Norrie Paramor





The front artwork is no joke. It is real. It has been considered for an Easy Listening album, goddammit, but by the look of things, it seems far more applicable for the latest Hauntology craze and resurrection of Lovecraftian Halloween albums. And while there is a version with an alternative cover out there, the above lady pinpoints what is wrong with the work that I’m about to review, and this is – cue the mystery chime – Temptation by British orchestra leader and composer Norrie Paramor (1914–1979).


Released in 1978 on Pye Records and sporting a whopping fifteen compositions, it is an almost desperate attempt of a bandleader who understands the changing times and raucous surroundings, but comes up with the wrongest possible answer. Once a composer of gorgeous Exotica and Latin albums such as Jet Flight (1959) and Amor, Amor! (1960), Paramor faces the waning power of orchestra leaders and orchestras in general. You have to go with the flow, man, and bring the Funk into the big band scenario. Add a few synthesizers, and you reach the masses. Fair enough, for his likeminded fellows such as James Last, Stanley Black, Geoff Love (the man behind Mandingo!) and even to a point Les Baxter faced the same rough winds. However, Paramor, in search of a guiding light, only finds an ignis fatuus and therefore throws anything at the listener he can find, all styles, genres, instruments, tempos and moods. The result is called Temptation. But is that title justified when all parts are summed up?


While it is true that the connoisseur doesn’t listen to an Exotica album in this very case, Nacio Herb Brown’s famous title track is strong enough an evidence for a cross-linkage and close tie to the vivacious genre. Whirling strings greet the listener, rhythm guitars – both bass and acoustic – augment the Bolero rhythm. Rather swift and energetic, Temptation loses much of its devotional murkiness, but retains enough recondite interstices to be eminently recognizable. Norrie Paramor could have spared the listener with Gheorghe Zamfir’s Doina De Jale (The Light Of Experience) though, as the same fret bass rivulet underlines a panpipes-infested mountain area of New Age-oid chintziness. Yannis Markopoulos’s Who Pays The Ferryman is much greater in contrast, featuring bone-emptying timpani drums of the eldritch kind amid a saccharified lead fiddler’s intercommunication with bouzouki players. The textural wealth and anomalies make this sugar-sweet cataract bearable.


The traditional John O’Groats – a song about Scotland’s eponymous county – is a welcome foreign substance, if only for the fact that its Baroque legato washes appear completely out of context but leave a lachrymose impression, with Norrie Paramor’s own Brum Brum revving up the comic relief via Disco wah wah coils, laissez-faire melodies, whistles and tambourines aplenty. Shake ye bum to the brum! Francis Lai’s Bilitis is another unexpected intermission with aureate glockenspiels, superfluids made of harps, piano pericarps, vanillarific string washes and a superbly spacy Fender Rhodes melody, before Ben Black’s, Edwin Henry Lemare’s and Neil Moret’s Moonlight And Roses finishes side A with golden strings, a Honky Tonk piano of the silent movie era and a trumpet that holds the diverse potpourri together via its equanimity.


If there is one song from side B to cherry-pick, it surely is the first one to appear: Cliff Richard’s The Savage appears is a tachycardia tunnel vision when compared to the endemic vision. Since Norrie Paramor has been the manager of Richard’s band The Shadows, he knows how to treat and transmogrify the given material. The crunchy wah wah guitar oscillates in a hefty manner, xylophone punctilios are embedded in flute-accentuated string cavalcades, the melody is benignant but energetic enough. This is music for magicians and illusionists as they wave over the stage while the laser show is running. Don’t expect a true genius, it’s just a surprisingly catchy ditty… whose level of energy is mercilessly slowed down by the adjacent I Can’t Get Started, but in a good way! Ira Gershwin’s and Vernon Duke’s Waltz evokes springlike flumes and thermal freshness due to the amethystine hue of the strings and the loftiness of the flutes. This is seriously cajoling music, ultimately cheesy but fully absorbing the Easy Listening spirit. With two good corkers in a row, I cannot complain. For the moment.


But blimey, there are strange things considered time and again by Norrie Paramor: Keith Richards’ and Mick Jagger’s Miss You, for instance, morphs into alluvial meadows with pianos prone to enmesh high-rise glissandos with the rural rusticity of cantilever guitars and country-fied polyphonies. Ludwig van Beethoven’s Sonata One meanwhile returns to an alienating classical approach that is not wrong per se, but oh so superfluous in the given context,nmaking its appearance an affront to both the sophisticated lover of classical music and the hapless lover of entertaining compositions.


While the rufescent Corale is based on the same premise and an awful inclusion thanks to its histrionic string gimcrack and climactic chords, Earl Johnson’s and Jonathan Richman’s Egyptian Reggae is superbly acidic, spawning cool bass guitars, galloping percussion, rubicund sunset strings and enigmatic wind chimes next to shady clarinets, Chinese gongs and harmonicas. Cleo Laine‘s and Stanley MyersHe Was Beautiful features one last string fusillade for romantics, with a lead trumpet enshrined by lots of mauve-tinted strings before the curious endpoint is reached: Lorenz Hart‘s and Richard RodgersSing For Your Supper is arranged in a James Last kinda way-like, boosting the bonfore togetherness and insouciance as it swings along, the acoustic guitar is a given, but the actual achievement is the wah wah Moog synth in the center. Come on, Norrie, lift off already!


Temptation is the prime example of a mixed bag, an ever-strange array of instances and songs that are few and far between, ranging from classical pieces over modernized musical hits to tamed Rock sparklers. It is utterly amazing how out of focus Norrie Paramor’s omnium gatherum truly is. There is no focal point at all. There are no rules, anything goes, and you know that once this is the case indeed, hilarity and desperation ensue. I don’t think these are to be desired, but that’s up to the listener, of course. Still, the cohesion is amiss, lost forever in the abyss of strings.


There are great tunes on this LP alright, even faintly exotic ones recalling the maudlin vibes of Morton Gould's eponymous album from 1958, with The Savage and I Can’t Get Started being two wonderful events that sit on the opposite side of the tempo-related spectrum. However, the arbitrariness ultimately kills the album as a whole, and this ride becomes all the wilder the more one listens to the material. There are compilations out there that have a lot more heart and soul in their appearance and carefully curated tracks than this hodgepodge. It is wise to only enjoy this artifact in well-dosed moments, or else one resembles the terrified cowuette on the front artwork sooner or later. To those who wanna bite: Temptation is available on vinyl, CD, as a download version and on streaming services.


Exotica Review 486: Norrie Paramor – Temptation (1978). Originally published on Aug. 26, 2017 at