July 21 2011: Graham Dalley at the Barn (Hollick & Taylor’s Studio, Birmingham, 1966)
Today’s entry is Graham Dalley At The Barn, a 1966 LP recorded at Hollick and Taylor’s Studio in Birmingham to showcase the not inconsiderable skills of Graham Dalley and his ensemble, as they were to be heard in their role as the regular house band at an upmarket mid-sixties Solihull dinner-dance venue. Featuring Graham Dalley himself as bandleader (and contributor of piano, vibraphone, trumpet and electric harp), with Don Georgeson on flute, clarinet & sax, Ray Pritchard on organ, Phil Nelson on guitar, Vic Mortiboys on bass and Bill Thorpe on percussion, the line-up is completed by two vocalists, Renee Barce and Alan Hemus, who appear on three tracks each.
As Dalley himself says in the sleevenote, “Rhythm is the most important thing. If it hasn’t a beat, it has nothing at all…”, a philosophy put to good use on the two Dalley original compositions that feature on the LP.
It’s probably not a record that will change lives, but it’s executed beautifully, with a mix of instrumental cover versions of songs like Zambesi sitting alongside original tunes such as Dalley’s own Surf Ride and Medium Rare, which have a sound oddly comparable to Vyacheslav Mescherin’s Moscow Orchestra of Electromusical Instruments. There are vocal turns from the Filipina singer Renee Barce on the exotica-tinged Bamboo Tree, Sayonara and Dahil Sayo and Alan Hemus on Yesterday, Too Marvellous For Words and Folks That Live On The Hill. It’s a great example of the kind of quality professional music being made at the time, under the watchful eye of the Musicians’ Union.
By far the best taster for the general mood to be heard here is the atmospheric opening track, Pacifico, complete with audience ambience and BBC-voiced announcer. When Dalley’s uptempo exotica instrumental eventually kicks in, it’s a strangely otherworldly sound, as vibes, flute and organ combine to create something harder to describe than just kick back and enjoy: cocktail jazz with a light space-age bachelor pad feel. When I first found this LP a few months back, I described it to someone as “more a social document than an essential listen, but a social document that finds its way back to the turntable more often than you might expect.” That’s proved to be more or less the case.
Incidentally, at least one other Dalley LP exists, Sounds International, issued on the Saga label in 1969 and credited to The Graham Dalley Dozen. It has so far evaded me, but it sounds intriguing.