Those of you with long memories and a fondness for buying themed compilation albums in the mid-nineties may recall the superlative This Is… series, a heavily-promoted and unusually well thought-out range that incorporated four soundtrack-raiding volumes of This Is… Cult Fiction, the self-explanatory This Is… Eurovision, and the rather more esoteric surfing of the short-lived craze for ‘loungecore’ that was This Is… Easy.
Considering how much lazily thrown together crooner-heavy trash was unleashed on the unsuspecting public in the name of ‘easy listening’, this was a pretty much perfect effort that pulled in just about everything you’d want to see on a double album of the definitive overview of the genre, from film soundtrack stuff to library music to, erm, the theme from This Is Your Right.
But if you were to pick up the recent-ish reissue in tandem with the volume-condensing This Is… The Best Of Cult Fiction, well… it’s not strictly the same album, as roughly half of the tracks have been replaced. And not just like how Sandie Shaw’s (There’s) Always Something There To Remind Me is now in its superior original version rather than the horrid re-recording – a sizeable amount of the original tracklisting has been replaced with something entirely new. Thankfully this is not a bad thing, and both versions complement each other fairly un-annoyingly with a handful of very rare you-won’t-get-them-on-CD-anywhere-else offerings on each. But just what are those inter-release differences? In a future post we’ll be looking at what hot dancefloor scorchers found their way onto the version of This Is… Easy that you can currently walk out of your local HMV with, but first, here’s a look at what you’ll only find on an increasingly scarce copy of the original on eBay…
Tony Hatch – The Champions
Theme from the Matt Parkman-purloined ITC serial of the same name and, like so many others on this list, shaved off due to also appearing on This Is… The Best Of Cult Fiction.
Johnny Pearson – Heavy Action
Better known to most as the theme from constantly hopelessly revived Kevin Keegan on a vaulting horse ‘sports’ silliness Superstars, and another given over to This Is… The Best Of Cult Fiction, despite being one of the biggest draws of the original.
The Mexicans – Spanish Flea
Drawn from Decca’s highly collectable The World Of Tijuana, this rendition of the Homer-eating-a-hot-dog-tastic Herb Alpert number was jettisoned whilst its companion version of A Taste Of Honey made the revised cut.
Laurie Johnson – Las Vegas
The original orchestral version of the theme from Animal Magic, in the days before it all became about Terry Nutkin being shrunk by a Space Invaders machine and attacked by a heron whilst singing an awful song about a sealion, and again shunted over to This Is… The Best Of Cult Fiction, though no great loss as it was a pretty awful edit anyway.
Henry Mancini – The Pink Panther Theme
Yet another refugee in the direction of This Is… The Best Of Cult Fiction; does anyone know if the proper on-screen arrangement, with that mental ‘angry’ flute voluntary in the middle, was ever released anywhere?
Laurie Johnson – The New Avengers
No prizes for guessing where this one ended up. Sorry, this isn’t quite as interesting as it looked like it would be. Oh hang on a minute…
Andy Williams – Music To Watch Girls By
Well, this is quite a puzzling omission; the veteran pal of bears asking for ‘cookies’ and his Blur-inspiring ode to mating rituals is pretty much the dictionary definition of ‘loungecore’. But there is a reason for this, which will become clear in the second article…
The Percy Faith Orchestra – 1-2-3
A glitzy instrumental take on Len Barry’s ace elephant-accompanied Northern Soul stomper; not essential listening, but pleasant listening nonetheless and a bit of a shame to see it elbowed.
Martin Denny – Misirlou
The King of Exotica turns that annoying overexposed surf instrumental out of The Pulp Fictions into some sort of scary tropical jungle soundscape complete with 808 State-style birdsong, doubtless bumped because, well, Quentin Tarantino isn’t as frustratingly unbiquitously fashionable any more (thank the Lord), but this was a real unexpected corker and perhaps the most unfortunate loss of the revised tracklisting.
Mason Williams – Classical Gas
The busker-fuelling theme from Lord Winstanley’s consumerist musings was a bit of a fish out of water here – the only other compilation this writer owns it on places it alongside the post-prog pre-punk scowlings of Edgar Winter, Alice Cooper and Meatloaf – but a fabbo track all the same and another one it’s a bit of a shame to lose (presumably for rights reasons?).
