Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Command Records

I recently had a discussion with Kid Dynomite about Command Records and how dope some of the releases are for sampling. I've got a fair few albums on the label by various artists and every one of them either has some nice MPC food or just straight up great music. Besides that, I love the heavyweight sleeves and always pick them up for the amazing artwork. I imagine they're fairly easy to come across at the Thrift stores over in the States but here in the U.K. they don't turn up too often so it's always nice to find one. I've never paid more than £1.00 for any of the records I have on Command, but do occasionally see them priced up in trendy shops' 'Exotica' sections.

To save me writing up a history of the label I've jacked a profile from Discogs which is a very good brief introduction. If you fancy delving a little deeper then this site covers just about everything you need to know.

The Command (originally Command Performance) label was started by Enoch Light and George Schwager in 1959. The label recorded popular, classical and jazz music and was acquired by ABC-Paramount (later ABC Records) in October 1959 along with all of Enoch Light's labels. Command was operated as a audiophile record label producing records with exaggerated separation of the stereo tracks. The albums were packaged in high quality gatefold covers with distinctive abstract designs by Josef Albers. Enoch Light left the Command label in 1966 to form the Project 3 Label. After Light left, the quality of the albums on Command deteriorated until they discontinued releasing new material in 1970. The Command name was used by ABC on quadraphonic reissues and special anthologies until 1976, when it was officially retired.

As mentioned above, a lot of the recordings feature 'exaggerated separation' of the stereo tracks, so make for really useful tools when sampling. Generally, I wouldn't recommend them for loops but creative producers who like to chop stuff will find plenty of stabs as well as a wide variety of percussion sounds. The earlier releases, from 1959 through to the late 60's, feature pretty standard popular songs, all recorded in a very similar style but towards the end of the decade a more contemporary approach was employed. It's on the late 60's releases you'll find the funkier side of the label's output. I've included four tracks below which represents a good cross section of their catalogue. Basically, if you pick up a Command record, the music will sound like one of the following...

I'll start with my favorite from the collection - Richard Hayman's "Genuine Electric Latin Love Machine" from 1969. Great title, amazing cover and some seriously crazy music! "Persuasive Electronics" is a Moog album featuring nine popular hits of the time as well as two originals. The seemingly obligatory covers of "The Look Of Love", "Going Out Of My Head", and a "Hair" number ("Hare Krishna") are all present as well as another cover favorite "The Windmills Of Your Mind", and it's for this track that you need to buy the album. The most bugged out, Psychedelic version you'll ever hear! The eagle-eyed amongst you will recognize the cover from the back of Porn Theatre Ushers' "Me & Him" 12". Check it out...

Richard Hayman "The Windmills Of Your Mind"

Next up is Bob Jung and his Orchestra with "Jung! The Big Band Syndrome", again from 1969 and again featuring some amazing artwork. There's a funny story about this record. I used to own an album by a group called The London Moods Orchestra on a UK budget label called Double Gold. Now, the three standout tracks on it - "Spooky", "Sweet Dick" and "Tripsville 69" - I played quite a lot and was very familiar with so when I picked up this Bob Jung album I was more than surprised to find the exact same versions on it. In fact, the whole of the Bob Jung LP is used on The London Moods Orchestra album - completely uncredited! No licensing notes or anything. Perhaps they were legally licensed, but it seems strange not to credit it. Anyway, I sold on the London Moods LP as the cover was nasty and vinyl quality pretty poor compared with this. I've uploaded "Spooky" - a lovely Big Band Jazz-Funk version.

Bob Jung and his Orchestra "Spooky"

It wouldn't be right not to include an Enoch Light track when talking about Command Records, so here's an early cover of Herbie Hancock's classic "Watermelon Man" from the 1964 album "Discotheque". I really like this version with it's modish Organ, big brash Horns and surf Guitar. In fact the whole album has a surf-pop feel to it and was obviously aimed for dancing as much as listening to, with "The Frug", "The Watusi", "The Swim", "The Wobble", "The Hully Gully", "The Hitchhiker", etc, all being boldly encouraged in the liner notes. Not really one for the sampler but some great music if you like this sort of thing....

Enoch Light and his Orchestra "Watermelon Man"

Lastly I've chosen a good example of the most popular style of music you'll come across in the Command catalogue, and in my opinion the best for sampling. Here the 'exaggerated separation' is best heard and you'll see what I mean by stabs and percussion 'breaks'. "Whatever Lola Wants (Lola Gets)" is from Terry Snyder's 1959 album - "Persuasive Percussion". Joey Chavez sampled it for the "Reservation For One" track off his "After The Heat" EP which I've also included below. I swear I found a J-Zone sample on one of these albums but can't for the life of me find it today!

Terry Snyder and The All Stars "Whatever Lola Wants (Lola Gets)"

Joey Chavez "Reservation For One (featuring Evidence)"

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