Time, this week for something groovy, easy, and somewhat breezy.
If you fall by Iron Leg on the reg, and check out the podcast, you’ll already know that I have a highly developed taste for that mystical area where the cool meets the square, especially in regard to “easy”/mainstream bandleaders and arrangers dipping their batons into the top 40.
A quick scroll through the archive will turn up many examples thereof, most of which are reworkings of bigger pop hits, that Mom and Dad might already have a passing acquaintance with.
But every so often one of these cats wrapped their ears around something a little unusual, as in today’s selection.
Don Costa was a very busy producer, arranger, A&R man and conductor, working with pop, jazz and even country artists through the 50s and 60s.
He was also a talented guitarist who recorded a number of his own records (some under the pseudonym Guitar ‘Muvva’ Hubbard).
His 1967 LP ‘Modern Delights’ was composed almost entirely of his arrangements of contemporary Top 40 hits.
A while back someone posted about the album on Facebook, and when I looked it up, what should I discover, perched at the end of side two, but a version of one of my all time favorite songs, Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks’ (via the Beach Boys, of course…) ‘Heroes and Villains’.
‘Heroes and Villains’ lent itself readily to this kind of orchestral treatment thanks to its structure as a mini-epic of sorts and its suite-like feel.
Costa’s take on the song is undeniably “easy”-er than the OG, you can tell that he really got what Brian was onto, and the results are very groovy, indeed.
It makes me wish that he (or someone similar) had given an entire album over to similar reworkings of Brian’s work.
I dig it a lot and I hope you do too.
Don Costa continued to work (including recordings with his daughter Nikka, who went on to be a soul/funk singer of some renown) until his untimely death in 1983.
See you next week.