Percy Faith
The Love Goddesses





The Love Goddesses is the name of a documentary about Hollywood’s greatest actresses which is played in cinemas all across North America in 1965. It is also the title of the original soundtrack as envisioned and conducted by Percy Faith (1908–1976), already recorded in April 1964 and released in the same year a few months before the official launch in the cinemas. The LP features the usual 12 tracks, whereby eight of them appear in the documentary itself, with the other four being renditions of related TV series, either due to the appearance of many an actress in them or the compatibility with these additions to the glamourous fluxion of Hollywood. The documentary meanwhile is unsurprisingly about the most beautiful actresses of Hollywood who appeared on the big screen throughout the decades. It furthermore carves out the changed perception of sex and the multitudinous lascivious weapons strong women are able to enforce… if the screenplay allows them to do just that.


Mostly based on the stars of studios such as Fox and Paramount, Percy Faith is asked to underline some of the film snippets. In this regard, the soundtrack of The Love Goddesses is astonishingly – if of course not completely – free of all too many cliché traps. Auroral strings are a given, as are silky and dichotomous brass waves, but there are strong flavors of Space-Age and Exotica-related percussion aortas running through many an arrangement. While clearly based in Easy Listening climes, The Love Goddesses also succeeds with its textural variety and string patterns. I know many a Jackie Gleason record that sounds more romantic and sappy than this album. That said, it is time to… er… dissect the album. 


The quasi-eponymous Love Goddess opens the album, incidentally one of two pieces which Percy Faith has concocted with a co-writer. Here it is Mack Davis. Since it introduces the filmgoer to the documentary, its glitz, pizzazz and string-fueled enamel are particularly important. It has to be the most enchanting piece. To anyone’s surprise, this is no melting ballad but a rather uplifting swinging ditty with that certain lovestoned timbre. A tenor saxophone gyrates around literal polka dots in the shape of accordion blebs, brass bubbles and warbled Pagan flutes. Once the strings hit the listener with their rose-tinted walls of bliss and the implied archetypical minor tones, this euphonious harp-sprinkled piece points the way to the remaining insouciant themes and scenes that are found in the soundtrack and the documentary respectively: doses of chintziness, carefreeness and glee unite.


The follow-up Cheesecake is certainly uplifting and even compatible to the Exotica connoisseur’s taste: a delicate bongo groove underlines a wondrously polyphonous five-note brass motif whose silkened fire aurally paints all colors of the sunset, all the while plinking piano helixes, mighty big band eruptions and highly towering strings paint a powerful scenery which, to my mind, neglects the love topic altogether. This one is adventurous!


Whereas the portentous Marilyn is a prime example of a string-heavy love theme with rhythmical double bass bumps, golden piano chords and carefully placed alto flutes in order to (re)create the most transfiguring aura of Miss Monroe, Surrender surprises with its Latin timbre and energetically sizzling maracas, but otherwise enthralls with its pizzicato string washes, downwards spiraling chords on the piano and its warm hues overall. Percy Faith hence somewhat belittles the meaningful title with this joyful friskiness, and yet creates a work of duality due to the soft hints of Latin remnants.


Up next is Vamp, a comparably igneous stomper of passionate devotion, thematizing the independent skills and whammies of Hollywood’s dames. The composition is first draped in the same poeticizing harmonies with less entropy and more euphony, but soon enough the yearning strings make room for a stereotyped femme fatale theme on the saxophone whose impetus is augmented by all other brass instruments. Soon enough, the moist pizzicato strings and chinking tambourines turn this tune around once more. The vamp has turned into a lady again. The most curious tune finishes side A: Keystone Kapers is a relic of the silent movie era with shedloads of comical whistles and pipes, a heftily bubbling piano straight out of a saloon, muted wah-wah trombones and tap dancing flecks. The bustling scenery is then ennobled by melodramatic piano glissandos and whirling strings. A strange brute. More of a ladybug than a lady.


Side B opens with The Virginian, Percy Faith’s main theme of the eponymous Western series which ran from 1962–1971. It unites the grandiloquence of cowboys with the sleaziness of spies: epochal brass blasts and glittering xylophone droplets meet shadier tone sequences which function as counterparts to the wide prairies and resemble more of a hide-and-seek operation than a gun fight in the open steppe. Our Love obviously returns to the album’s overarching theme via its slow Waltz structure, magnanimously sylphlike strings and a choir of women who altogether amplify the saccharine dreamscape in the schmaltziest piece, and while Percy Faith is already near the string-heavy side of life, the following Monaco Theme from the 1963 TV documentary and Grace Kelly-centric flick A Look At Monaco offers even more strings and ameliorates the beautiful harbor via polyphonous flute coils, a superb Space-Age wonkiness on the violins as well as a few selected harp cascades. Faith successfully sails around clichéd cliffs and creates a strongly Easy Listening-based, but not too smarmy main theme.


The following Chico Bolero is taken from the same documentary and comprises of pizzicato arabesques, much more successful bongo placentas and another dose of playfully tense Space-Age strings. The final two compositions are again distilled from The Virginian: whereas the beautifully mesmerizing Celia’s Waltz focuses on the tenor saxophone in front of a backdrop of gently wafting strings whose undulation either accentuates the incidents on the foreground or lets them peacefully reign, Oba! is co-written with Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer and features an intertwinement of Middle Eastern traits – a shawm-like trombone – and Latin schemes in the form of histrionic horns which are rounded off by a Hollywood goodness à la pointillistic flutes and joyous harmonies. Add the thicket of maracas to the tune and another, final glimpse of Exotica graces the album.


The Love Goddesses is the famous example of a mixed bag that tries to cater to everyone, but here the term also implies the literal variety of different sources that made it onto the album. While the eight tracks of the documentary are clearly in the spotlight, the additional material off The Virginian and A Look At Monaco somewhat puts the focused effort to shambles. And yet does Percy Faith’s soundtrack shine quite a bit, especially so in the given context. Only rarely are there sugar-coated segues to be found. This is indeed no clichéd album of love songs, but a collection of compositions that are carefully adjusted to match the archival footage on the big screen. Hardly ever can soundtracks work without the simultaneity of the big picture, but here, Faith undoubtedly delivers songs that can still be enjoyed when taken out of their original context. The fact that this is music for a mere documentary might probably help in this regard. The title track encapsulates both the magic of Hollywood’s greatest actresses and the insouciant outlook at the things to come.


Genuinely exotic ingredients may be few and far between and only consist of splendid bongo percussion and a few Latin shakers, but the Space-Age timbre of songs like Cheesecake, Monaco Theme and Celia’s Waltz enchants all the more. The Love Goddesses is no essential release, but fans of Percy Faith who put this album down as a cruddy side job for a documentary should reconsider their opinion and at least pre-listen to the compositions. Luckily enough, The Love Goddesses has been reissued in 2002 already on a two-album version where it is united with Faith’s Hollywood’s Greatest Themes, a fitting inclusion in regard to the given main topic. It is thus also available digitally on iTunes, Amazon MP3 et cetera. Give it a chance if you favor string-heavy Exotica music à la Werner Müller's East Of India (1963) or Les Baxter's Que Mango! (1970); Faith’s Easy Listening constructions are not too far off.


Exotica Review 258: Percy Faith – The Love Goddesses (1964). Originally published on Sep. 7, 2013 at