During the 1970s, several British and European artists signed to Philips found their music enjoying a second life in 4-channel quadraphonic sound as part of the company’s Japanese 4DX series. For the June 2017 release, Vocalion has sourced six superb albums from the 4DX archive and repackaged them across three individual SACDs.
First up is a pair of albums by British session trumpeter, arranger and composer Ray Davies, in which he leads his group The Button Down Brass. As one of London’s first-call session players, Ray has appeared on thousands of recordings, among them numerous pop hits including Downtown (Petula Clark), It’s Not Unusual (Tom Jones), The Last Waltz (Engelbert Humperdinck) and Big Spender (Shirley Bassey). “It would be easier to name the pop records I wasn’t on,” he says.
Comprised of Ray’s fellow session musicians, The Button Down Brass had its genesis in a session he did for Reader’s Digest during the mid-60s. “They wanted something like Herb Alpert, two trumpets and a trombone, small group sound. It was for these records they sent out in America – record clubs – and they sold hundreds of thousands of the things. They didn’t know what to call it, and the guy from Reader’s Digest came up with Button Down Brass. Everybody said it sounded nice, a bit unusual – Ray Davies and The Button Down Brass. Other people used different names for brass, and they never took off. But Button Down Brass stuck.” The Button Down Brass soon became recording artists themselves, releasing a series of easy listening albums on the Fontana label. By the early ’70s, the group had switched to Pye, under the aegis of staff producer Tony Palmer. But when Palmer went freelance, he took The Button Down Brass with him, signing them to Philips.
The albums made as part of that deal (and the subject of Vocalion’s reissue) – 1974’s Themes from The Exorcist, The French Connection, The Sting and other great films and 1975’s Flashpoint – both feature hard-hitting film and TV music from the pens of Lalo Schifrin, Patrick Williams, Quincy Jones, Joseph Koo, Elmer Bernstein and others. In Ray Davies’ exciting arrangements, classic themes like Bullitt, Enter the Dragon, Kojak and Magnum Force come up afresh, with plenty of solo space for session stalwarts Alan Hawkshaw (keyboards), Alan Parker (guitars) and Alf Bigden (drums). And the quadraphonic element makes all the difference; for example, Alan Hawkshaw’s outlandish Moog effects in Enter the Dragon spin round the speakers at dizzying speed. This reissue marks both albums’ debut in SACD or indeed any digital format, and contains the original stereo and quadraphonic mixes.
Vocalion favourite Paul Mauriat makes a welcome return with a further two albums, Penelope (1972) and Holidays (1973), which presented quadraphonic remixes of 24 titles culled from his back catalogue. Originally produced for the Japanese 4DX series, this reissue makes them widely available for the first time.
Completing the June 2017 release is the Swingle Singers 1972 album The Four Seasons, an utterly charming close-harmony vocal interpretation of pieces by Vivaldi, Pachelbel, Bach, Marcello and Mozart. These arrangements by group founder Ward Swingle, with their characteristically light and jazzy touch, open out beautifully in the quadraphonic mixes, the voices’ ethereal quality enveloping the listener.
Everything has been remastered from the original stereo and quadraphonic tapes, and these SACDs additionally include high resolution stereo versions of each album.