Thursday, May 22, 2014

Doc Severinsen - Brand New Thing (1977)

Released: 1977 (Columbia)
Produced by: Tom Scott
Peak on the US Billboard 200: Did not chart

Side One Side Two
Do It to It
Chicken Chatter
Midnight Flite
Fernando's Fantasty
Virginia Sunday
Soft Touch
There is a Girl

I'm the guy that's always mooching unwanted/unused vinyl from the garages and attics of friends.  Usually such vinyl is scratched, warped, or otherwise unplayable.  With those albums, I either make wall collages like this one in my office:

or I melt them into bowls:

(And, yes, I'll make something for you if you want; simply email me for a reasonable quote.  Most of the cost would be materials and shipping.  Interesting trades considered.)

However, every now and then somebody will hand me some records that are still perfectfly playable, just unwanted.  I'll give those LPs a spin to see whether or not I like them before repurposing them.  So when a friend handed me this 1977 Doc Severinsen album, I figured it wasn't very good, mainly because jazz people were mostly making bad disco knock-offs around that time.  But I gave it a spin anyway and I kept thinking to myself, "this sounds a lot like Tom Scott's Apple Juice album."  I found myself digging it and then I checked out the credits to find that Tom Scott produced and wrote most of the songs on the album. Also, the band contains many of the same musicians that would go on to play on that Apple Juice album, including Richard Tee on keyboards, Eric Gale on guitar, and Ralph MacDonald on percussion.  Lee Ritenour (a.k.a. "Captain Fingers") is in on the sessions, too, and of course Scott also contributes with his saxophone and Lyricon. To my ears, Tee steals the show on most tracks with his gospel-styled Fender Rhodes work.

In a 3 star review, Allmusic writes:
Here is an overlooked gem from a most unlikely source, recorded in a most unlikely genre -- commercial '70s jazz/funk -- just as the disco era was gathering steam. When interviewed many years later, Doc thought this was one of his best albums. Many would be inclined to agree, for the 50-year-old Tonight Show big-band leader somehow managed to chase the trends and create memorable music, a rare thing in 1977. Unfortunately the public, jazz and otherwise, ignored it.
I like it, too. Add this to my ever-growing "better late than never" stack of records.  And thanks, Gary, for the vinyl.

  • Do It to It:  The album opens with an upbeat funky tune (à la Tower of Power) with an occasional smooth interlude that quickly returns to the funky melody.  Doc takes a restrained solo before cutting loose near the end.
  • Chicken Chatter: With a groove lifted directly from Leo Sayer's "You Make Me Feel Like Dancing," this track finds Doc's sound heavily manipulated which makes it sound more electronic than acoustic.  Your basic filler track.
  • Midnight Flite:  This track puts a beautiful legato melody over an accompaniment that's a lot busier than it sounds.  Scott takes a Lyricon solo before Doc takes his turn.  The song wraps up as it begins.
  • Fernando's Fantasy:  As you can guess from the title, this song has some Spanish toreador touches to it.  But, much like the preceding track, it has a smooth melody over a mid-tempo groove.  When the strings kick in and Doc switches to flugelhorn for a solo, it reminds me a lot of Chuck Mangione from this late '70s time period.  Switching back to trumpet, Doc shows off his range near the end.

  • Virginia Sunday: My favorite tune on the album.  Written by Richard Tee, the song alternates from a funk groove over a great bass line and a smoother, lyrical section.  The way he's arranged it, the return to the funk groove is always welcome to the ear.  Doc rises to the level of the writing with one the better solos on the record.
  • Soft Touch:  A beautiful ballad played flawlessly by Severinsen.  Richard Tee's accompaniment is perfect: adding stuff where he should, laying back when he should.  Doc's solos focus on melody over technique and that's just what is called for here.
  • There is a Girl:  The closest thing to disco on the album: dance beat, lots of varying sections, plenty of Latin percussion.  The only thing missing is some disco string parts.  Guitarist Eric Gale gets to solo on this one; Doc adds a flashy solo on the fade-out.  The song was co-written by percussionist Ralph MacDonald who also contributed a track to the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack around this time.
  • Shenandoah:  a pleasant take on the traditional folk song/sea chanty sometimes known as "Across the Wide Missouri."  The track starts off as an interplay between Severinsen and Tee before other layers (strings, clarinet, slide guitar) are added.  Somewhat enjoyable; it seems oddly out of place on this album, especially as an album closer.

  1. Virginia Sunday
  2. Do It to It
  3. Soft Touch
  4. Midnite Flite
  5. There is a Girl
  6. Shenandoah
  7. Fernando's Fantasy
  8. Chicken Chatter

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