Dutton Vocalion has released three3 more
impressive titles in their SACD range. The Black Motion Picture Experience /
Music for Soulful Lovers (CDSML 8531) is as a twofer release featuring The
Cecil Holmes Soulful Sounds. There’s a perfect symmetry about this particular
CD. Both albums were released on the famous Buddah label back in 1973 and both
were released in Stereo and Quadrophonic pressings. Vocalion’s new CD marks the
debut of both albums in both formats. Both titles were originally released back
in the height of the Blaxploitation boom. The first of the Holmes albums
consists of a great selection of major Blaxploitation themes including Super
fly (1972), Shaft (1971) and Across 110th street (1972), but there’s
also a great deal more than the usual, often repeated titles. Slaughter (1972)
is a nice addition to the track listing, considering a soundtrack album was
never released. Holmes also diverts somewhat curiously with tracks such as Also
Sprach Zarathustra from 2001 (1968) and the Love Theme from Lady sings the
Blues (1972). However, there’s a very nice funky edge to these tracks which never
make them seem out of place and therefore fit in rather seamlessly.
Music for Soulful Lovers works as a perfect accompaniment
to The Black Motion Picture Experience. Again, the album consists of many popular
songs from the period, so expect more vocal tracks. But of course, the vocals
are deep, evocative and very, very smooth. Aside from some very nicely produced covers of songs by Barry White,
Stevie Wonder and The Stylistics, the album also contained three original
compositions, all of which are silky and slick. In fact, it’s Holmes himself
who provides the Barry White-influenced vocals ontwo of these tracks – and hey,
it actually works extremely well!
Vocalion’s mastering by Michael J. Dutton
(from the original master tapes) is pin sharp and contains the punchy clarity
that we have come to expect. Great notes and super use of the irreplaceable
artwork make this a damn near perfect retro experience. (Disc total 73.17)
Vocalion have returned to familiar territory
with their release of Henry Mancini’s twofer CD The Return of the Pink Panther
/ Symphonic Soul (CDSML 8535). Released in 1975, both albums were also launched
in Stereo and Quadrophonic versions. So it’s nice to see Vocalion’s CD make a
welcome debut on the hybrid SACD format. As far as Mancini pairings go, this
selection works extremely well. The choice of Return of the Pink Panther is
undoubtedly a smart move as it is arguably the best of the Panther soundtracks.
Recorded at London’s CTS studios, there’s a nice range of styles spread across
this memorable score. Released on the cusp of the disco era, there’s naturally
a great deal of funky guitar riffs (provided by session musician Alan Parker)
as well as some beautiful pieces such as ‘Dreamy’ which saw Mancini himself
take to the piano. The highlight piece is arguably The Return of the Pink
Panther (parts 1 & 2) which accompanied the theft of the Pink Panther
diamond. It’s a great piece of composition which incorporates both the Pink
Panther theme, a slow (but increasing dramatic) tension builder and a full on
frenzy of brass and strings for its climax.
Supporting Mancini’s soundtrack release is
his studio album, Symphonic Soul. The album was recorded in L.A. and manages to
merge the funky mid 70s sound with Mancini’s lush orchestrations. Mancini
brought a few of his own new compositions to the album including the wonderful
title track. He also took this opportunity to introduce a new souped-up version
of his memorable Peter Gunn theme. There’s also some well-established period
pieces to be found among the track listing including a great variation of The
Average White Band’s funk anthem ‘Pick up the pieces’ and Herbie Hancock’s ‘Butterfly’.
Vocalion’s mastering by Michael J. Dutton
(from the original master tapes) is reflective of the label’s usual high
standards whilst a detailed 8 page booklet rounds off the packaging perfectly. (Disc
Lost Horizon: The Classic Film Scores of Dimitri Tiomkin / The Thing from Another World Suite (CDLK 4608) is another of Vocalion’s very welcome SACD releases. The CD features Charles Gerhardt conducting The National Philharmonic Orchestra - a quite fabulous recording which took place at Kingsway Hall, London in December 1975. Although Tiomkin’s work in film had begun in 1931 it was director Frank Capra who provided the composer with the opportunity to score Lost Horizon (1937). The immediate success of Lost Horizon resulted in Tiomkin never looking back. Vocalion’s beautifully produced CD may be headed by a generous 23 minute symphonic suite from Lost Horizon, but there’s so much more to be enjoyed. Several of Tiomkin’s other major film achievements are also celebrated, including The Guns of Navarone (1961) and it’s triumphant prelude, the Howard Hawks western The Big Sky (1952) and the love theme from William Wyler’s Civil War melodrama Friendly Persuasion (1956). Another significant inclusion comes in the way of a bonus track and Tiomkin’s The Thing from Another World (1951). The Suite (10.41) consisting of Prelude, The Flying Saucer Under the Ice, Melting Sequence, The Hand, Plasma I, Plasma II, The Growing Plants, The Thing on the Walkway and Electrocution is a fine example of Tiomkin’s rare excursion into the Sci-Fi / Horror genre.
The 12 page booklet contains the original (and extensive) liner notes from the original 1976 album, but it’s a shame, however, that they were not extended to include a little on Tiomkin’s The Thing from Another World – not only is it an integral part of this wonderful compilation, but it just feels like an entire page has gone missing. On the audio side of things, Vocalion’s mastering by Michael J. Dutton (from the original master tapes) is quite superb – but in all honesty, I was never in any doubt. (Disc total 56.59)
Overall, Vocalion have once again delivered where it counts, a collection of reliable, high quality and in many ways, essential re-release albums - long may they continue to do so.