Admiration’s one thing but, personally, there aren’t many musical figures whom i regard as full-on heroes. One of the few notable exceptions, however, is Enoch Light. Yesterday, 31 July, marked the 40th anniversary of Light’s death, and so as a small tribute to the great man my latest mixtape is a celebration of his work.
If his name’s not familiar to you, that’s not necessarily surprising. His earliest recorded work dates from the later 1950s, continuing until roughly the mid-1970s, and unless your musical interests encompass the very particular conjunction of big band, lounge, jazz and easy listening that flourished during this period, he’s unlikely to show up on your radar. My penchant for this music, which began when i was a child – listening to the LPs in my parents’ record collection – has steadily grown into a full-blooded passion, though for obvious reasons it’s not one that i get a chance to discuss on 5:4 very often (the one exception to date being my 26th mixtape devoted to Easy Listening, though as i was focusing particularly on the more laid back late ’60s/early ’70s sound in that mix i didn’t include any of Light’s music).
Enoch Light deserves to be remembered and celebrated not only for his music, but also for the pivotal role he played in greatly developing and improving recording standards and techniques. Having founded his own label, Command Records, in 1959, he pushed hard for the acceptance of stereo (and, in due course, quadrophonic recording), flamboyantly showing it off by using extreme separation and panning, often utilising a left/right hocketing effect that came to be known as ‘ping pong’ recording. One of his most radical decisions was to reject magnetic tape in favour of the increased clarity, stability, stereo positioning and resolution that could be obtained from recording onto 35mm film. The wonderful artwork that adorned Light’s albums combined stark minimalistic, geometric designs – some created by none other than artist Josef Albers – with bold exclamations about the quality and innovation of the recording. These beautiful sleeves occupy a unique place in the history of album artwork.
But, of course, most of all it’s the music that gets me excited. In his multiplicity of roles as conductor, arranger, producer, engineer and, in his own word, ‘originator’, Light created a legacy of music that brought together the brash exuberance of big band and jazz, the cool swagger of lounge, and the light, romantic elegance of easy listening, even managing to incorporate Moog synthesisers into his later work. By turns exhilarating and sublime, for me Enoch Light is one of the most significant and marvellous musical talents of the twentieth century.
For this mixtape i’ve selected some of my favourites from throughout his career, from the very first Command Records release, Persuasive Percussion (1959) to one of Light’s last discs, a quadrophonic album released on his equally forward-looking Project 3 label, Future Sound Shock (1973), the sleeve of which proudly proclaims: “After years of research, the producers, arrangers and artists at Project 3 have produced the recording of the future which will serve as a leader in the world of recorded sound for many years to come.”
In all, a little over 90 minutes of music by way of tribute to the wonder that was Enoch Light, 1905–1978. Here’s the tracklisting in full:
• Enoch Light and the Light Brigade – Swamp Fire (from Dimension 3)
• Terry Snyder and the All Stars – Out Of Nowhere (from Persuasive Percussion Volume 2)
• The Grand Award All Stars – I´ve Got You Under My Skin (from Percussion and Brass)
• Enoch Light and the Light Brigade – Michelle (from Permissive Polyphonics)
• Enoch Light – Aquarius (from 4 Channel Stereo)
• Enoch Light and the Light Brigade – Night and Day (from A New Concept of Great Cole Porter Songs)
• Terry Snyder and the All Stars – Love Is A Many-Splendored Thing (from Persuasive Percussion)
• The Command All-Stars – Perdido (from Persuasive Percussion Volume 3)
• Enoch Light and the Light Brigade – Matilda (from Provocative Percussion Volume 2)
• The Enoch Light Singers – Whoever You Are, I Love You (from Dream a Little Dream of Me)
• Enoch Light and the Light Brigade – Adios (from Dimension 3)
• Enoch Light and the Light Brigade – Mas Que Nada (from Permissive Polyphonics)
• Enoch Light and His Orchestra – I Still Get A Thrill (from Stereo 35/MM Volume 2)
• Enoch Light and the Light Brigade – Hernado’s Hideaway (from Provocative Percussion Volume 2)
• Enoch Light and the Light Brigade – I Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good (from Provocative Percussion 4)
• Enoch Light and the Light Brigade – The Girl from Ipanema (from Discotheque, Vol.2)
• Terry Snyder and the All Stars – I’m In The Mood For Love (from Persuasive Percussion)
• Enoch Light and the Light Brigade – Prelude for Young Lovers (from Permissive Polyphonics)
• Enoch Light and the Light Brigade – Petite Paulette (from Spaced Out)
• Enoch Light and His Orchestra – I’ve Got A Crush On You (from Stereo 35/MM)
• Enoch Light and the Light Brigade – One Note Samba (from Future Sound Shock)
• Enoch Light and the Light Brigade – Take the ‘A’ Train (from The Big Band Hits Of The Thirties )
• Enoch Light and the Light Brigade – I Get a Kick Out of You (from Vibrations)
• Terry Snyder and the All Stars – Misirlou (from Persuasive Percussion)
• The Command All-Stars – Bingo Bango Bongo Baby (from Persuasive Percussion Volume 3)
• Terry Snyder and the All Stars – Orchids In The Moonlight (from Persuasive Percussion)
• Enoch Light and His Orchestra – Cherry Pink And Apple Blossom White (from My Musical Coloring Book)
• Enoch Light and the Light Brigade – Cute (from Future Sound Shock)
• Enoch Light and the Light Brigade – What the World Needs Now Is Love (from Spaced Out)
• Enoch Light and his Orchestra – September Song (from Stereo 35/MM Volume 2)
• Enoch Light & His Orchestra – Mood Indigo (from My Musical Coloring Book)
• Enoch Light and The Glittering Guitars – Polka Dots and Moonbeams (from Patterns In Sound Volume 9)
• The Command All-Stars – Fascinating Rhythm (from Provocative Percussion)
Simon, I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed this mixtape. I’ve always been somewhat ambivalent about “easy listening” (perhaps it’s the term itself that puts me off – I’ve always gravitated towards more so-called “challenging” music, which is why I love your blog). But listening to this left a huge smile on my face, and might just have converted me to the charms of this music – as you rightly said, it really is both exhilarating and sublime, with a great dash of humour thrown in. So thank you once again for the great service you provide in introducing your readers to this unjustly neglected music, and I’ll certainly be revisiting your earlier easy listening mixtape because of this.
Hi Dan, i’m so glad you enjoyed it! Yes, do check out Mixtape #26, though you’ll find (as i mentioned) that it focuses on the more laid back end of the easy listening spectrum – less about exhilaration than dreamy romanticism! (Oh, and it also includes some contemporary examples of easy listening alongside the vintage originals.)
Never heard of this guy until a colleague gave me a bag of singles from his dead mother in laws attic. Inside was an American jukebox EP copy of Vibrations. Fantastic. Really enjoying this mixtape too. I can`t believe I have never come across this mans music before, what fun and what an innovator. I just need to track down some more of his vinyl. Thanks for making this download available. Hugely enjoyable mix.
Thanks Jim, really glad you enjoyed the mix – the world needs to know about the wonder that was Enoch Light!
This is a treasure. I have a private blog and have posted nearly 30 Enoch Light albums. I’m a fan (fanatic) and have been for years. Thank you so very much. This mixtape is an outstanding labor of love. 😀
Actually his earlist records were done in the late 1920’s for Brusnwick when he led a hotel band. He worked in radio during the 40s, but his biggest contribution came during this later “Grand Award” / LP era….