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18 Sep 2016

Dick Hyman ‎“Moog The Electric Eclectics Of Dick Hyman” 1969 US Jazz Instrument,Space Age Pop Experimental.

Dick Hyman ‎ “Moog  The Electric Eclectics Of Dick Hyman” 1969  US  Jazz Instrument, Space Age Pop Experimental.
Dick Hyman, the man with the most unfortunate name in the world, has brought you, Moog – The Electric Eclectics Of Dick Hyman. Released in 1969 on the label Command. This album as the name suggests is moog-tastic old electronica. 

This album has two different vibes going on. Half of the tracks have a fun almost Sesame Street & Weather Channel feel to them and the other half of the album is more like soundscapes, sometimes abstract and more downtempo. Some of the tracks have elements of experimental too. This is an awesome album check it out. ….. 

One of the advantages of working in a record store is being able to go through all the used material before it’s put out for sale. Amongst the millions of used copies of Herb Alpert albums and Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors there is often a gem. To my luck I was on shift one evening when a buy back came in that provided such a gem. 

Initially I was drawn in by the cover. It borders on the absurd. Twelve images of a man, 11 of which are negative images, all scattered around the moon’s surface next to a lunar lander. In the blackness above the surface is the title: MOOG: The Electric Eclectics of Dick Hyman. The back cover cleverly shows an almost exact inverse image of the front complete with Moog printed as if you were looking at it from behind. he size of the word Moog alone made me want to open this up and play it. 

The Moog synthesizer was developed by the Robert Moog Corporation in the 1950s. Its use as a musical instrument was demonstrated at the Monterrey Pop Festival in 1967. The following year, using a Moog synthesizer, Wendy Carlos recorded Switched On Bach, one of the biggest selling classical albums of the era. The title went on to inspire a series of Stereolab releases. In 1969 jazz pianist Dick Hyman began tinkering with the Moog. 

Hyman did two principal recordings using the Moog synthesizer. The first was The Electric Eclectics. The follow up was the Age of Electronicus and was predominantly a covers album with Hyman interpreting on the Moog. By the time Hyman began working with the Moog synthesizer he had pretty much come to dominate any other form of keyboard, organ, piano, ondioline, etc. This was the next challenge. “My objective is to humanize electronic music as well as to humorize it and to play it as a full performance instead of a collection of unearthly sounds,” Hyman said of making this album. 

Hyman uses the Moog as a total musical instrument playing it in three ways – unaccompanied, accompanied with live musicians, and accompanied by a Maestro Rhythm Unit, a robot drummer often used as accompaniment by cocktail lounge organists. The MRU can be programmed and then routed through the Moog for infinite tempos and rhythms.The first half of the album is the “pop” side. The songs are a bit shorter and quicker. Throughout the album there is a blend of Indian (subcontinent) and Greek music and themes. “Topless Dancers of Corfu”, the opening track demonstrates the use of these themes however the listener may be distracted by the continuous sound of what can only be described as laser fire. There is even another sound that is all too reminiscent of Pac-Man dying. 

If there was ever a Moog version of a bubblegum pop song it would be “The Legend of Johnny Pot”. Blending organs and synthesizers, Hyman plays a feast for the ears. The whimsy continues onto “The Moog and Me”, the opening of which is eerily similar to Mancini’s “Baby Elephant Walk”. Throughout the entire track Hyman is heard whistling, accompanied by the Maestro Rhythm Unit and his overdubbing of piano and synthesizer. 

As the first side winds down improvisation takes center stage. On “Tap Dance in the Memory Banks” Hyman is literally just manipulating knobs as he sits down at the keyboard. In doing so he came up with what he described as a dancer who is “no Astaire [and] a little bit klutzy.” 
The hit single of the album opens side two. “The Minotaur” is a layered composition featuring the Moog combining a bossa nova rhythm with a waltz to create what Hyman described as “a sort of oriental ¾.” The Indian and Greek influences are once again featured, with the melody actually coming from a Greek album in Hyman’s collection. By far the longest song on the album at over eight minutes, when held up against more obvious pop-like songs such as “…Johnny Pot” I find it odd that this song was the hit single. On a historical note, “The Minotaur” provided the inspiration for Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s “Lucky Man”. 

