Enoch Light
Future Sound Shock





From the 50‘s until the 70‘s Enoch Light only had one music-related goal: presenting listeners the very best sound experiences in their living rooms. He was always on the cutting edge of technology, created stereo recordings when most U.S. radio stations only knew about monaural LPs, made frequent use of the so-called ping-pong effect in stereo recordings and went on to try different tape recording techniques. In the 70‘s, he turned to 4-channel recordings, otherwise known as the quadrophonic recording technique, praising it in the liner notes as "the most exciting and completely satisfying musical experience of your lifetime," and enunciated the vision of himself and his Project 3 record label even more drastically in big letters on the front cover when "after years of research, the producers, arrangers and artists at Project 3 have produced the recording of the future which will serve as a leader in the world of recorded sound for many years to come."


Therefore, I once again review one of those Exotica records or, to be more precise, records that exist primarily for the purpose of technical prowess and sound quality and only secondarily for the purest and most pristine reason, the music itself. As a matter of fact, there are only interpretations of already well-known themes and songs on Future Sound Shock, with no original material in sight far and wide. Thankfully, most of the material is of Latin, Brazilian and generally Exotic origin and splendidly recorded. The title of the LP therefore does not refer to compositions, as there are neither Space-Age Bachelor Pad tunes nor futuristic Jazz experimentations to be found, but is solely associated with the approach of recording the music in an epoch making way. The, in my humble opinion, most interesting and enjoyable interpretations are mentioned below. 


Caravan, a jazz standard first performed by Duke Ellington in 1937 and since then covered a gazillion times, is the perfect opportunity to show off quadrophonic gear since everyone and their mother knows this classic which is played in the usual mystical way, but then changes into the typical swinging, jazzy version with loads of bongos, a rock organ, tamburin, trumpet, vibraphone and the important exotic string instrument not to be missed on any devoted Caravan interpretation (maybe it is a dulcimer on here?). Although the trumpet is always on the forefront, the exotic feeling established at the beginning of the song traverses it throughout its runtime. The performance ends on a quiet, most effective note as the oriental melody can shimmer through one last time.


Luiz Bonfá‘s Samba de Orfeu from 1959 is especially great, thanks to its focus on percussion, gentle bongos and congas. The melody is played by a flutist on here, and after 90 seconds, the brass players start to add a typical care-free Brazilian samba flavor to the song. Among an acoustic guitar there‘s a rock organ that can be heard shortly and that doesn‘t integrate too well with the other instruments and the smooth setting in my opinion. There are no additional surprises or tricks on here, just a great interpretation that stays true to Bonfá‘s original version. Sarcastic readers might call it too streamlined or boring and I might actually agree, but the production really is top notch and the clean, true-to-life sound of the percussion instruments is most notable on here.


The One Note Samba keeps the samba sound going, and I am particularly fond of Light‘s interpretation. You cannot do much wrong in regards to instrumental versions of the One Note Samba, its title gives you the clue that leads to the cause. That‘s why I always focus on side notes, extra stuff and frisky solos that make the song‘s trappings more special. Again, you could call Light‘s version a streamlined one, but on here, the theme is played loudly and dominantly on a flute and is thus effective because it is even more on the fore than on other common versions. The brass section takes over in the latter half of the song. The aforementioned extra stuff that makes this song worthwile is the addition of a pianist whose improvisation skills are curbed in a good way, for any performance that is too permissive would distract from the harmonious setup. E


asy Listening it is indeed, all the more so when compared to the instrumentation of, say, Cliff Richard‘s version, in which the improvisation of the organ player goes a little step too far and takes over. Again, your mileage may vary. The last Exotica benchmark found on this LP is The Girl From Ipanema, and yes, I really dig the organ on here, as it works charmingly in cooperation with the acoustic guitar and the smoothly played trumpets. It just doesn‘t unnecessarily prowl around the octaves. This version doesn‘t make a difference in the ocean of Ipanema covers, but it is a welcome one nonetheless.


The former reason to buy Future Sound Shock has vanished in the following decades after its release, and mind you, the reason surely is nowhere to be found in this millennium. People nowadays don‘t rush out to buy LP‘s and they surely don‘t want to impress their friends with the admittedly gorgeous sound quality of the album that increases by using a high-quality tube amplifier. Substracting this reason uncovers the music itself. Are Light‘s interpretations any good beyond their sound quality, do they offer anything new to the table? They don‘t. But they stay true to the respective formulae of their writers and are still catchy in this day and age.


Depending on the background of the listener, these versions are probably too boring and uninspired. That‘s the price to pay by covering well-known songs as they compete with hundreds of different versions, specifically in the days where people listen to songs rather than whole albums. I for one like the instrumentations featured on this LP because of their streamlined nature, the feeling of easiness and warm summer evenings they evoke. At the same time, this might be the very reason one probably finds them repellent. 


Further reading:

A comprehensive SpaceAgePop.com synopsis and discography of Enoch Light is definitely worth your attention. Great work, and the discography is so huge that it has to be incomplete.


Exotica Review 009: Enoch Light – Future Sound Shock (1973). Originally published on Dec. 18, 2011 at AmbientExotica.com.