BIRDS OF PARADISE

Browsing the ‘Cover Pairs’ posts for the compilation/deletion project, I came across SEABIRD [COVER POST #37].

Having written on Chick Corea’s Return to Forever—my first ECM album and a record that still brings great enjoyment—it’s time to tell you about a favourite feel-good album, Paradise Volume One by Australian composer/musician John Sangster. Now Mr Sangster figured quite extensively at Vinyl Connection in the Lord of the Rings series, but not with music like this. Call it Lounge, Cocktail Jazz, Bachelor Pad or Commercial Kitsch, Paradise is a record to make you smile.

John Sangster was highly regarded and extraordinarily prolific. He composed lots of music and his sales history guaranteed most of it would find release. But this did not result in a life of luxury, fast women and loose cars. He was still lumping around his own extensive percussion kit late in his career. So when the Queensland Government wanted a soundtrack for a documentary extolling the virtues of glitzy Surfers Paradise, Sangster accepted the commission with alacrity. Paradise Volume 1 was the result.

It’s quite a package. The gatefold sleeve contains a lavish booklet of enticing photos, each linked to a Sangster composition which in turn highlights a slice of touristic heaven on Queensland’s Gold Coast. Listening to the music puts you in a holiday mood. Looking at the pictures makes you want to book a flight. Do both concurrently and you will find yourself lying on the beach at Surfers Paradise quicker than you can say “subliminal message”. Perhaps.

How well do the images and the music match, and indeed evoke the attraction they are promoting? Most importantly, by the end of each piece, how strongly is the listener enticed to visit? Here is Vinyl Connection’s Surfers Paradise Inducement to Tourism scorecard.

“Sunrise in Paradise”

Soothing surf and low bass flute (Don Burrows) wash your toes. The ensemble rolls in, gently, rhythmically, building as the sun creeps above the horizon. With a burst of ecstatic flute trills and a quietly funky percussion swell, it’s dawn! I want to be there, dinner suit stylishly crumpled and bow tie enticingly loose, a paradise girl draped over my arm. 9/10

“Surf’s up at Surfer’s Paradise”

Hey babe, jump in my open-top Corvette and cruise the main drag of Surfers as the neon struts and the women glow. Like a scene-setting theme for an 70s LA detective film, “Surf’s up” sashays along the promenade. Got a light, honey? 9/10

“Gilltrap’s Auto Museum”

Here’s a quaint old jalopy. Eric Buddle’s sax swings the catchy tune; vocalising by Kerrie Biddell. A bit old hat. 6/10

“Boy meets Girl”

Sensual sax from Buddle, a hip-massaging bossa beat. “A place where two people forget the outside world” say the notes.  Not sure the Queensland Tourist Bureau want you to forget the outside world, but still, very attractive. 8/10

“Surfer’s Paradise Meter Maids”

Those living in cooler climes might need an explanation of Meter Maids, even those acquainted with Lovely Rita. On the glittering streets of Surfers Paradise they were young women clad in silver bikinis who kindly assisted visitors with coins for parking meters. Really. The song is pleasant enough—delivered in languid tones by one Micky Layton—but more loose change than high roller. In fact, at the end, the driver motors away. But I’d kind of like to meet her; just to find out about her job, you understand. 5/10

“In the Rain Forest”

An impressionistic piece accompanied by a chorus of bird song. The gently rising melody has a melancholy air that evokes wandering in the luscious rainforest and lamenting the failure of last night’s boy meets girl. This is very filmic, with MOR strings and solos from Cor-anglais and sax. The birdsong is evocative but take your wellies; it’s a bit mushy underfoot. 71/2/10

 

“Gold Coaster”

Man, it’s freakin’ Shaft! With a funky wah-wah and some treated sax from Don Burrows all over a strutting syncopated beat, this baby has attitude. A romantic film theme fills out the middle section before the funk returns for a vibrant climax. I want to hang out where this is the soundtrack. 91/2/10

“Currumbin Bird Sanctuary”

