We have delved into the world of “Easy” a great deal over the years here at Iron Leg.
As was discussed at length back in ‘The Party’, I have a great appetite for the intersection of Squaresville and Coolsville, especially when it arrives courtesy of mainstreamers attempting to co-opt, or at least interpret the sounds of the younger generation.
Sometimes this is a deliberate approximation of that world to create a mood in a movie or TV show (i.e. Mancini, Vic Mizzy etc) or it is a reinterpretation of pop/rock material for home uses, i.e. easy listening LPs meant for oldsters, Hi-Fi enthusiasts etc, in which we get to hear the songs that the kids dig in a mellower, easier to digest format meant to come wafting into your den as you sip cocktails with your guests.
Today’s selection falls into the latter category, and is an especially tasty example of the form.
From what I can tell, arranger Larry Wilcox did most of his work in the mainstream pop world, working on sessions for Top 40, but generally short-haired types with the occasional hip session (sides for Dionne Warwick, Betty Wright and Aretha Franklin) mixed in.
During the mid-to-late 60s he arranged a string of albums for Dot Records under the name of the Sound Symposium, including ‘Paul Simon Interpreted’ (1968), ‘Bob Dylan Interpreted’ (1969) and the disc which yielded today’s selection ‘Contemporary Composers Interpreted’ (1968).
Unlike a lot of similar efforts, the Sound Symposium albums seemed to have been aimed at a slightly high-minded demographic, i.e. a somewhat hipper (yet not hip/young enough to grab the real thing) crowd.
Oddly enough, even though they did whole album devoted to Paul Simon, the version of ‘America’ was not included on that (though I wouldn’t be surprised if it came from the same session).
‘America’, which first appeared on Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Bookends’ album lends itself well to this kind of interpretation, already being qquite mellow. The Sound Symposium version leans heavily on the strings/woodwinds of the orchestra with just enough ‘plugged-in’ sounds (drums, electric guitar) to keep it interesting.
The arrangement by Wilcox is quite nice, indicating a certain sympathy with the material and more focus than the usual easy session.
The horn touches, tremolo guitar and percussion are all well done and make for a pleasant and interesting listening experience.
The version of the Lovin’ Spoonful’s ‘Darling Be Home Soon’ (one of my favorite songs) has some very nice production touches (the subtle panning of the strings in the beginning of the song is very cool), and the use of xylophone in counterpoint to the strings (actually two separate string lines playing side by side) is cool.
The producer, Paul Tannen seems to have followed a similar trajectory to Wilcox, working mostly with mainstream pop artists through the 1960s.
I’d still like to find the Paul Simon/Bon Dylan albums by the group.
I hope you dig the sounds, and I’ll see you all next week.