Denis King – Galloping Home
The inexplicably much-loved theme from The New Improved Adventures Of Black Beauty And That Episode With The Skeletons In Cloaks That Nobody Remembers can now be found on This Is… The Best Of Cult Fiction.
Tony Hatch – Crossroads
As can the theme from ITV’s inexplicably much-loved defunct soap opera and inspiration for Bitty Maclean’s hit that never was.
Hugo Montenegro – The Good The Bad & The Ugly
And this inferior reading of Mark Knopfler’s incidental music from the Native American bits of A Very Auf Weidersehen Pet Reunion Movie III.
BJ Thomas – Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head
The Sebastian Flight-tastic anthem to end all Sebastian Flight-tastic anthems enjoyed a bit of vogueishness at the time due to Stereolab basing an entire album on the outro, and also via garbled tales of growing to hate ‘the guy whose feet are too big for his bed’ because of a Fisher-Price clockwork radio (it would take too long to explain, listeners), and is a very silly omission from a supposedly definitive collection of The Easy Listenings.
Burt Bacharach – Anyone Who Had A Heart
The first of a handful of very, very weird ‘Bacharach’s Own’ versions of his greatest hits, rendered in bland drippy orchestral arrangements and including literally just one or two random lines of the lyrics. None made the revised cut, and, well, good riddance to bad rubbish basically.
The Ray Conniff Singers – Summer Breeze
Pretty good Not The Original Artists take on A Trio Of Very Confused Isley Brothers’ ode to not being as good as they were in the sixties.
Francis Lai – Un Homme Et Une Femme
Re-recorded but still ‘canon’ vocal version of the shopping centre music par excellence main title theme from French cinema’s finest snogfest, sadly bereft of the instrument that just goes ‘bong’ occasionally.
Roy Budd – Get Carter
Or ‘Carter Takes A Train’ if we’re being all [CITATION NEEDED] about it, the thundering instrumental theme from a film that was then enjoying a long overdue Charlatans-assisted critical re-evaluation after too many years languishing in that late night ‘Michael Caine appears in PULP on Tuesday’ post-Christmas mini-season. Bafflingly, this didn’t end up on the rejumbled best of Cult Fiction.
Laurie Johnson – This Is Your Life
Another merciless edit, this time of the showbizzy prelude to Eammon Andrews’ Red Book shenanigans, which unfortunately may not currently be available anywhere else.
Chris Montez – Call Me
The The More I See You Man’s other hit, apparently recorded in the middle of a crowded cafe, which enjoyed a brief resurgence of popularity around the time of the easy listening boom – so much so, that Mike Flowers ended up serenading Austin Powers with it in a sort of neat rhyming loungecore gambit of some variety. Once again, there’s a reason for its absence that will become clear in the second half of this piece…
Sergio Mendes – Chelsea Morning
Now this is more like it – the bossanova maestro takes a dull drippy Joni Mitchell wimpathon with trademark hamfisted ‘meaningful’ lyrics, and turns it into a foot-whirling slab of Brazilio-brilliance. An annoying choice for omission, but then everyone should own at least one Sergio Mendes compilation anyway.
Francis Lai – Aujourd Hui C’est Toi
A second selection from Un Homme Et Une Femme, and the one that they later used as the Panorama theme, but in an acoustic arrangement with lyrics for some reason. A missed opportunity to begin with, and as much not exactly ‘missed’ now.
Burt Bacharach – A House Is Not A Home
Another of those tedious ‘half sung’ covers as described above. Flung binwards two albums too late.
Jack Jones – Wives And Lovers
“Hey little girl, what’s your name, where you going?” – off this album, mercifully.
Aretha Franklin – I Say A Little Prayer
Another surprise inclusion, perhaps so much so that it didn’t make the cut second time around. Now, if they’d gone for the James Taylor Quartet’s version…
Count Indigo – My Unknown Love
Lee & Herring pal and yet another of that strange mid-nineties swarm of spoof ‘easy’ crooners a la Tony Ferrino/Mike Flowers (whose band provided the backing on this track), with a fantastic song that arrived a little too early to trouble the charts; little heard since then, it’s worth owning the original This Is… Easy for this track alone.
But what tracks ended up on the non-original This Is… Easy in place of the above? All will be explained in the forthcoming part two…