Steve Allen, coming down by the pool after a night of tripping his balls off.
Today’s selections serve as both a reminder to dig deep into those discographies, as well as a short-form memorial (more to come soon) to the mighty Hal Blaine.
A while back I was searching in the back alleys of the windmills of the Dunhill discography and discovered that no less a light than Steve Allen had recorded for the label.
I checked out the album, credited to ‘Steve Allen and the Gentle Players’, took one look at the song titles/credits, and saw that the only other musicians credited were Gabor Szabo (high on my list of ‘buy anything you find by…’ ) and the mighty Hal Blaine.
I pulled the trigger, and when the album finally made it under my phonograph needle, I was very pleasantly surprised.
The record – and I’m going out on a charitable limb by assuming that Steve was playing piano here – is a very cool take on soft pop au go go with minor jazz filigree, featuring not only a bunch of contemporary covers, but also several Szabo originals.
The feel is fairly close to the Impulse sessions that Szabo was doing with Bob Theile (who produced this session), minus the vocal contributions of the California Dreamers.
The two tracks I bring you today, ‘Fox’ and ‘Flower Revolution’ are very groovy indeed.
‘Fox’ is the same song as ‘Are You There’ on Szabo’s ‘Wind Sky and Diamonds’ (that version, recorded the same year features vocals by the California Dreamers). The instrumental version is a tiny bit trippier, sounding like hip background music from a period film.
‘Flower Revolution’ has a slightly more upbeat take on that particular vibe, sounding like it was created as background music for a discotheque scene.
The rest of the album veers from stuff like these tracks to more the more ‘easy’ feel of ‘Here Comes Sgt Pepper’, and Blaine is dependably in-the-pocket.
Though the album doesn’t turn up too often, it’s inexpensive when it does, and comes highly recommended.
I hope you dig the tracks, and I’ll see you all next week.
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