Thursday, 30 January 2014

Freedom Isn't it?

Three tracks today from an album which, before yesterday, I wasn't even aware of. But what a find!

This comes courtesy of a regular WWR contributor who usually prefers to remain anonymous: you've also got him to thank for 'discovering' Meade Skelton and Amy Beth Parravano. Well, yesterday a package arrived at my office from America containing three albums, one of which was the utterly fantastic Sounds of Freedom - Brigham Young University Singers.

The whitest of white-bread versions of the already pretty white Up With People (the touring choir founded by J. Blanton Belk in 1965 as 'a positive voice for young people'), The Sounds of Freedom were formed in 1966 when 50 of the 23,000 students at the University were chosen from the main choirs on campus to perform a selection of songs around the theme of freedom. The Sounds of Freedom toured the States, appeared on TV (including the Ed Sullivan Show) and, naturally, were persuaded to record an album - all the time touting their message of peace and sounding to all the world like the soundtrack to a future episode of South Park.

It's a wonderful record, a mish-mash of peace-protest standards, Christian hymnals and songs from film soundtracks, including Born Free and How the West was Won. The young men and women of the choir sound at once impossibly out of time and out of place: comparisons to other choirs of the day such as the Mike Curb Congregation or Mitch Miller and the Gang don't really do it justice. It's brilliantly 'straight'.

One of the many offshoots of the Brigham Young University Singers, a choir which still exists today and has, during its long career, recorded around two dozen albums, the BYU Sounds of Freedom continued to perform for at least a decade. Performing both patriotic and contemporary numbers, the BYU Sounds of Freedom projected love of their country and of life to hundreds of thousands of people around the world: summer 1974 found them performing in South Africa for some 54,000 people.

Brigham Young, for those of you who didn't know, was one of the early leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) or the Mormons. Oh, and he was famous for having 55 wives and 56 children. The greedy bugger.

So here are three tracks from the 1967 MGM album Sounds of Freedom - Brigham Young University Singers: the opening track, the ridiculously funky A New Tomorrow and, from Side Two, Mr Washington and Freedom Isn't Free. And a big thank you from me to our anonymous benefactor.



  1. 1/31/14 Wrote:
    This MGM album came out when MGM heads Val Valentin & Jim Vinneau were about to leave the label, replaced by the unctuous Mike Curb, who specialized in music like this and vowed to rid the MGM label of rock acts with drug connections, and Connie Francis (who was dropped in 1970 simply because she hadn't had a hit in the US for six years.) Curb was a far-right Republican goon who later got his foot in the political door with first Richard Nixon, and later Ronald Regan, so an album this square in 1967 was just what he felt the world needed. I don't know if Curb was involved with this project (he was still with Tower Records at the time),but it sure does sound like something he would get involved with. Oh, and Eric Burdon made Curb look like a fool when he announced in 1970 that he hadn't been let go of his MGM contract ,and he casually admitted to doing drugs since the early 60's. MGM responded by humiliating him and his then-band War by refusing to let go of his contract until Burdon walked out in protest, and War went to another label (United Artists) without him. Thanks, Mike Curb for killing MGM Records.

  2. Tremendous stuff. I want this record!

  3. My dad led and directed this group. That is him in the very center on the cover of the album -- Ted Buckland. I grew up with this music. We played the record all the time. All. The. Time. It's funny to me now that I'm an adult and I understand the history and culture of that time.

    Not long after this record was made, my parents got married and went on their honeymoon to San Fransisco. This Mormon couple from BYU went to San Fransisco and saw hippies for the first time. They were in a bit of shock. :)

  4. Oh, boy, found another like it, on the Century Records private press label out of Saugus, California:

    THE GRAND LAND SINGERS "IN WASHINGTON D.C." #38900. Recording dates, says an announcer, July 4, 1970, during the 43rd annual Cherry Blossom Festival. Cover shot women in white blouses, orange polka dot ties, orange (red) skirts; guys in dark blue pants, white shirts, light blue jackets. Three Up With People songs, "The Ride of Paul Revere," "Freedom Isn't Free," and the Maureen Reagan 1968 song, "Which Way America." Back cover shows financed by the Primary Children's Hospital Endowment Program in Salt Lake City. Big thumbs up!!!


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