Switched-On Bach fundamentally changed music as we know it. Wendy Carlos' demonstration of the leading edge of electronic music equipment in America, the Moog synthesizer, as something truly musical and joyful, unlike the dissonant musique concrète-adjacent experimental works that came before it, sent shockwaves that changed the world in their wake. On the one hand, you had composers realize the power that now lay before them: some went to great extents to even get their hands on a Moog, like Isao Tomita, who imported the first specimen into Japan and had to convince customs authorities that it wasn't a spying device due to how new and fascinating it was. Heck, he did it even though the manual had no translation (and was mostly just circuit diagrams anyway) - he had to figure it all out, and in doing so he laid the foundation for the entire electronic music wave in Japan that followed, with a direct throughline to YMO as Hideki Matsutake, their synth programmer, was Tomita's apprentice.
On the other hand, a whole lot of people realized the simple equation that Moog = cash. The sound was fresh, demand was enormous, and all it would take was get one of these beasts, churn out some covers, and make out like a bandit. Thus began not only the era of true electronic invention, but also of "Moogsploitation", where anyone who could try and pivot to Moog, did. There were some amazing artists who gave it their all in this commercial enterprise, like Jean-Jacques Perrey or Dick Hyman, but also a whole lot of dreck like the eternally baffling Genuine Electric Latin Love Machine by Richard Hayman (no relation to Mr. Hyman). It is in this environment of commercial exploitation of the latest trend that we meet today's subject, Larry Taylor.
Mr. Taylor was also not one of those avant-garde types that championed the Moog pre-Switched-On Bach. But he was also not really that distant from the Moog either. While best known as a Chicago jazz musician who played in very traditional combos and did many a radio show, he was also known for consulting with organ manufacturers to create programs for their instruments. Because of his skill with organ electronics, it wasn't much of a leap to the Moog - as we've seen before on this blog, the leap from "electronic organ" to "synthesizer" is not much, and in the case of the Electone they are one and the same. And thus, here we have a jazz musician coming in to showcase the Moog, much like Wendy Carlos had come before him to showcase Bach.
The final piece of the puzzle for this album is the very strange record label that produced it. Unless you're a fanatic of American pop culture deep cuts, you wouldn't know anything about Cozy Records, or its sister labels "Reinbeau", "Premere" and "Calamo". All of these were "vanity" record labels owned by one person - the CEO of the Solo Cup Company, Leo Hulseman. See, Hulseman was convinced, as often happens, that his wife Dora Hall, who had not performed live since the 1920s and was at that point in her sixties, was going to be a superstar, and he would use his considerable fortune as a disposable cup magnate to make it happen by hook or by crook. He started all these record labels just to put her music out, and put out ads on the packages of Solo cups with free record offers for a "Top Tune Record" which would of course give you a Dora Hall 45. Leo's push for his wife's superstardom kept escalating until he put her on TV with a huge special, Dora's World. Multiple TV specials, even. Some people really loved her, to the point of maintaining a sadly now-defunct fansite for many many years. For the purposes of this post, I have refrained from listening to Mrs. Hall, as regardless of the opinion I end up having of her, it would detract from Larry Taylor, who should be the actual focus here. Point is, while Leo Hulseman primarily used Cozy Records et al to assist his wife's superstar dreams, it was also wide open for them to release whatever other music they wanted, and this of course included Dora Hall's musician friends...like Larry Taylor. And that's how we go full circle, folks!
So we have a well-known area musician, who almost released a strange album in the early 60s off his radio show, pairing up with the wife of a disposable cup tycoon to release his experiments with the Moog, which he is unexpectedly more than qualified to do. And the results are...really good, actually!
I had originally found this record by way of a compilation named Moog Madness which I got from a friend in college's brother's 1 TB music collection he'd left on a Google Drive back before Google stopped offering unlimited storage to colleges. Quite frankly, I've never been able to find the actual source for this compilation, but this person was drenched in late-2000s music blog culture, clearly followed legends like Mutant Sounds religiously...and I think he got it from this blog. The other tracks in Moog Madness are interesting, but Just A Gigolo captured me in how it was whimsical like a lot of Moogsploitation, but had a precision and care to the arrangement that belied a history of working in the genre, which turns out to be completely true.
