Moog and his monster.
Listen/Download – Electronic Concept Orchestra – Rock Me Listen/Download – Electronic Concept Orchestra – Grazing In the Grass
I hope all is well in your part of the world, and that you all had a chance to pull down the ones and zeros on last week’s edition of the Iron Leg Radio Show. It has – as the previous three episodes – been moved to the ILRS Archive (see tab in blog header…).
The tune I bring you today is something unusual and cool that I grabbed recently.
While I’m always on the lookout for easy/kitsch stuff, especially when it treads (warily or not) into what we record people might describe as ‘legitimate’ territory, i.e. rock, psyche or even soul and funk.
I’ve found Enoch Light and his various and sundry offshoots to be a rich source of extra groovy sounds, from unusual takes on 60s rock to serviceably funky versions of James Brown tracks.
One segment of the easy/kitsch/exploit world that I’ve never been a huge fan of is Moog records.
Though I dig the Moog when used as an accent on rock (or other) records, I’ve always thought that as a featured instrument it lacked a certain musicality. It’s novelty in the space age 60s made it a favorite addition to soundtracks, but with rare exception (like Dick Hyman’s epic take on James Brown’s ‘Give It Up or Turn It Loose’) was it ever used to create anything I’d want to listen to more than once in an irony-free environment.
That said, when I do find Moog albums in the field, I grab them because first and foremost I am an inveterate vinyl junkie, and on the off chance that they might turn out to be worth a couple of bucks and could be flipped.
When I ‘Moog Groove’ by the Electronic Concept Orchestra I recognized it right away as something I’d seen listed in crate diggers ‘finds’ posts on a soul/funk board I frequent, and since the price was right I grabbed it, tossed it on the keeper stack and took it home.
Good thing too, since once I dropped the needle on the record (and took a look at the back cover) I realized that this was no ordinary Moog set.
First off, ‘Moog Groove’ was pleasing to the ears in a way that a lot of Moog albums aren’t, i.e. it was clearly recorded by musicians with a modicum of taste and enough skill with the synthesizer to apply it fairly tastefully, i.e. it never ended up sounding like a 23rd century robot orgy.
Secondly, while perusing the back cover I was very pleased indeed to discover that the drummer on the session was one of my favorites, that being Morris Jennings Jr., a longtime member of Ramsey Lewis’s band and a fixture on Cadet Records sessions in the 60s and 70s. Why he was practically the only musician mentioned on the album is a mystery. He wasn’t particularly well known, nor – though it has a couple of nice breaks on it – is the album a drummers tour de force.
I have found a reference that seems to indicate that there were other Cadet sessioners involved in the sessions, including keyboardist Eddie Higgins (who plays the Moog on the ECO’s records) and guitarist Phil Upchurch. This may indicate that these albums were recorded in Chicago, but I can’t say for sure.
What it does have going for it is a nice amalgamation of late 60s pop with the synthesizer worked into the mix as organically as possible.
The selection of covers is both appropriate (i.e. no country Moogification) and interesting.
The two tracks I bring you today are my favorites from the album.
You get to hear a nice take on Hugh Masekela’s ‘Grazing in the Grass’, with the Moog applied with an organists touch, as well as a cool take on Steppenwolf’s ‘Rock Me’. Both tunes also give you a taste of Jennings’ talents as a percussionist.
The Electronic Concept Orchestra released at least two other albums between 1969 and 1973.
I hope you dig the sounds, and I’ll be back next week.