Amoeblog

Mort Garson 1924 - 2008

Posted by Whitmore, January 14, 2008 06:58pm | Post a Comment

Every once in while you realize certain names are always appearing in the credits of old albums, and it’s a constant surprise. I was always astounded by how often I’d find Mort Garson's name, and on some of the most unlikely records. From Doris Day to Mel Torme to Glen Campbell, and all those albums of nice soft-pop vocals from the likes of The Letterman or the Sandpipers or the Glenn Yarborough record of Rod McKuen covers. And you would usually find Mort Garson conducting or arranging those safe but somewhat innocuous collections of ‘pop hits of the day’ by the Hollyridge Strings or the Sunset Strings. And if you’re lucky enough to find it, you’d see Mort Garson provided background music to Laurence Harvey reading poetry on Atlantic. And why do I think it’s so odd? Because whenever I think of Mort Garson I think of the legendary pioneer in electronic music, and not the multi-faceted, in demand arranger and conductor.

Mort Garson, who also co-wrote the classic "Our Day Will Come," died this past January 4th of renal failure in San Francisco. He was 83. Born July 20, 1924, in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada, Garson attended the Juilliard School of Music. He was a pianist and arranger with dance orchestras before serving in Special Services during World War II and before moving onto Los Angeles and the pop music world. But it was his work as a composer using the then novel Moog synthesizer on a series of albums in the late 1960s and '70s that is his lasting claim to fame, especially to record collectors and electronica enthusiasts. These albums, especially the 1967 exotica classic, and influential, The Zodiac: Cosmic Sounds,  established his cult following. The Zodiac: Cosmic Sounds is one of the first electronic and psychedelic albums put out by Elektra Records.

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search for the holy grail, episode two

Posted by Whitmore, September 16, 2007 05:37pm | Post a Comment


From the 'A-list' of rare British psych singles, on Immediate Records: Black Sheep R.I.P. b/w Sad by the Australian Playboys, featuring Normie Rowe, one of the biggest stars in 1960’s Australia and a perennially figure on the music scene down under.

The 'A' side is a trippy version of the classic nursery rhyme and is pretty good on its own, but it’s the flip side here that is the nugget. Sad is drenched in a wall of sound, distorted and jagged guitars shiver through the unpredictable tempo changes as the lead vocals of Normie Rowe seem coated by the oddly disembodied harmonies, it’s a helluva piece of psychedelic pop. Unfortunately this Australian Playboys single didn’t sell well, something that was strangely typical of many of Immediate Records great releases back then. Today though, for freakbeat and psychedelic record collectors, it is a highly desirable piece and goes for a very pretty penny! Is this the Holy Grail of British freakbeat collectors? Well, maybe one of the Holy Grails.

search for the holy grail: episode one

Posted by Whitmore, September 15, 2007 12:07pm | Post a Comment

In 1967 Tintern Abbey released their only single on Deram, Beeside b/w Vacuum Cleaner. It has since become one of the most sought after 45’s for British psychedelia collectors. But unlike many of these obscure collectable singles, this one is actually great: cool mellotron, a slightly distorted vocal track, a touch of melancholy, a vaguely off kilter arrangement … what else could you want!

There was suppose to be a follow-up single and album but nothing else was ever released and the band disbanded in 1968. The Holy Grail of British psych? … well, one of the Holy Grail’s of British psych!

49 square inches of something again

Posted by Whitmore, September 2, 2007 12:15pm | Post a Comment

“This is in no sense a  stunt record. Let the record speak for itself.”


Says that right here on the back. Of course the record starts with the sound of a train, moving from left speaker to right.


“In spite of the high
degree of perfection
reached hitherto in the art of commercial disc recording, especially
since the advent of the long-playing record, the  monaural or one-channel system has certain limitations. The listener is deprived of any real sense of perspective in the sound.”

But wait, there is something astonishingly beautiful and perfect about some monaural mixes: and that beauty is called “clarity.”  To my weary, tinnitus-filled ears, the mono mix of the Zombies’ Odessey and Oracle is perfection, even in headphones. There’s separation. The piano, the organ, the harpsichord, the guitars, drums, the vocals, the reverb … it’s all there sounding just about what you would like these things to sound like, without the sugar-coated, frosty-haze of full frequency stereophonic sound creeping into your left and right ears, ping-ponging one at a time!  Another great psyche classic, Pink Floyd’s The Piper at the Gates of Dawn also benefits from a mono mix,  as it was originally released in mono. There is something distracting about the gamesmanship of  “The Piper” stereo mix. That’s right … the gamesmanship.


Coincidentally, (then again, like I’ve written here before,
there are no coincidences …) according to the Pink Floyd
official website, the 40th anniversary edition will be
released on September 4th, 2007, as both a two CD set
and a three CD box set and with both the stereo and mono
versions. Unfortunately The Piper at the Gates of Dawn
has been “newly re-mastered.”

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