I confess. I'm obsessed. Six months ago if anyone had mentioned KPM or Bruton to me I'd have wondered what on earth they were talking about. It's all because of 'The Sweeney' y'know. Having recently watched all fifty odd episodes on DVD, one of the things that I really enjoyed was the incidental music. Coincidental music, perhaps, because a friend of mine had watched the same series and then played me some very familiar cues he'd found and downloaded. And thus, I was introduced to library music.
KPM was, and still is, a provider of library music to the media industry. Back in the 70s, many television and film drama directors and producers regularly used their libraries to put temp tracks and permanent scores on the finished product. And many of the tracks were provided by some of the best composers and arrangers in the business at the time. Names like Brian Bennett, Johnny Pearson, Alan Hawkshaw and Nick Ingman are very familiar to library music lovers and they all regularly worked for libraries like KPM, Bruton, Chappell.
Many of the KPM albums are still commanding astonishing prices in the specialist second hand market but if you are up for a bit of research then you can often find some gems on various blogs related to library and other obscure music such as Italian film soundtracks and the albums of Max Bygraves. I kid you not.
Thanks then to independent label, Tummytouch, who have just re-released some of the jewels from the KPM vaults onto CD and vinyl, all spruced up and sounding magnificent.
'Afro Rock' as a title would look to the casual browser in their local music emporium as some sort of politically incorrect throwback to the early 70s - all afro hairdos and 'jungle' drums. Do not let that impression get the merest chance of forming in your mind.
The album is 15 tracks by composers Alan Parker and John Cameron. KPM describes the album as 'hard afro-pop featuring large percussive rhythm section and front line' but that doesn't prepare you for an album of hard funk and jazz, propelled by lots and lots of drums and tom-toms, wah-wah guitars, tremor-like hard bass-lines, some serious strumming on harps and dextrous keyboard work. I never knew harps could be so hot. Bung all that in with copious amounts of woodwind and you've got music that would more than suit that retro 70s night you were thinking of planning. Much of it will conjure up cars going full throttle through walls of cardboard boxes or Gene Hunt laying some heavy action on a recently captured nonce. Picture some heaving metropolis and the feverish activity of its population.
It's not all driving bass and pounding funkiness. There are two really cracking compositions by John Cameron - 'Heat Haze' where the aforementioned harps take centre stage in a track that summons up cityscapes at sundown sinking into waves of heat rising from the pavement; and - 'Sahara Sunrise' which is obviously suggesting sand dunes and nomadic tribes but with its prevailing use of woodwind reminds me of the sterling work Cameron did for Ken Loach's film 'Kes'. Very, very evocative.
And if you like this then Tummytouch have also served up two other volumes, aptly named 'The Big Beat'.
And 'The Big Beat' reviews are right here - The Big Beat Volumes 1 & 2 Go on, you know you want to....
KPM Music Recorded Library - Afro Rock (Tuch1130CD)
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