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Monday, February 17, 2014

The Neon Philharmonic - Brilliant Colors The Complete Recordings (1969-70 us, delicate orchestrated sunny psych opera, two disc set)

This double-CD set, Brilliant Colors: The Complete W. B. Recordings, should be a no-brainer of a purchase for anyone who is an admirer of Van Dyke Parks' Song Cycle, Richard Harris' two Jimmy Webb collaborations (A Tramp Shining and The Yard Went on Forever), the Free Design's classic '60s albums, the extant fragments of Brian Wilson's previously lost SMiLE album, or any of the other classic examples of ornate late '60s psychedelic pop -- not that what's here is exactly psychedelic, so much as baroque pop, with lots of elaborate, occasionally "out-there" orchestral arrangements that luxuriate in their own ornate weirdness, sort of like Parks' "The All Golden" or "Palm Desert." 

The Neon Philharmonic's two albums The Moth Confesses and The Neon Philharmonic are both represented (in superb sound) on the first CD, but the real treat is the 58-minute long second disc, which encompasses the group's singles -- once one gets past the four cuts lifted off of The Moth Confesses, most of the rest is comprised of some very pretty and nicely produced non-LP single sides that are some of the most enjoyable unknown sunshine pop of the period, and, as Andy Zax, the annotator of this set observes, virtually a third LP in breadth and content. "Flowers for Your Pillow" and "To Be Continued" sound like lost Jimmy Webb productions circa 1967, and "A Little Love" is such a radiantly upbeat piece of pop-rock that it's amazing it didn't do more for the act as a single; the disc finishes with a string of radio promotion spots for the group. 

Not all of singles are as inventive or impressive as those tracks -- a lot of it would make one think of what might've happened had Richard Carpenter been given a budget and the job of generating upbeat sunshine pop music without the services of his sister around, say, 1970 -- and some of what's here shows signs of marking time, but the overall vibe of this music is still seductive thirty-some years later, if not quite as compelling as the very best work in this genre. Additionally, the annotation is so extensive and fascinating as to seriously enhance the value of the set -- what it tells us about the music business and the era in which this music was generated makes it essential reading, almost more than some of the Neon Philharmonic's music is essential listening. ~ by Bruce Eder

The Neon Philharmonic's 1969 debut, The Moth Confesses, is rightfully considered one of the stranger exponents of the sunshine pop scene. However, its less-celebrated 1970 follow-up, The Neon Philharmonic, is, if anything, even weirder. Composer/conductor Tupper Saussy's lyrics are even more obtuse and pretentious this time out, opening with the utterly bizarre "Are You Old Enough to Remember Dresden?" and closing with "F. Scott Fitzgerald and William Shakespeare," a rather drippy tale of college buddies who drift apart after graduation. 

As the lyrics become more overwrought, so too does the increasingly pseudo-classical music. Several songs are sung (by Don Gant, returning from the debut) to strictly orchestral arrangements. Unfortunately, Saussy's not an interesting enough melodicist to give these arrangements the same zip that lifts The Moth Confesses over its more ponderous patches; it's not surprising that the album's best song by far, "Forever Hold Your Peace," is the one that sounds the most like that album. Although the Neon Philharmonic released occasional singles for various labels over the next half-decade, this was their final full-length release.
by Stewart Moon

Disc 1
1. Brilliant Colors - 4:22
2. Cowboy - 2:21
3. The New Life Out There - 5:36
4. Morning Girl - 2:14
5. Midsummer Night - 5:48
6. Little Sparrow - 3:20
7. The Last Time I Saw Jacqueline - 3:46
8. Morning Girl, Later - 2:41
9. Are You Old Enough to Remeber Dresden? - 5:23
10.Forever Hold Your Peace - 2:26
11.You Lied - 3:29
12.Harry - 4:11
13.No One Is Going to Hurt You - 3:58
14.Long John the Pirate - 5:18
15 F. Scott Fitzgerald And William Shakespeare - 5:16
16.The Mordor National Anthem - 0:44

Disc 2
1. Morning Girl (Mono Single Version) - 2:15
2. Brillant Colors (Mono Single Version) - 4:21
3. No One Is Going to Hurt You (Mono Single Version) - 3:57
4. You Lied (Mono Single Version) - 3:30
5. Clouds - 2:40
6. Snow - 3:23
7. Heighdy-Ho Princess - 3:25
8. Don't Know My Way Around My Soul - 2:59
9. Flowers for Your Pillow - 2:19
10.To Be Continued - 2:29
11.Something to Believe In - 3:19
12.A Little Love - 2:59
13.Got a Feelin' in My Bones - 3:01
14.Keep the Faith in Me - 3:09
15.Better Times - 2:22
16.Jody - 3:10
17.Letters Crossing - 3:05
18.Radio Spot 1 (Promo) - 0:54
19.Radio Spot 2 (Promo) - 0:55
20.Radio Spot 3 (Promo) - 0:56
21.Radio Spot 4 (Promo) - 0:54
22.Radio Spot 5 (Promo) - 2:09
All songs composed and arranged by Tupper Saussy

*Don Gant - Vocals

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