The sound of cascading spacey Moog bells provides the template for “Total Bells and Tony”, a track inspired by Hyman’s associate jazz clarinetist Tony Scott. The addition of a clarinet sound atop the synthesizer helped to create a sound “rather like the way [Tony] played.” All the parts dubbed in by Hyman were via the Moog synthesizer. 
The second side, much like the first, closes with some improvisational tracks featuring Hyman demonstrating the amazing versatility of the Moog. The sounds and images created with the Moog were just beginning to be discovered. The future would prove the Moog’s lasting success through bands like Stereolab, Broadcast and the Moog Cookbook. However, it was musicians like Dick Hyman, whose early experiments with Robert Moog’s invention on albums such as The Electric Eclectics of Dick Hyman, that opened the door to a whole new world of sound. …….. 

When you picture the future, what does it look like? If you take your cues from pop culture, the view’s a little bleak – a landscape of distant, desolate planets and bright white spaces inhabited by cyborgs and machines, all marching to the vocoder-powered voice of Kanye West. Come to think of it, it’s a lot scarier typed-out than it is through the gloss of a music video. 

The funny thing is, since the dawn of the space age, our vision of the future hasn’t changed that drastically. For evidence, one needs only look at the cover of Dick Hyman’s 1969 album, Moog: The Electric Eclectics of Dick Hyman. Reverse carbon copies of Hyman himself emerge from an early model spacecraft; they stand stiffly, sometimes floating above a sparse, crater-filled terrain. The emptiness of space looms in the background. 

And then there’s the music contained within – jazz and pop spun through the modular waves of the then-emerging Moog synthesizer. Hyman, a classically-trained jazz pianist and composer, was, along with his contemporary Wendy Carlos, one of the pioneers of the machine. Electric Eclectics was his first foray into composing for the Moog (he’d previously pioneered similar use of the Lowrey organ), and the resulting album is one of the most successful of its kind. “The Minotaur,” a classic proggy jam, was the first Top 40 hit composed entirely on the Moog and would subsequently provide a bit of shameless “inspiration” for Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s “Lucky Man.” The rest of the tracks (including a transcendent yet still danceable take on James Brown’s “Turn It Up or Turn It Loose”) range from pure kitsch to loungey pop to hazy improvisational jazz. It all comes together to form the “sound of the future”: pulsating blips, jaunty bloops, and funky bleeps; undulating sine waves and modulating grooves; melody and human emotion, processed through the heart of a machine. The result, however, is surprisingly warm and undeniably entertaining. 

So how does the sound of the future hold up today? Well, sort of dated, actually – a bit like a space age bachelor pad relic. This is hardly a criticism, though. Hyman was doing something new, testing the boundaries of an instrument that had rarely been used to its full potential before. And the result, while occasionally veering into questionably cheesy territory, is for the most part a set of virtuosic instrumental pop tunes iconically indicative of the era. To say they’re dated? Well, do you imagine Daft Punk won’t sound a little kitschy after 40 years? How about Kanye’s aforementioned robot vocals? It’s not a knock to anyone’s creative integrity, just a note that artistic merit shouldn’t always be judged based on the technology available at the time. 

So maybe the future doesn’t sound exactly like Moog predicted it would. That doesn’t diminish the contributions of Hyman and his contemporaries to the modern musical sphere. Beyond all of the analog noodling, all of the killer sampling fodder, and all of the influence the guy’s clearly had on everyone from Beck to Stereolab to Momus, Hyman’s most important contribution is the enlightened realization that electronic music doesn’t have to be cold and distant, so long as the person playing it’s got a little soul. 

1. Topless Dancers of Corfu 
2. Legend of Johnny Pot 
3. Moog and Me 
4. Tap Dance in the Memory Banks 
5. Four Duets in Odd Meter 
6. The Minotaur 
7. Total Bells and Tony 
8. Improvisation in Fourths 
9. Evening Thoughts 
10. Give It Up or Turn It Loose 
11. Kolumbo 
12. Time is Tight 

johnkatsmc5, welcome music..





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