The arrangements here are lovely. Everything here is just a Moog and a mystery drummer, but he makes them sound so lush, so real. He dedicates himself to replicating a big band jazz combo like the ones he led for so many years, all on his own, and he nails it, track after track. I Cover the Waterfront is just as impactful as performances predating this one by 30 years. Moonlight Serenade is smooth, elegant, something you can really sink yourself into. Of course, as noted before Just A Gigolo is just so much fun while still demonstrating cleaer-headed musicianships. And at the very end of an album of knocking jazz standards out of the park, you get Synamoog, Larry's own original composition entirely based around the Moog, and it's clear that he understood its potential to not just emulate the big band but become something entirely its own. It's a fun time from start to finish, a love letter to both the jazz traditions of a decades-long career and the possibilities of the Moog synthesizer, and it's a record I cherish very much. I hope today you can enjoy it too.
Larry Taylor, pictured in front of a Moog on the back cover of the record
[Editor's note: super straightforward ones for once, with some...interesting references. The Solo Cup empire spared some expense here, especially with the monochrome art throughout. The reference to "Playable on Stereo and Most Mono Phonographs" for a record referring to the "sounds of the '70's" is absolutely baffling, however, and makes me wonder precisely when this was published.]
There is no other musical instrument quite like a Moog Synthesizer. It's a kind of space-age musical computer capable of producing an almost infinite variety of sounds.
Larry Taylor has combined his considerable musical talent with his considerable technical know-how to come up with a most unusual Moog album. By hand-picking a group of the best-remembered songs of the golden big band era, Larry has produced a startling re-creation of the music of those bright days when girls wore corsages and evening gowns. [sic] And he has added just enough sounds of the '70's to bridge the generation gap.
The amazing thing is that Larry has put it all together using just drums and the incredibly versatile Moog Synthesizer.
And the sounds you hear in this fantastic album were all conceived, arranged, performed and engineered by Larry Taylor along with the help of one percussionist.
You're in for an electronic listening experience like nothing else on record. In fact you would swear that the great bands of those wonderful times have been magically transported to today.
Just listen. And then listen again.
You won't believe your ears.
Playable on Stereo and Most Mono Phonographs
Track List & Rip
I know this recording has issues. It's got a ton of pre-echo. It isn't always clear. But it's honestly a miracle that I got this at all - the record got atrociously warped right before playing this because it had been put in the wrong place and I accidentally sat on it, bending it, the surface dust looked like this:
SO MUCH DUST
Heck, my turntable had not seen use in months and the tracking and balance were horrendously off, yet it sounds...fine. It sounds totally, completely fine. And I haven't been able to play it without serious skips ever since.
I'm not buying this record again given I'm pretty satisfied with this rip, and I hope you can enjoy it too. If you really want me to try again, send me an email (contact info can be found here ).
Also, I find it neat that this record lists the publishing company for the music, making this a very old artifact indeed.
A1 - In A Sentimental Mood (Ellington-Mills-Kurtz), American Academy of Music.
A2 - Sweet and Lovely (Arnheim-Tobias-Lemare), Robbins Music Corp.
A3 - I Cover the Waterfront (Green-Hayman), Warner Bros. Music [should actually be Heyman]
A4 - Moonlight Serenade (Miller-Parrish), Robbins Music Corp.
A5 - Our Love is Here to Stay (Gershwin), Chappell & Co., Inc.
B1 - In My Solitude (Ellington-DeLange), American Academy of Music
B2 - Easy to Love (Porter), Chappell & Co., Inc.
B3 - Careless (Quadling-Howard-Jurgens), Bourne Co.
B4 - Just A Gigolo (Erammer-Ceasar-Cesucci), DeSylva, Brown & Henderson [should be Brammer and Casucci]
B5 - Synamoog (Taylor), Telco Music Pub. Co.
Get the rip HERE!