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Listen to "Walk, Don't Run"

New Sounds ... Old Goodies
The Wild Voices of the Marty Cooper Clan

RCA Victor LPM-2694/LSP-2694, 1963

Cover of New Sounds ... Old Goodies by The Wild Voices of the Marty Cooper Clan

This is certainly one of the most annoying records I've ever heard. I don't dare even play it for most people I know--it exceeds the limits of their forebearance and friendship. Only those who've learned to relish the perversity that manifests itself in the nooks and crannies of popular music can stand to hear it. And even of these, the only ones who'd stay to listen to the whole thing are the kind of people who would enjoyed watching a train wreck in slow motion.

OK, so what are the facts? Marty Cooper, who receives the title credit (and blame), was at the time an A&R man and producer for RCA's Hollywood operation. Somehow his other recordings did well enough that RCA funded this venture, and put him under the supervision of veteran Neely Plumb (father of actress Eve Plumb (Jan on "The Brady Bunch") and Esquivel's favorite producer). Perry Botkin, Jr., who was early in his long and distinguished career of arranging and composing music for pop recordings, television shows, and movie scores, handled the arrangements.

The singers themselves are not credited, but I recognize Bobby Day, who had a hit with "Rockin' Robin" a couple years before this, in the studio shots. The chorus is a mix of black and white singers. Integrated studio vocal groups were still less common than integrated instrumental sections, usually because the singers tended to be hired as a group because the musical contractor tended to turn this job over another vocal contractor who worked with the same singers from session to session (e.g., Randy Van Horne). This might actually have been where Cooper's influence can be seen, since he would have known singers from both R&B and pop sessions.

Adapting instrumentals to interpretation by a wordless vocal chorus was nothing new. Heck, it was Ray Conniff's secret formula for making millions. Neal Hefti took a similarly literal approach to this one on his Singing Instrumentals album. But somehow the effect when the instrumentals were big band numbers arranged around the brass and reeds sections is more gentle, less jarring.

In this case, the arrangements tend to put the men in the role of the lead guitar. Most of these tunes are guitar hits: "Raunchy"; "Rumble"; "Walk, Don't Run"; "Sleepwalk". The women tend to cover the accompanying instruments--saxes or strings. There is also an instrumental combo backing the singers up--guitar, bass, drums.

Now to get to the heart of the matter. None of this sounds the least bit objectionable. What pushes this album over the edge is the tack, if you will, taken by the singers, particularly the men. Think how you would imitate a rock guitar melody line when you were playing around with your friends when you were about ten years old. "Nyow, nyow, NYAAOOWW!"

Now think about a chorus of adult male professional singers doing exactly that and you will have a sense of what this album is like.

There is little you can do with an album like this except shake your head in amazement.

And be grateful that I warned you.

Needless to say, this is the only record the Marty Cooper Clan ever cut. Well, at the time, according to industry vets I've talked to, RCA thought stuff like the Stereo Action was going to wipe rock and roll off the face of the market, so they had a lot of practice throwing good money after bad ideas.

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