Friday, 24 July 2015

Frivolous Tonight

Today’s brace of badness comes from one of those records that is always turning up in lists of terrible LP sleeves but very few people have actually bothered to listen to, Sour Cream and Other Delights by The Frivolous Five. I briefly visited their career way back in 2007, but I knew next to nothing about them then. It’s about time to flesh out their story somewhat.

The cover, a spoof of Herb Alpert’s Whipped Cream and Other Delights hides a terrible secret: hidden inside are 12 tracks or dreadful, discordant mariachi band music – many of them covers of Alpert’s own hits. Alpert's sleeve was also spoofed by comedian Pat Cooper for his album Spaghetti Sauce and Other Delights in 1967.

Issued in 1966 – the same year that Mrs Miller came to the world’s attention – there can be no doubt that Sour Cream and Other Delights was put out to capitalise on America’s sudden interest in all things off-key. Was it meant to be a comedy record? Of course it was. However, were the members of the Frivolous Five in on the joke or were they – just like Mrs Miller – taken for a ride by the A&R people at RCA? It seems that, unlike the hapless Elva Miller, these ladies knew exactly what they were doing.

Mary Sawyer and Jane Sager – the two women who formed the Frivolous Five – were serious musicians and had been friends since the 1940s, the pair playing together in all-girl orchestras for a number of years and even entertaining the troops at USO shows. Jane Sager had been a soloist with the St Louis Symphony Orchestra and, amazingly, had taught trumpet to both Chet Baker and Herb Alpert. Other members of the Five included Naomi "Pee Wee" Preble (trombone), drummer Jean Lutey and keyboard player Rose Parenti. Sager and Preble had previously played together in Ina Ray Hutton’s band: Rose Parenti went on to become an actress, and is probably best remembered for playing Sister Alma in both Sister Act movies. Preble also moved into acting, and appeared in several US TV series in the 70s and 80s.

The Frivolous Five must have been having a high old time, and they were soon playing to enthusiastic audiences across the States and made several TV appearances before disbanding sometime around 1968. Sour Cream and Other Delights, their only album, was engineered by Bob Simpson - who also worked with jazz greats Louis Armstrong and Sonny Stitt as well as pop acts including Perry Como and Harry Belafonte - and was arranged by Bob Halley, who would soon go to work with Bobby Darin. Producer Paul Robinson would later work with composer Hugo Montenegro and produce a series of zodiac-related easy listening albums under the 'Astromusical House' banner.

Anyway, have a listen to a couple of tracks from this wonderfully bonkers record. First up is Tijuana Taxi, and what starts as a pretty faithful re-reading of the Herb Alpert hit all starts to go wrong about 35 seconds in, when the first blatantly flat notes assault your ears. From then on in it’s an audio abortion, with bum notes flying in all directions from the horn players and their piano and vibraphone accompaniment. The ‘band’ follow Alpert’s arrangement of the classic A Taste of Honey to the letter: unfortunately it still sounds diabolical.


1 comment:

  1. What makes "A Taste of Honey" even more bizarre are the random piano chards at the end!


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