Tag Archives: Tijuana Brass

[20] Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass – Whipped Cream & Other Delights

23 Aug

How can you not smile on hearing those opening three notes walking up the scale, pausing, repeating, before the ultra recognizable swing of “A Touch Of Honey” begins in earnest?

Whipped Cream & Other Delights

Whipped Cream & Other Delights

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jazz and Samba and Mariachi all blended into a sound so of its time, yet still relevant today. It may evoke gameshows and elevators, but somehow this is far from disposable – there is musicianship and craft on display here, nuance amd joy.

There is a reason that these musical morsels caught the imagination of a nation in the mid-60s, and it goes beyond the food themed silliness, the model covered in whipped cream on the iconic cover – although these things all helped. The songs are still lively and energic sounding today, the product of a bunch of studio musicians enjoying themselve with no pressure, no real expectations.

Each tune is short – there are only two that even break 3 minutes – so they never outstay their welcome. They impart a mood, a theme and leave you if not exactly wanting more, at least not overfed.

There is a sense of motion throughout the album – the musicians are never still, and neither it seems is the listener.

It is impossible not to tap along, to groove to the faux south-of-the-border compositions. It is not high art, but once again I am incredibly grateful to The List for inspiring me to spend a few days in the company of these swinging horns, this odd slice of 60s Americana.

Full of bright, breezy brass, fun tempo changes and unexpected modulation, the songs here are at the same time technically impressive and endlessly engaging.

I’m still looking forward to the heavier classical recordings that are to come, but being able to fall back on this kind of frothy pop is exhilerating. I’m actually having more fun with this than with recent albums that should have been more in my wheelhouse like Dirt or At Fillmore East.

Expanding my range is what this has been about, and once more I doubt I would ever have sat down to this album were it not for Tom Moon – mine apparently being the only parents of their generation who did not have this record in their collection for me to discover as a pre-teen.

And every time I pause from my work to take a closer listen, that smile creeps back onto my face. I mean, how often do you get to hear a glockenspiel take the lead?

Owned before blogging? No. (1 of 20. 5%)
Heard before blogging? No. (3 of 20. 15%)
Recommend? Yes. (16 of 20. 80%)

Next Week: Los Amigos Invisibles – Arepa 3000: A Venezuelan Journey Into Space

Guest Blogger Joe Gola: Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass – Whipped Cream & Other Delights

20 Aug

More Guest Blogging goodness, this time from one of the best writers and worst people I know, Joe Gola. (I kid because I love . . .)

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Back when I was a teenager, I was always hunting through other people’s record collections to see what interesting stuff I could find, and one of the more puzzling trends I noticed was that, if the owner of the collection was of a certain age, there would almost always be at least one Herb Alpert album stuck in there somewhere. What was particularly odd about the phenomenon was that demographics didn’t seem to have any bearing on it; the owner could be a New York sophisticate, a small-town regular joe, an ex-hipster, a mainstream devotee, whatever. There was no corner of American society you could flee to where you would not eventually be tracked down and tackled by Herb Alpert and his terrifyingly ubiquitous TIJUANA BRASS.

I never listened to any of these albums back then myself, of course. What could be more corny? A young man of discriminating taste did not entertain himself with recordings of a glorified mariachi band playing Mexican elevator music. Eventually, however, Whipped Cream & Other Delights somehow found its way into my hands, and it seemed perversely comical to just throw it in with the rest of my stuff, particularly because the cover was so, um, memorable.

When I finally got around to ironically listening to my ironically owned Herb Alpert album, the mystery of Tijuanamania became suddenly clear: you cannot listen to Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass and not feel happy. At its peaks, the experience is like being inside a zany 1960s comedy in which Peter O’Toole, Woody Allen and Peter Sellers are chasing each other in go-carts while a person in a gorilla suit is doing the frug in a room filled with bubbles. Even the sad songs aren’t really sad; they’re the type of stuff you would hear late at night at some old-fashioned nightclub with the waiters and tables just before you took your date out to your big curvy car and kissed her passionately under the lamplights until her knees got weak and you could throw her over your shoulder and carry her home like a sack of mail.

Beyond the general aura of jollity, the music also happens to be pretty darn good. The horn sections are tight down Mexico way, the rhythms are catchy, and the arrangements are inventive. The quality of the musicianship is quite high, I would say. What’s interesting, too, is that it’s really not elevator music at all; it’s way too in-your-face for that. You can’t have a serious conversation with Herb in the background, because his trumpet keeps nudging you in the ribs. The album is also interesting to me because it’s not the kind of music that people listen to much any more: punchy, dense instrumentals that are not jazz or ambient but rather involved pop etudes featuring an unlikely combination of masterful precision and an infectious sense of fun. You get the feeling that Herb Alpert was some kind of secret genius who could have built rockets or played the stock market, but instead he decided that it would be more personally fulfilling to make kick-ass Mexico music.

As far as individual songs go, I can only say that the hilarious “El Garbanzo” is my favorite, both because I am in favor of naming songs after legumes and because it sounds like something you could put on a P.A. to play a losing team off a ballfield.

Is Whipped Cream & Other Delights something you absolutely must hear before you die? No, not really; I would hate to think of anyone feeling regretful on their deathbed because they hadn’t heard enough Latin American trumpet music. Let’s not be too dramatic, after all. I will say, though, that it’s pretty darn fun, and that’s something we could probably all use a little more of.

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Joe Gola is the author of the upcoming horror-adventure novel The Satanic Bridegroom. He is also the typist for an advice-giving internet pony named Jingles. His crimes against propriety and right-thinking are enumerated in detail at golarama.com

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