Two wonderful and essential Keith Mansfield re-releases on CD for you. They span the length of his career with releases from 1969 and 1979. Keith is one of the best composer-arranger-conductors in the business. As well as being among the UK’s leading composer-arrangers, Keith is one of the legendary names within the world of library music and rightly has a place alongside the much revered Alan Hawkshaw and Brian Bennett. Keith composed and recorded masses of music for KPM, Amphonic, Bruton, Conroy and Themes International during his early career. Much of this music features his trademark funky rhythms and stunning, dextrous arrangements. He writes brilliantly for brass, strings and reed instruments with lovely, rich use of progressive chords.

Recorded in 1969 this album is far more direct than the later Night Bird. It's punchier, brassier and on the tracks featuring Maynard Ferguson and Alan Haven...jazz free form rules! Check out The Serpent and Spinning Wheel which are I believe reworkings of some of Keith's KPM library tracks but featuring the superb brass playing from Ferguson. This re-release courtesy of RPM features the original album but also chucks in a number of Love Affair singles; the killer arrangements for Everlasting Love and Rainbow Valley; the previously mentioned Ferguson and Haven collaborations; with a jazz freak out version of Love For Sale a particular highlight and some of Mansfield's arrangments for Salena Jones complimenting her stunning vocals on Am I The Same Girl.

Where it goes slightly astray is in the rather cheesy versions of All You Need Is Love and A Whiter Shade Of Pale which do tend to be the safer of the covers featured here, pleasant though they are. However, they are the only less than successful pieces here on an album of sheer joy. You'll thrill especially to the enlisting of services from the cream of UK session musicians including king of the keyboard Alan Hawkshaw, whose piano and hammond organ work on All You Need... is particularly stunning. Listening to this will make you check out the work Keith did with Haven and Ferguson too which is altogether no bad thing.

Released May 26, 2008 - RPM CD - RETRO835

Night Bird was recorded in 1979 – the height of the disco era – for Amphonic Music, and here receives its first ever commercial release (library music is normally available only to professionals in the broadcast industries). Recorded at the famous, and now sadly defunct, Lansdowne Studios in London ’s Holland Park , Night Bird demonstrates why Keith is so highly regarded. It is a beautiful album of Mansfield's own compositions, very sensitively and sophisticatedly arranged. It echoes some of the jazz-funk fusion disco that was being produced in America at the time and features his trademark work for brass, with plenty of sax solos, flaring horns and great use of woodwind. And then there's the fantastic keyboard work of Alan Hawkshaw vibrantly permeating the proceedings. Exquisite stuff.

Night Bird, the opening track, would not be out of place at Studio 54 with its combo of descending string sections and pumping brass lines but the jazz piano gives you a true indication of where this album's heart lies. Gladiator sounds like Fanfare For The Common Man set to a very funky, disco beat and is the stand out track here that combines jazzy noodlings, big bold brass arrangements and a killer rhythm section. Asleep In Your Shadow is smoky, atmospheric jazz funk that really has little to do with disco per se. Stumbleweed has a snaking jazz piano, strident brass stabs and a lovely flute melody with a swirling string backing arrangements. Thunderfoot resembles a more sophisticated version of the Starsky and Hutch theme but punctuated by some great honky tonk piano and synth melodies. Superb brass features again, pulsating bass and a chugging percussion section.

It is fascinating to compare the albums and Night Bird comes across as a much more sophisticated and subtle work compared to the bolder, gutsier All You Need...

Released May 19, 2008 - Vocalion CD - CDSML8438

Technorati Tags:

  1. Anonymous says:

    Question: are there download links to the Keith Mansfield albums? ~

  2. There probably are if you do a Google for them. I'm not going to post links as these are commercial releases and I'll only post download links for stuff that's rare, deleted or not on CD etc.

    I'm pretty sure you'll find torrents of the Mansfield stuff and you won't have to look hard. Or why not try Spotify and legally listen to the releases?

    Personally, and this is just my thoughts on the matter, you should support the commercial releases and Dutton Vocalion. They are labours of love and they deserve commercial success with these.

    I'll have more library music reviews very soon.

Viewing Figures

The Legal Bit

All written material is copyright © 2007-2023 Cathode Ray Tube and Frank Collins. Cathode Ray Tube is a not for profit publication primarily for review, research and comment. In the use of images and materials no infringement of the copyright held by their respective owners is intended. If you wish to quote material from this site please seek the author's permission.

Creative Commons License
Cathode Ray Tube by Frank Collins is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.