Everything old is new again
Just like Peter Quill, listening to his mom’s mixtape in “Guardians Of The Galaxy,” we sometimes have a fondness, not only for our own generation’s music, but for at least certain specific bits and pieces of the music that our parents introduced us to. Growing up in the Carney household, Saturday afternoons meant a stack of vinyl records on the stereo while we cleaned the house or relaxed. These included everything from Elvis to the Chad Mitchell Trio. Decades later, I bought the Mitchell Trio’s “Mighty Day on Campus” on CD; it’s just as good now as it was then.
Dad also had Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, including this album, the cover of which held a special fascination for young men in the 60s.
I was delighted, a few years ago, to run across this story about the whipped cream lady, who was still doing well in 2012 at the age of 76.
All of which brings us to “Herb Alpert Reimagines The Tijuana Brass,” which I received today, the day of release, in the mail from Amazon.
I am sometimes skeptical of artists trying to rework or reinterpret their classics. Nothing is more disappointing than looking for an oldie on Spotify, thinking you’ve found it, and then realizing it’s a re-recorded version, not the original. I suspect that those re-recorded versions often happen when an artist changes labels, maybe wants to put out a retrospective album, and can’t get the rights to include the big hit from the previous record label. Those re-recorded versions, even though by the original artist, are often pale imitations of the original record, with “improvements” that really aren’t.
Even when an artist intentionally re-works his or her catalog — acoustic versions of his greatest metal hits! — it can be sort of disappointing.
But somehow, given Herb Alpert’s background in so many phases of music and the record industry, and after listening to little snippets at the Amazon website, I thought this might actually do justice to the source material.
It’s a really nice collection of old Tijuana Brass hits. The “brass” part of the Tijuana Brass, wisely, sounds much like it did in the 60s, even though these are all-new recordings. But Alpert and his co-producer, Jochem van der Saag, have kicked up the percussion, and added new little bridges, intros or other elements that give the songs a more modern feel. In one case, they have combined one of the Tijuana Brass’s iconic hits, “Spanish Flea,” with Alpert’s late-70s solo hit “Rise” for a medley that doesn’t sound like it would work — but does. “Spanish Flea,” of course, always makes me think of “The Dating Game.”
The album closes with one cut that is quite different from the original. (In this case, I’d never heard the original Tijuana Brass version.) When the Tijuana Brass first recorded “America,” from “West Side Story,” they gave it a celebratory tempo, with party-like voices in the background. But here, the song is recorded as a slow, graceful benediction. An odd choice, perhaps, but it’s beautifully done.
The album is at once nostalgic and fresh — a really nice effort, and obviously a labor of love. Definitely worth the price if you remember the Tijuana Brass, and even if you don’t.