28 August 2010
Raymond Lefevre & His Orchestra - Soul Coaxing & Days Of Pearly Spencer
Label: Major Minor
Year of Release: 1968
Easy listening hasn't really featured much on "Left and to the Back" before, largely because there are countless other blogs doing a fine job of covering that area themselves. But here we have something of an "easy listening collectible" (in other words, you won't find it discarded in Oxfam for 50p - in fact, you'll be lucky to buy a copy on ebay for less than six pounds).
Like most of the output on Major Minor, "Soul Coaxing (aka Ame Caline)" was something of an airplay staple over on Radio Caroline, and has been referred to before now as the radio station's "theme". I believe, however, that this is an internet myth, and it seems to be the case that the sheer ubiquity of the record made it seem as if it was some kind of pirate radio soundtrack. It's clearly proved a nostalgic pleasure for many people who are happy to get their credit cards out as soon as they see it listed over on an auction site.
That's a rather simplistic reading of the track's appeal, though, and doesn't explain why I - a man born in the seventies, with no personal connections to the tune at all - shelled out for it earlier this year. The truth is that whilst "Soul Coaxing" has a very simple, rather repetitive main melody, the arrangement has such a rich, warm texture that it's like wrapping yourself in a giant, fluffy audio duvet. Bass heavy piano lines thud beneath airy strings, and as the track continues little frills and embellishes become increasingly apparent. Angelic vocals are buried deep in the mix, acting as an eerie undertow rather than a cheesy device at the forefront of the arrangement, and the track builds up then demolishes itself again, only to return with further variations. Skittish little melodic runs also add to the appeal - the whole thing is splattered in the kind of detail and colour the likes of Phil Spector and Brian Wilson would have considered astonishing, and it's a testament to the ability of Raymond Lefevre's abilities as an arranger. There's also a choppiness to this, a dramatic edge which rocks between foreboding and joy, which does make it sound like a seafaring theme of sorts, whether that's intentional (probably not) or otherwise.
If you don't like easy listening records normally, you'll probably still enjoy this. And if you don't like it, well... I'm almost tempted to say that I don't like you much.
Label: Major Minor
Year of Release: 1968
And because I'm feeling generous, you're getting two Lefevre discs for the price of one today. "Days of Pearly Spencer" was technically the B-side to "Delilah", but I'd imagine that the majority of L&TB readers would be more interested in hearing Lefevre take on David McWilliams rather than Thomas Jones.
"Days of Pearly Spencer" isn't quite up there with "Soul Coaxing", but it's still a thing of wonder. Again, the drama created through Lefevre's arrangement is instantly gripping, and the somewhat unexpected buzz of an electric guitar (or is it actually a stylophone treated with distortion?) for the chorus replaces the original muffled, megaphone-delivered vocals. It's a brilliant example of how the best easy listening covers replaced vocals not with idle string arrangements, but with instrumentation which closely resembled the original vocalist's style or the effects on the original disc.
In comparison, "Delilah" can only be described as OK, and really should have been the B-side in this case.
Lefevre worked on film soundtracks in his native France throughout much of his life, and his death in 2008 was mourned by many a tasteful person both there and in other countries. As you can probably tell, I'm fond of a lot of the material he created.
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