Friday, July 2, 2010

John Barry: The EMI Years / The Sound Gallery (1996)

(As published in B-Side ... )

The EMI Years Volumes One and Two (Scamp)

The Sound Gallery Volume One (Scamp)

Knowing the susceptibility of the self-consciously hip to reactionary shopping impulses, one mustn't take the sudden popularity of lowbrow instrumental mood music (cf. Martin Denny) as proof positive that taste no longer matters. It does. But neither should one mistake tasteless instrumental mood music for bad instrumental mood music. Take Scamp's collections of the music John Barry made for EMI in the late-'50s, for instance. Although many of Volume One's thirty-seven (thirty-seven!) and Volume Two's twenty-eight (twenty-eight!) tracks amount to little more than a white man's awkward attempt to shift his musical burden to blinkered British bobbysoxers, another chunk of it traces the development of the menacingly stuttering guitar of Barry's most famous work--"The James Bond Theme" (alas, not included here)--to its very entertaining roots in good-natured showmanship. His "Walk Don't Run" even rivals the Ventures'.

And although on the surface The Sound Gallery Volume One, a collection of British incidental soundtrack music recorded between '67 and '75, sounds different, its appeal--which on many of its twenty-four (twenty-four!) tracks is immense--relies on the same phenomenon as Barry's: that of an intense, lively, and dramatic virtuosity evolving from what was really nothing more than an intention to divert.

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