Metropolis (Jack Brown)
New Century Orchestra/Sidney Torch
Analysed by Robert Walton
There was a time when the name ‘Jackie’ Brown flashed regularly across our television screens as a highly rated electronic organist. But he was much more than that. He used his actual first name as a mood music composer and later changed to the more informal ‘Jackie’ when he became Billy Cotton’s TV Band Show’s personal assistant and conductor. Talk about multi-talented!
By the way, the New Century Orchestra (Francis Day & Hunter) was quite similar to the fabled Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra who both used to record on Saturday mornings at EMI’s Abbey Road studios. Each combination had a polished slickness especially in up tempo numbers. Of course with Sidney Torch conducting the session, it was guaranteed to be a success. It was such a shame when Chappell’s were compelled to record in Denmark - it was never the same again. Thank goodness most of the light orchestral classics had already been recorded in London!
The fast energetic mood of Metropolis instantly establishes itself with xylophone, strings and woodwind telling the listener in no uncertain terms what is being described. Then we go into a syncopated section still with the opening orchestration popping in as if to say “we haven’t gone away”. Listen to the bubbling “QHLO”-type brass adding their bite to the business of busyness.
This is followed by a typical “singing” middle section as heard in many a mood piece (originally conceived by David Rose) but one is not allowed to forget the energy and vitality of a large city like New (“we never close”) York with its thousands of vehicles and people 24/7. The sound clings like a snail and won’t let go. Thanks to the Greeks for their contribution to the English language and indeed the title.
From now until the end, with quotes from the BBC radio comedy series “Take it from Here”, the orchestra has an “away day whale of a time” juggling with all the elements provided by the arranger. The orchestra stops twice as trumpets prepare for the finale. In essence it’s a “free for all” as the instrumental traffic jam jumps for joy to escape the rigidity of the score, and as in reality gives the impression of total discipline. Lovely little bit of pizzicato worth waiting for.
But of course eventually it all comes together. Metropolis has all the right ingredients to illustrate a very 20th century scene. It might not be quite as thrilling as New York in a Nutshell by Acquaviva’s Orchestra but the bare bones of a concrete jungle are just as effective! And if you listen very carefully you might just hear the word Metropolis intoned deep within the orchestra.
Guild Light Music GLCD 5102 The 1940s
I am not familiar with the selection that Bob is writing about so I will not refer to his manner of analysis, even though as I have indicated on previous occasions, our respective approaches are quite different from one another. However, that is not what I am referring to at this particular moment.
One sentence caught my eyez regarding a reference that Bob has made, which I pointed out when I wrote a supplementary article on Robert Farnon's "Seventh Heaven" in response to Bob's on the same selection.
My point has to do with the fact that due to a musicians' strike (I do not know how long it lasted), recording of these light music selections, both for commercial release as well as privately for mood libraries, formerly undertaken in London by the Queen's Hall Light Orchestra, was of necessity transferred to Denmark and recorded by the Danish National Orchestra under Robert Farnon using the name Ole Jensen for the purpose.
I have listened to many of these recordings from both sources, and as I have previously indicated, I have found them all regardless of source to be entirely satisfactory, fulfilling their purpose, so that when Bob says that after recording was transferred to the Danish Orchestra, they were simply not the same, I respectfully suggested that he was nitpicking.
I for my part would be very interested in finding out exactly what Bob is referring to when he implies that a drop of quality has taken place, which J don't sense and truthfully don't care to sense, as my desire is to get equal pleasure from all these recordings regardless of their source, the only factor being the quality of the selections themselves.
I would ask what basis or standard Bob is using when he makes such a comparison. Are there recordings of the same selections that offer a direct comparison? - and we do know that in fact many of these selections were actually recorded more than once. Is it the quality of the playing, or perhaps the comprehension of the material that he finds different and if so, in what way?
I honestly feel that with a statement he has made about an apparently invidious comparison, if I understand correctly, Bob should be prepared to state his reasons for feeling as he does when he makes such a comparison.
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