Monday, 22 February 2016

"The Ballad Style Of.../Alive & Well In London" by MAYNARD FERGUSON (2016 Beat Goes On CD Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...Fire And Rain..."

Easy Listening trumpeter MAYNARD FERGUSON gets more outings from England's Beat Goes On Records – "The Ballad Style Of Maynard Ferguson" from 1969 and "Alive & Well in London" from 1971 – both originally on Columbia/CBS Records. Beautifully recorded bachelor pad schmaltz is what you get here – Andy Williams without the voice and the cardigans - seriously cheesy lounge-room schmooze - and even some Funky instrumentals Soul boys might like on album No. 2. So once more unto the cocktail cabinet my friends - here are the frilly shirts and the clinking martinis baby...

UK and USA released February 2016 – "The Ballad Style Of Maynard Ferguson/Alive & Well In London" by MAYNARD FERGUSON on Beat Goes On BGOCD 1206 (Barcode 5017261212061) offers fans 2LPs Remastered onto 1CD and plays out as follows (73:13 minutes):

1. Born Free (from 'Born Free')
2. Girl talk (from 'Harlow')
3. If He Walked Into My Life
4. The Fool On The Hill
5. The Impossible Dream (from 'Man From La Mancha')
6. Somewhere (from 'West Side Story')
7. Maria (from 'West Side Story') [Side 2]
8. As Long As He Needs Me (from 'Oliver')
9. Hushabye Mountain (from 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang')
10. The Sound Of Silence
11. You Only Live Twice (from 'You Only Live Twice')
Tracks 1 to 11 are the album "The Ballad Style Of Maynard Ferguson" – released 1969 in the UK on CBS Records 63514 (Mono) and S 63514 (Stereo) – Stereo Mix Is Used

12. Move Over
13. Fire And Rain
14. Aquarius
15. The Serpent
16. My Sweet Lord [Side 2]
17. Bridge Over Troubled Water
18. Your Song
19. Stoney End
20. Living In The Past
Tracks 12 to 20 are the album "Alive & Well In London" – released 1971 in the USA on Columbia C 31117 and in the UK on CBS Records S 64432 (Stereo)

You get a card slipcase, a 20-page booklet with new liner notes from noted Mojo Magazine contributor CHARLES WARING with full album credits and some photos and 2015 ANDREW THOMPSON Remasters that sound great. This is a beautiful sounding CD and at least half of it warrants the lavish attention...

The first album "The Ballad Style Of..." is universally awful covers of popular musicals and film themes – all bombastic melodrama and cheesy strings punctuated by his strangulated screams on the Trumpet - hopelessly dated the lot of it. Brief moments of respite come with "Hushabye Mountain" – a gorgeous melody Dick Van Dyke sings to the children in the "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" movie that even Ferguson can't ruin. But he somehow manages to make the cool 60ts of "You Only Live Twice" cringeworthy – impossible to do with most of John Barry's magnificent melodies from the period.

The second LP goes after singer-songwriter rock from 1970 and 1971 and is a world away from the risible predecessor - vastly better in every way. It opens with a cover of Janis Joplin's "Move Over" from her wonderful "Pearl" album that is good but doesn't quite rise above that. Way better is a surprisingly brilliant funked up Jazz-Fusion instrumental version of James Taylor's "Fire And Rain" - a very cool reinterpretation in a Alexis Korner/C.C.S. kind of way. Even better is a sitar and brass cover of Hair's "Aquarius" (originally sung by Gayle McDermott) which instrumental buffs will eat up and immediately slap on CD-R's to impress friends. His brassy take on Keith Mansfield's super-slick "The Serpent" is wild and features some serious scale climbing backed by a cool Dave Brubeck piano rhythm. His massively changed version of George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord" opens as if it's a Blood, Sweat & Tears track from 'III' and isn't nearly as dire as the idea might suggest – upping the pace to bopping Funk and somehow making it work. Neither "Bridge Over Troubled Water" nor “Your Song” does anything interesting to overplayed Simon & Garfunkel and Elton John melodies – better are his stabs at Laura Nyro's "Stoney End" and his 'let's-make-a-Top Of The Pops theme-song' take on Jethro Tull's "Living in The Past" - where once again Ferguson's band sounds like Blood, Sweat & Tears meets C.C.S. without a vocalist - but in a good way.

The first album is best left alone - but that second LP is way cooler than most would expect. Fans will love the great Audio and the classy presentation too...

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