defies rational explanation but major UK labels in the early 70s seemed to love them. Were The Beatles to blame? John Lahr identified music hall traditions in their work but did they inspire banjo bands or was it the unfathomable popularity of the appalling Black & White minstrel shows on British TV? Was there a George Formby renaissance? Can we finger George Melly for it?
forumusic desperately requires a sociology graduate specialising in late 60s UK popular culture to explain away the bizarre Big Ben banjo goings-on at vocals in locals. Spend an evening sand papering your own leg instead. Far less painful.
2489 034 SELECT Illustration: Dave Roe
A David Roe sleeve plus Alguero arrangements equals a winner!
This is a rock solid listen from start to finish with great variety and nary a duff track in sight. Laugh Laugh is a brassy rolling party of a song whilst Stay With Me Forever is an underrated soul gem with an orchestral backing reminiscent of incidental Bond film music. Check out a superb upbeat instrumental version of the same song on Side 2.
Cinecitta and Tartufo slice an easy synth rug all of their own before Side 1 closes with a beautifully arranged romantic waltz.
Witty and inventive, this is an easy listening Quality Street Assortment kind of lp without rival. Well worth buying as there really is something for everybody.
2489 036 SELECT Illustration: Carol Binch
One great mystery in the Circle Of Sound canon is how Delgado's version of Salambo No 1 on this lp has been overlooked for so long.
It's true that Mocoto is the stand-out on here and was much-loved back in the 90s Big Easy . It's hard not to love the funky drive of Mocoto with its memorable flute hook but Salambo No. 1 with punctuated cries of Salambo, clumsy percussion, sleigh bells and fuzz guitar is a smile-inducing little party all on its own with a strong aroma of Michel Legrand's De Gue Ding Ding Ding Ding to it.
Don't drive yourself crazy trying to find this but Mocoto and Salambo No 1 make it well worth picking up if you see it in the pound bins anywhere.
2489 038 SELECT Illustration: Richard Dalkins
A very famous singer once sang that he heard the sound of mandolins and it resulted in his voice waivering wildly. High forehead girl here is afflicted in much the same way. She's trying so hard to get away from the sound of mandolins that her arm is horribly distended and her head appears to have left her body completely leaving an open collar behind.
On the plus side you've gotta love the mandolin playa dude on the right! He's totally rocking Bobby Goldsboro's patented turquoise shirt and purple pullover combo as seen on the cover of the Bobby Goldsboro Today lp.
Musically this is Italian restaurant tepid. Avoid.
2489 040 SELECT: Illustration: Chris Ewan
Norrie Paramor conducts, Ingman produces and it's a four -nippler. This can only end in tears.
Naked ladies perch on crushed records gazing at huge bananas and the word Aloha watched by two over-sized parrots. Aloha’s English meaning evolved into both hello and goodbye which is apt for this lp which closes the Circle Of Sound. Say hello and wave goodbye to it fast.
Art Deco was labelled in the 60s, cultivated in the early 70s and blossomed with The Great Gatsby movie in 1973. Manhattan Transfer then pruned it and The Rubettes savagely uprooted it.
Lovely Art Deco pastiche cover but dreadful music. Another Alfred the Butler for COS completists only.