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By Bill Luther

With the "Easy Listening" explosion in the mid to late 90’s the world began to take notice of a lot of instrumental numbers from the 60’s and 70’s. Many times they were throw away tracks recorded for use in films, t.v. programs or commercials. Indeed many a composer existed purely to provide a vast library of untitled compositions as such for the industry. Since then there has been a multitude of Cd’s focusing on this genre. While the genre itself as a whole is an international one, I’ve opted to center on the British aspect. At a time when struggling bands were trying to get signed composers and arrangers with a full array of orchestras and sessionmen at their beck and call were cutting numbers that would be used on the screen (t.v or film) or in many cases be left to languish in a tape block vault someplace. Then there were those who’s work went on to acquire cult status or fame. I’ve chosen to illustrate the British example of this phenomena by representing both sides of the coin. Pick ten examples was not an easy task with many brilliant artists to chose from. Among them are the likes of Barry Grey, Roy Budd, Alan Moorehouse, Alan Hawkshaw, Tony Hatch, Ron Grainer, Reg Guest, John Schroeder, Ray Davies (the trumpteter, not the Kinks main man), Mike Vickers, Les Reed, Syd Dale, John Shakespeare, Pete Moore, Laurie Johnson , Tony Osbourne, Ray McVay et al and the list goes on

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1.Roy Budd-

"Get Carter" 1970

Arranger/composer Roy Budd’s score for the U.K. celluloid gangster epic "Get Carter" ranks among the late gentlemen’s best remembered work. It’s minimal instrumentation (tabla, stand up bass and electric piano) set the mood for the film and is a must for fans of suspenseful instrumentals. It can be found on the CD/lp reissue of the "get Carter" soundtrack or on the "Sound Spectrum" CD comp. Or "this Is Cult Fiction Vol.2" which collects various U.K. movie and t.v. themes.

2.John Schroeder

"Bird Has Flown" 1971

John Schroeder is a Brit 60’s "easy" legend. Easily the Burt Bacharach of Swinging London and responsible for numerous ventures especially has "Dolly Catcher" lp. His work in the field in the capacity as a producer and composer rivals that of the mighty John Barry. Best known for his production work with Status Quo and Sounds Orchestral, "Bird Has Flown" has all the magnum opus trimmings that the "no expense spared" style Schroeder evoked. Fuzz guitar, organ, sweeping strings, brass and soulful vocals are layered into an immaculate collage that exceeds anything in this genre. To be found on the indispensable CD comp "The Easy Project Vol.2:The House Of Loungecore" on Sequel.

 

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3.The Mood Mosiac featuring The Ladybirds-

 

"A Touch Of Velvet,A Sting Of Brass"

1966

The Mood Mosiac were the brainchild of German born British based producer/arranger Mark Wirtz who in addition later handled production chores for Brit psych lads Tomorrow and their lead singer Keith West’s brief successful solo career. "A Touch…" is the archetype British Carnaby Street camp number that evokes imagery of dolly birds in op art gear, drinking at The Cromwellian and the whole plastic fašade of Swinging London. It’s accented by the vocal backups of The Ladybirds, a trio best known to Americans as the three blonde ladies who were always singing on "The Benny Hill Show". It’s been reissued on the Mark Wirtz CD "Mood Mosiac Vol.1" CD on RPM, which beyond this brilliant track is a dismal affair.

 

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4.Mike Vickers-

"On The Brink"

1966

Manfred Mann’s multi talented Mike Vickers left the band in 1966 having felt constrained in his role as guitarist, vibraphonist etc. Already an accomplished jazz man and arranger at the age of 24 in 1966 he was destined for more limelight. In 1966 Manfred Mann’s members were each asked to write and submit an instrumental piece to be used by the BBC as a theme for a Wednesday evening program of television plays. They chose Vicker’s composition "On The Brink". Soon thereafter he left the band and in early ’67 cut the kitsch/campy lp "I Wish I Were A Group Again". "On The Brink" was included against other originals as well as covers of contemporary numbers. The lp was reissued on CD by EMI last year as well as appearing on the essential CD comp "The Sound Gallery Vol.2".

 

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5.The Andrew Oldham Orchestra-

"The Last Time"

1966

Who would’ve ever guessed that the Stone’s manager/producer (the latter was a misnomer as Oldham was completely inept in the studio) would ever garner notice with his throwaway lp of orchestral versions of Rolling Stones songs touted as "The Rolling Stones Songbook" in 1966. The plodding, somber, funeral march arrangement of this Stones hit took over thirty years to gain notoriety when U.K. Britpoppers The Verve re-wrote it as "Bittersweet Melody" and were sued by mogul Allen Klein who owned the rights to it. It’s a pity the song went unnoticed prior as it was a piece of genius, though probably the work of Oldham’s arranger Mike Leander as it goes well beyond his ham fisted inexperienced knob twiddling. Either way it’s stunning and sadly hasn’t been reissued since 1988 when CS records did an A.O.O. comp. Lp.

 

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