PERCUSSION AROUND THE WORLD - International "Pop" All Stars, London Phase 4 Stereo SP 40010

After the initial release of Pass In Review, London Phase 4 jumped onto the "percussion" bandwagon. This release is typical: popular and traditional songs performed with lots of percussion and groups of instruments panned hard left and right in the stereo spread.. The theme this time is international songs. Basically, a lively "easy listening" album. Other early Phase 4 "percussion" albums, all in the same vein, include: Big Band Percussion - Ted Heath (SP 44002); Bongos From the South - Edmundo Ros (SP 44003); Exotic Percussion - Stanley Black (SP 44004); Percussive Moods - Johnny Keating (SP 44005); The Percussive Twenties - Eric Rogers (SP 44006); Melody and Percussion For Two Pianos - Ronnie Aldrich (SP 44007); Percussion in the Sky - Werner Muller (SP 44008); Percussive Oompah - Rudi Bohn (SP 44009); Twelve Star Percussion - International All Stars (SP 4011) and Percussive Latin Trio - Los Machucambos (SP 44012).

BIG BAND SIRITUALS - Ted Heath and His Music, London Phase 4 Stereo, SP 44036

Popular British big band leader Ted Heath arranges twelve traditional American spirituals to mixed results. The music really swings at times with good arrangements by Dave Lindrup. The addition of Reg Quest on organ adds a nice touch. But the vocals by the Rita Williams Singers are a tad bloodless, and the precise Phase 4 recording at times threatens to suck the soul out of the tunes. But overall, a very listenable album with a great selection of songs ("Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen," "Deep River," "Swing Low Sweet Chariot," "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child," etc.).


RINGLING BROS. BARNUM & BAILEY CIRCUS SPECTACULAR - Merle Evans, Musical Conductor, London Phase 4 Stereo SP 44095

Thankfully not just an album of circus music, but a full blown Phase 4 sonic event! Traditional circus music, conducted by the legendary Merle Evans, plays over: Ringmaster Harold Ronk's intoductions and whistles, audience applause and laughter, trumpeting elephants, barking dogs, lion and tiger roars, whip cracks, clown noises (use your imagination), horn playing and barking seals, bike riding monkeys, prancing Palamino ponies, an archer shooting who knows what off of his assistant, Carlo the human cannonball (who flies from left speaker to right speaker, of course), and last but not least the entire company passing in review. The highlight is perhaps Laszlo the magician, bound hand and foot in chains, jumping 80 ft. into a barrel of water. The audience gasps -- he survives! Terrific! To top it off, the gatefold cover has a six-page color photo insert of the circus, and bios of boss John Ringling North and Merle Evans. One of the all time best Phase 4 releases. Produced by Tony D'Amato and engineered by Arthur Lilley and Arthur Bannister.


LES PAUL NOW! - Les Paul, London Phase 4 Stereo SP 44101

Perhaps in an attempt to Americanize its catalog, Phase 4 released albums by a number of well known stateside musicians including Stan Kenton, Harry James and Les Paul. Les Paul Now! is a Phase 4 standout. The songs are mostly well known standards (including Paul's own "High High the Moon"), but they are done in a wide variety of styles including some rocking cuts that would do the Ventures or Shadows proud. There are tasty fuzz bass and lead lines, and Paul even flirts a little with controlled feedback! There are no session notes, but presumably the album was recorded in Paul's own studio with his then new eight channel Ampex tape deck. For the late 60s, when this album was recorded, this was state-of-the-art. In fact, the record still sounds fabulous today. Paul's playing is fluid and precise, and his use of multi-track layering is phenomenal. It helps, of course, that he's using top-notch guitars and amps. Fans of Les Paul guitars should check this album out just to marvel at the myriad of sounds gleaned from these vintage instruments. The rhythm section is not credited, but everything else is guitars, presumably all played by Paul. There are some great photos of Paul's studio inside the gatefold cover.


TWO PIANOS TODAY! - Ronnie Aldrich and His Two Pianos, London Phase 4 Stereo SP 44100

A typical mid-period Phase 4 release. Aldrich plays pop tunes from the era (late '60s) with his twin piano arrangements. What's really neat about this release is the cover collage (it's reproduced more in full on the back) which contains photos of John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, Van Morrison with Them, Cat Stevens, Marianne Faithfull, Englebert Humperdinck, and a part of Tom Jones (all of these artists were at one time or another on the London/Deram label). Also mixed in are various bits and pieces of the covers of other London and Deram releases, including The Sound of Sight. Collage design is credited to Harry Fromlett.


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