Anyone interested in bizarre music needs to know about Leo Diamond’s “Subliminal Sounds”, there is no other record like this weird mix of incongruous elements. Leo Diamond was a virtuoso on an unlikely instrument, the harmonica. Despite his choice of ‘axxe’, Diamond made a good living as one of the top harmonica players of his day. He also worked in writing and arranging and had a huge easy listening hit with “Off Shore”. Diamond’s taste in music leaned towards banal, and even tacky pop, but this was leavened by an unlikely interest in expanded musical forms and studio electronics. In 1956 he released “Skin Diver Suite”, a bizarre third stream concoction that alternated between extreme Hollywood schmaltz and creepy ‘watery’ sound effects. At times overly sentimental, and at other times just plain disturbing, this one needs to be heard to be believed.
After “Skin Diver Suite”, Diamond released a few pop albums and then came the album in question here, “Subliminal Sounds”. The title already sounds creepy and Diamond doesn’t disappoint as he presents twelve mostly corny arrangements of pop standards that are cloaked in ‘subliminal’ electronic sound effects. For the first couple of minutes, this album is absolutely fascinating as you hear Diamond’s weird and subtle effects, but then you realize many of these tunes are almost unbearable, thus the Diamond dichotomy. Easily the tunes on here that work the best are the one’s that lean in a more exotica direction, that would include “Jungle Drums”, “Dream Train” and “House of Dreams”, meanwhile some of the more sentimental fare gets tiresome right quick.
Despite a couple of really good exotica tracks, this album doesn’t seem to get a lot of attention from the weird music collectors, that’s why you can still find it for cheap occasionally at thrift stores. People who appreciate David Lynch’s idea of wholesome ‘normalcy’ gone berserk may also appreciate Leo’s musical vision.