LONDON PHASE 4 STEREO - PART 2
PASS IN REVIEW - production directed by Bob Sharples, London Phase 4 Stereo SP 44001
Pass In Review, the first Phase 4 Stereo release, set the tone for the label's early releases. Imagine that you are standing in a crowd watching a parade of marching bands pass before you, going from left to right. Though a studio recreation, it's pretty realistic, complete with interactive crowd noise. The LP starts with a fanfare, a shout of "Pass in review!," and a British military band playing "Rule Britannia." Now, Phase 4 didn't just include traditional marching bands. Oh no. After a bunch of European bands go by we are treated to "Mexican Hat Dance" with guitars, castanets and maracas, and "Matilda," played by a calypso band with vocals by the great Lord Kitchener! Side two focusses on US themes, including the usual military stuff like "The Caissons Go Rolling Along." But we also get "The Bells of St. Mary's" played by a bell choir, "Indian Drums" (my favorite), "When the Saints Go Marching In" and "Onward Christian Soldiers." The LP ends with "Anchors Aweigh," "The Marine's Hymn" and "Stars and Stripes Forever." Great! You can experience the parade of a lifetime without having to get off the couch.
VICTORY IN REVIEW - A Musical Epic Directed by Eric Rogers, London Phase 4 Stereo SP 44024
Pass In Review was such a hit that a sequel was obvious. Victory in Review uses pretty much the same technique but has only military bands playing celebratory, patriotic and sentimental songs and marches from the "Old World" to "Europe and the New World," "World War I" and "World War II." While extremely well done, the choral parts get a little melodramatic at times, and it's just not as much fun as Pass In Review.
BATTLE STEREO - THE SOUNDS OF WAR...GREAT MOMENTS IN HISTORY - A Musical Epic Directed by Bob Sharples, London Phase 4 Stereo SP 44037
With Battle Stereo, London Phase 4 created an epic worthy of David Lean. Essentially, the LP sounds like a great stereo soundtrack to a motion picture about war. The album starts with Paul Revere's ride, with Paul shouting "To arms! To arms! The British are coming!" while he gallops from left speaker to right speaker. The battle commences with lots of gun and canon fire while "March of the Grenadiers" dukes it out with "Yankee Doodle" from left and right speakers, respectively. The rest of the album proceeds along the same lines, mixing sound effects, speeches and melodramatic music. In "The Battle of Gettysburg" we here a fiery speech by Jefferson Davis, more gun and canon fire, and President Lincoln delivering the Gettysburg Address. Other tracks include "Napoleon's Retreat," "The Charge of the Light Brigade," and "The Battle of Britain" (with speeches by Hitler and Churchill).
"No other album production in London Record's Phase 4 stereo catalog has ever taken so heavy a toll of time, money, effort and talent..." claim the liner notes. The album took a year to produce, and required assistance from London's corp of engineers to funnel all ten tape tracks down to the final two. The album's credits (most Phase 4 albums have few or no credits): Producer - Tony D'Amato; Musical Director - Bob Sharples; Engineer - Arthur Lilley; Editing - Arthur Bannister; Gunfire Effects - British Grenadier Guards; Cavalry Effects - Her Majesty's Horse Guards; Recording Hall - Town Hall, Walthamstow, England.
THE SOUND OF SIGHT - MUSIC FOR AN EXPERIMENT IN IMAGINATION - Composed and Conducted by Ray Martin, London Phase 4 Stereo SP 44040
The Sound of Sight may very well be the summit of the London Phase 4 concept. Like Battle Stereo, the album sounds as if one is listening to a movie soundtrack without the picture. In fact, with the subtitle Music For an Experiment in Imagination, that's exactly what Phase 4 had in mind. One of the best use of sound effects I've heard on any album of this type.
Composed and conducted by Ray Martin, The Sound of Sight goes to a new level by utilizing original music (for the most part), plus original "skits," or storylines. Gone (for the most part) is the historical context and traditional music. After opening with the "Overture to End All Overtures," the album moves to "Westorama" where Coplandesque Western music plays over a barn dance, a shoot-out with some bad men, and an Indian attack on a farm (where Maw is grabbed and scalped!). Next up is "Destination Space," where we hear an astronaut board the spacecraft and blast off. Genuine Mercury Control chatter is used in the background. Nice electronic "space effects" greet the astronaut, and then a return to earth and an ocean splashdown.
"Hoodunnit?" opens with smoky crime jazz. A hood enters a night club and shoots a man, who is rushed to the hospital and undergoes surgery -- all with appropriate sound effects, of course. Then, a shoot-out with the hood and the cops. The hood is shot, and falls off the roof screaming! "Cartoonik" follows, and we are told in the liner notes to imagine our favorite cartoon duo (Tom and Jerry is who I think they mean -- fans of The Simpsons may want to imagine Itchy and Scratchy). Jerry torments Tom while he tries to sleep, giving him a hot foot and an earache with Rock 'n' Roll from a portable radio. Jerry gets it in the end, though, when Tom throws him into a pond. Jerry sinks, gurgling! This one really does sound like the soundtrack to a cartoon. Very well done. Other cuts include "A Whale of a Tale," "Egyptian Epic," "Tearjerker" and "Flagwaver."
One final mention is the album cover art by Jack Davis, which sums up the themes nicely. The cover wraps around to the back, here's the complete picture.
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