DICK HYMAN — Moog: The Electric Eclectics of Dick Hyman (review)

DICK HYMAN — Moog: The Electric Eclectics of Dick Hyman album cover Album · 1969 · Exotica Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
"The Moog synthesizer is a musical instrument that is still so new that not even those who have developed it know what its full musical potential may be". This opening line from Dick Hyman’s initial Moog record says more about what’s going on here than any reviewer ever could. In 1969 we had just been to the moon and this new futuristic instrument called the synthesizer was going to make music much better, we weren’t sure how, but a lot of us weren’t too clear on how we got to the moon either. Of course what most people like is a nice hummable melody, whether its Nat King Cole or Brittany Spears, there really isn’t much a synthesizer is going to be able to add to that formula. But never mind that, a lot of people were really hoping some kind of amazing musical break-through was going to be coming from this wired batch of voltage controlled oscillators often attached to a cheap electric organ keyboard.

For those who don’t know Dick Hyman, he is one of the top classic jazz interpreters of our time and once made a recording of ‘God Bless the Child’ in twelve different styles representing the greats in jazz history from Scott Joplin to Cecil Taylor. He is also an accomplished composer with many published works that mix jazz and contemporary classical music. In the mid-sixties he had been recording LPs in the new exotica style on the Lowery organ. When the synthesizer came along, he was a natural choice to record one of the first futuristic pop exotica records on this difficult to tame experimental electronic musical beast.

The music on here is often a bizarre mix of catchy pop combined with advanced modern compositional techniques such as bi-tonality with bi-rhythmic layers superimposed via multi-tracking. This isn’t something that I would want to listen to everyday, but in small doses its totally fascinating. So much was the initial fascination with the synthesizer, that this album spawned one hit, ‘The Minotaur’, probably the best song on the album. It had a short life on the bottom end of the Top 40 before everyone heard it once and then went back to their Neal Diamond and Glenn Campbell. ’Minotaur’ featured a layered rhythm on the Maestro drum machine topped with a raga like melody improv in the exotic Lydian mode. Keith Emerson was an obvious fan of this piece as he was apt to quote from it in his live synthesizer improvs with ELP.

An old analog synthesizer playing weird pop music that is influenced by modern compositional techniques is pretty much exotica heaven for the serious fan of the genre, but I’m not sure I can recommend this record to anyone but hardcore exotica fans. I think a lot of other people would find this record to be annoying as hell.
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