Lena Horne & Gabor Szabo – Now That’s What a Real Drum Kit Sounds Like!

Another Record We’ve Discovered with (Potentially) Excellent Sound…

and One We Will Probably Never Shootout Again

Some records are just too consistently noisy for us to offer to our audiophile customers no matter how good they sound.

We have a section for records that tend to be noisy, and it can be found here.

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This is the most realistic drum kit I have heard on a non-jazz album in my life. The drum sound on the first track is exactly the sound we all know from hanging around small clubs and our friends’ garage bands. There is simply no audible processing on any part of the kit. The drums are centered behind the vocals and lead instruments, with what sounds like to me the barest of miking, surrounded by just the right amount of unbaffled studio space.

When the drums come in on the first track on side one you will hear immediately what I mean. The third track on side two has especially good drums as well. The vocals on that third track, Message to Michael, are some of the most natural on the album as well. Lena can strain a bit on some songs in the loudest passages, but on others she can belt it out and stay clean all the way to the top. Listen track by track to hear how well she holds up when the bigger choruses come in.

As music lovers and audiophiles this was a truly marvelous discovery for us years ago. True, we’ve known about the album for a long time, but as a practical matter it’s been impossible to find enough clean copies to do a shootout — until now of course.

Dave Sanders, a name I — and no doubt most audiophiles — was not familiar with, brilliantly engineered the album as well as other favorites of ours, including Szabo’s 1969, Gilberto’s Windy and McFarland’s Does The Sun Really Shine On The Moon? It’s hard to find a recording he did that isn’t full of Tubey Magic, huge studio space and right-on-the-money instrumental timbres.

Top Players

Richard Tee plays the Hammond organ on this record and he almost single handedly can take the credit for making these songs swing. He’s constantly weaving behind, underneath and around the vocals and the guitars, supporting the arrangements in an especially original way. Add in bassist Chuck Rainey and drummer Grady Tate and you have one of the funkiest, most subtle and sympathetic batch of session players imaginable.

As music lovers and audiophiles this was a truly marvelous discovery for us years ago. True, we had known about the album for a long time, but as a practical matter it had been all but impossible to find enough clean copies to do a shootout — until now of course. We had a big pile to work with, a pile that took about five years to acquire, and one that includes both Buddah and Skye pressings.

Dave Sanders, a name I was not familiar with, brilliantly engineered the album as well as other favorites of ours, including Szabo’s 1969, Gilberto’s Windy and McFarland’s Does The Sun Really Shine On The Moon? It’s hard to find a recording he did that isn’t full of Tubey Magic, huge studio space and right-on-the-money instrumental timbres.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Rocky Raccoon
Something
Everybody’s Talkin’
In My Life
Yesterday When I Was Young

Side Two

Watch What Happens
My Mood Is You
Message to Michael
Nightwind
The Fool on the Hill

AMG  Review

Recorded in 1968, this pairing of Hungarian guitar genius Gabor Szabo and vocalist Lena Horne is a study in contrasts.

For starters, the band is stellar. Szabo enlisted the help of bassist Chuck Rainey, drummer Grady Tate, and organist Richard Tee.

Originally released on the short-lived Skye label owned by Szabo, Cal Tjader, and Gary McFarland (who produced this 1970 set), the album opens with a beautiful duet between Horne and Szabo in “My Mood Is You,” and is followed by the slippery, romantic instrumental “Galatea’s Guitar.”

But it isn’t until track three, with the Michel Legrand masterpiece “Watch What Happens,” that the album truly kicks into gear. The contrast of Horne’s full-throated voice and Szabo’s unconventional, modal guitar playing is mesmerizing, and Tee’s swinging B-3 just struts and pops through the melody.

With its shimmering melody lines, George Harrison’s “Something” was a tune built for Szabo, and Horne — in typical fashion — understates the lyric and carries through with her trademark languid phrasing.

Other standouts here include Fred Neil’s “Everybody’s Talking” and Lennon and McCartney’s trio of tunes “Rocky Raccoon” (one of the most original versions ever recorded), “In My Life,” and a dreamy yet dramatic “Fool on the Hill.”

An instrumental read of Donovan’s “Ferris Wheel” showcases the delicate yet intuitive interplay of the quartet, with McFarland’s whispering string and horn arrangements.

This is a fine date and will be desired by fans of both artists.

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