Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Four Kings Of EMI In Far Away Places

Magical Mystery 
Mother Nature's Son
In 1968 two prominent jazz musicians, Ramsey Lewis and Bud Shank (with Chet Baker in tow), both released albums centered around instrumental interpretations of Beatles' tunes. I don't have the exact release date for the Bud Shank album Magical Mystery, the first side of which is dedicated to songs from the Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour (natch)- the second side features prominent hits of the time such as "Never My Love" and "Windy"- but it's safe to say it was released before Mother Nature's Son, as Ramsey's album came out in December of 1968- amazingly only a month or less after the Beatles' White Album, on which it was based. 

Both records are pleasant and slightly psychedelic joining counter culture and lounge culture at a strangely comfortable halfway point. Nice album covers as well! Ramsey's giving the bunny rabbits and birds some love with his piano parked in some foliage, and Bud's caught up in a kaleidoscope of colors whilst deep in meditation with his sax. No big surprise that Ramsey's take is a bit funkier (though at times a little too heavy on the string arrangements) and Bud's a bit more West Coast Cool meets psychedelia. Nothing gets too out there, not enough to upset a party, though Bud's cover of "Blue Jay Way" probably comes the closest. Truth is both of these records could have been playing unobtrusively in the background at a thirty something party your parents attended in the late 60's. Which puts me in mind of the time I discovered Herbie Mann's great Memphis Underground record (featuring mind bending noise solos courtesy of Sonny Sharrock against a solid memphis backing) in my Dad's collection and him explaining to me that he bought it after hearing it at a party. Get a little taste of that record below, Sonny's solo starts around 5:36.

The title of this post references one of the best episodes of last season's Madmen, Far Away Places, in which, amongst other things, Roger Sterling takes LSD for the first time. This is handled in a fine realistic manner emphasizing the sense of dislocation and auditory hallucinations instead of the stereotypical swirling colors and patterns. I can imagine either of these records approximating the sounds inside the silver fox's head as he is slowly cast adrift, feeling the moorings of his madison avenue reality slipping away. As to the four kings of EMI reference all you Monkees fans and randy scouse gits ought to know!
Roger Sterling in Far Away Places

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