If you have ever dug through a stack of records at a thrift store looking for a hidden gem, then you’ll know that you end up looking at about a million over sold 70s albums by the likes of Elton John and Seals and Crofts before you might get lucky and hit an obscure garish tacky album cover like “Battle of the Organs”. Bizarre thrown together cheap album covers like this are a beacon to record collectors looking for that odd bit of exotica. No doubt the cover of this record is priceless kitsch, but it also helps that the music isn’t bad either.
Although he never became a household name, Doc Bagby was very busy in the music industry, particularly in the 50s and 60s, as a session musician, arranger, bandleader and whatever else was necessary. Not only did he participate in many collectable exotic instrumental RnB and novelty rock records, but he also served as Sonny Stitt’s organist at a time when there were very few jazz organ players. Some of the records he cut with Stitt, on which they mixed jazz with blues played with a tenor sax plus B3 organ, became a blueprint for the coming soul jazz fad. Side two of “Battle of the Organs” belongs to Luis Rivera, who was a long time lounge organist in the Los Angelas area. Although Barby’s side is better musically, Rivera’s bold plaid jacket helps make this album cover a kitsch masterpiece.
Bagby’s side of the record is pretty solid old school blues-jazz played with your typical organ trio of B3, tenor sax and drums. Some of these tracks are fairly funky in a proto-soul jazz kind of way with “Grinding” being one of the stand out cuts. Luis Rivera’s side is a little more cheezy with somewhat similar blues based music, but with a much more exaggerated and hammy approach that was typical of the lounge players in this era. His band makeup is similar to Bagby’s, but his tenor player uses old school over-done swoops in his playing, plus a deep reverb sound typical of 50s corny instrumental rock records. Jazz fan will probably find the Bargby side of “Battle of the Organs” to be of more interest, but the collector of odd exotica will probably find much to appreciate on both sides of this wonderful piece of vinyl.