The Creed Taylor Orchestra • Panic: The Son Of Shock • 1960 • ABC-Paramount ABCS-314
Recorded 1959 or 1960 in New York City
The Creed Taylor Orchestra
Keene Crockett - Sound Effects
Kenyon Hopkins - Arranger & Conductor
A1. You're Driving Me Crazy (What Did I Do?)
A2. The Prison Break
A3. The Operation
A4. Wreck Of Old 97
A5. Out Of This World
A6. Lion Act
B3. Alpine Honeymoon
B4. A Shot In The Dark
B5. The Fastest Gun
B6. No Smoking
Before we get to the music on this very strange record, I'll start with the reason it caught my eye and I ended up buying it: the legendary jazz producer Creed Taylor. Many readers will be familiar with the man and his influence on modern jazz, but for those of you who aren't here is a brief history of the man's jazz resume. In 1960 he convinced his employers at ABC-Paramount Records to start the jazz imprint Impulse! Records, to which he was named the in-house producer and A&R manager. His vision was to have it represent "The New Wave In Jazz." Taylor's greatest career accomplishment, and what he may eventually be most remembered for, may have been his vision to sign John Coltrane to the new label, a move that resulted in some of not only Trane's greatest work, but some of the finest jazz to be laid down on wax in the 1960's. This was, after all, the label that came to be known as "the house that Trane built." The classic titles released on Impulse! by a whole slew of legendary artists is far too numerous to list here today.
In 1961 Taylor left Impulse! to take over Verve Records, where he would go on to head up the bossa nova craze of the mid-1960's (you know, that whole Getz/Gilberto thing). His most controversial move was the founding of CTI Records in 1968, where he produced music that to this day can spark some rabid debate among the jazz faithful. There is little argument against the fact that many of these sessions were over-produced commercial enterprises, but I'm a big fan of many of the early 1970's CTI albums (after the label became independent of A&M Records), especially the electric jazz-funk outings by Freddie Hubbard, Joe Farrell and Stanley Turrentine. As an outlet for the emerging electric jazz scene, no other label did it better than CTI.
Now on to the record. Panic: The Son Of Shock definitely has jazzy elements to it, but it certainly falls more into the novelty and exotica/space-age genre of records released in the late 1950's and 1960's. That is fine by me, I collect the LPs of Les Baxter, Martin Denny and Esquivel, although this record doesn't come close to reaching the heights of the best work by those artists.
The album was the "follow-up" to the earlier Creed Taylor Orchestra album Shock Music. Taylor talks about the making of these recordings in Part 5 of the amazing interview he did with Marc Myers on his great JazzWax site (which you should definitely visit here),
"It was a group of studio musicians that I put together originally for a special project. The purpose was to create a series of albums that used music and sound effects to tell a story. There were no lyrics or narration. They were sort of like soundtracks to stories. You had to use your imagination to think about what was going on."
He goes on to say that while Kenyon Hopkins was the conductor and arranger of the sessions, they couldn't release the album under his name because he was still under contract to Capitol Records. He also says that these records were designed for kids and were marketed to them just before Halloween (leave it to Taylor to find the perfect commercial angle for a release). As for the making of the album, he says,
...there was no such thing as overdubbing. We had the best sound-effects guy in the business, Keene Crockett. He’d come in and put bed sheets and chains on a table and start creating audio pictures. We’d talk through the fundamental story line in advance. Then Ken Hopkins and Keene would write out the arrangements very carefully. Ken would conduct Keene to come in at certain points.
You can certainly imagine how complicated making an album like this was before the days of multi-track recording. I think of those old-time live radio shows when listening to it, the way the voice actors and sound-effects guys would step up to the microphone on cue to do their parts.
Overall, this isn't much more than a vintage vinyl time-capsule type item, but it will fit into that section of my record collection perfectly (the can't-quite-categorize, but can't quite not buy LPs). At one time, this was a pretty hard-to-find and sought after collectible item that could fetch a triple digit asking price, but with the internet and eBay those days are long gone. Oh well, cue the sad music and long-faces of those of us who collected vinyl back in the day when - the horror!! - you actually had to go to a store to find vintage LPs.
This is an original stereo pressing and, oh man, are they proud that it was released in stereo, it is printed on the label as big as the name of the record label. The only markings in the run-off are "ABCS 314 A" and "ABCS 314 B" stamped on the respective sides. The vinyl itself is pretty heavy, with a nice full sound that shows off the various instrumentations and sound-effects quite nicely.
The cover is glossy with a somewhat "scary" image to stress that the contents of the record might be "dangerous," a sly marketing move to get kids to want to check it out. The liner notes are appropriately schmaltzy, with little blurbs about each song that, frankly, don't much make sense. I suppose this goes along with Taylor's idea that the listener had to use their imagination to decide what is going on. As an adult modern day listener, I'm more concerned with the jazz stylings of the recordings, of which there are just enough to get me to throw this album on the turntable every now and again. For the $8 price tag, I have no regrets in picking this one up without a chance to listen to it before I got it home. What is a life lived without taking a few chances every now and again, especially when it comes to the world of collecting vinyl. Sometimes you just gotta pull the trigger, and on this one I'm glad I did.