More birds and a soothing theme. Perfect seventies TV music where a slinky femme in a flowing kaftan feeds birds of equally exotic plumage without ever getting pooped on. The second part is like a Spanish dance, which confuses but is certainly colourful. 71/2/10

“Dolphins”

Recordings of the natural environment are a feature of Paradise. This one has the titular mammals chirruping away in the background, grooving to a loping, jazzy lower-register tune. One of the few pieces featuring the composer’s mallet instruments, this piece falls somewhere between Peter Gunn and Babar the Elephant. Kinda cool. 71/2/10

“Water Ballet”

Mix me a cocktail, bartender. This is a jazzy triple time swinger for flute and urbane chit-chat. Background music as you stroll towards the water feature nibbling a canapé. 7/10

“Lion Safari”

Some interesting tuned percussion (a Quica, apparently) and a punchy brass arrangement that references earlier themes. Maybe the lions ate the Meter Maids. 61/2/10

“Gemstones and Wildflowers”

Fascinatingly, this piece opens with traditional aboriginal instruments of didgeridoo and rhythm sticks, in counterpoint with an almost classical small group backing. Sounds odd, but it works. After the intro, a delicate descending theme evokes natural beauty in a civilised don’t-crease-my-safari-suit way. Groovy lounge jazz with nice understated electric piano. 71/2/10

“Paradise at Night”

Light bossa rhythm and a return of the opening theme. Cool sax for a stroll downtown after dinner and a tinselly show. Maybe a final highball on the balcony, watching the condo lights reflected on a placid ocean. Deep sigh. This was a good holiday. Would I return to Paradise? Well, I still have that Meter Maid’s number…

*

POST-PRODUCTION

Although not exactly part of the tourism promotion, the final photo set shows the Trinity recording studio where the music was committed to tape. I love this glimpse behind the scenes. And when, tucked inside the cover of a duplicate copy of the LP bought a couple of years back I found a brochure advertising the studio, I almost wrote off for a booking just to get a photo of myself behind the “sixteen channel quadraphonic mixing console with comprehensive facilities for the recording and mixing of Multi-track and final mix master tapes”. At $45 per hour during between 8am and 6 pm, it’s a bargain—pretty much loose change.

John Sangster – Paradise Volume 1 [Trinity Records 1973]

CD re-issue on Vibraphonic Records, 2009

15 comments

  1. I clicked through to listen to Sangster (as good as you said) but was soon distracted by the Pharaoh Sanders on offer nearby. From one promotion of Paradise to another I guess.
    Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The nearness of those two artists is almost entirely alphabetic, is it not?

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      1. I think Google is aware of my fondness for Pharaoh and the alpha is a coincidence.

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  2. There was a whole series of albums, ages ago, of this kind of music and they were really fun. Not as fun as your series though!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad you enjoyed the concoction, Aaron. I quite like the description ‘Cocktail Jazz’. Much better than ‘kitsch’, despite having some overlap in ingredients!

      Like

      1. Yeah, ‘kitsch’ is a word that never sold anything you’d want…

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  3. A very wonderful sounding ‘curio’, Bruce. I’m with you on wanting to know more about the Meter Maid. An ending where the car drives off sounds a bit too unfulfilled!

    Anyhoo, I like the sounds of this… and a really peaceful front cover, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There’s a 70s surf thriller in this somewhere, I just know it.
      I love that cover too: kind of beautiful and slightly lurid – just like Surfers Paradise!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I loved this one Bruce, its all so sumptuous! Ike Hayes would have had grounds for suing him for Gold Coaster, surely.

    That’s a cover that is just itching for some Lego!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I can see it is a Lego Paradise. Do you have a surfer dude?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. About 3 different varieties, fewer meter maids though.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. And not many tourist board officials.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. They are rare, for sure. Especially ones in safari suits.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. New to me this Sangster, but with the help of Youtube I can say not bad at all.
    Always great those album cover stories you make !!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. Love album cover art!

      Like

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