This is a great record that seems to have gone un-noticed by much of the progressive intelligentsia both then and now
Written by: Eric
ARTIST: James Newton Howard
ALBUM: James Newton Howard
LABEL: Kama Sutra
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA
LINEUP: James Newton Howard – all instruments * Brie Howard – drums
TRACK LISTING: 01 Six B’s * 02 Bovere * 03 Newton’s Ego * 04 Margaret I’m Home * 05 Ducks
WEBLINKS: Site Link
Are film soundtracks the new classical music? That populist idea has been brought up more than once by a variety of critics and musicologists and if that’s the case, will the music of Danny Elfman, Mark Isham and other film composers be as popular as Bach or Beethoven are in our day oh, say two hundred years from now?
It’s fun to think about and let’s not forget another well known name in the current world of film scores and the subject of this review – James Newton Howard. Howard recently won a Grammy with Hans Zimmer for their work on ‘The Dark Knight’ as well as numerous nominations for the films ‘The Prince of Tides’, ‘Signs’ and ‘Blood Diamond’, but did you know long before hitting the Hollywood mother lode he recorded a progressive rock album?
That’s right, way back in the heady days of 1970 while still in music school studying under Marty Paich (father of Toto‘s David Paich) James began working on his first solo album which he didn’t begin recording until the summer of 1973. Released on the Buddah Records subsidiary Kama Sutra, the eponymous debut didn’t exactly burn up the charts, but remains a wonderful example of early Ameriprog.
Make no mistake, this is a keyboard player’s album and fans of Rick Wakeman and Keith Emerson will drool over Howard’s classical extravagance but at no time does this album reach sensory overload as his contemporaries so often did. This is a vocal-less work and drums appear on just two cuts from James’ wife at the time Brie Howard who was in the groundbreaking all-female band Fanny and later appeared on the 1986 pop album by American Girls.
Her work is subtle on album opener ‘Six B’s’ and just the opposite on the album closer ‘Ducks’ which is a superb ELP sounding rocker. In between we have the filmic ‘Bovere’ the colourful labyrinth of ‘Newton’s Ego’ and the stunning ‘Margaret I’m Home’ which stands up to any progressive work coming across the pond at the time.
This is a great record that seems to have gone un-noticed by much of the progressive intelligentsia both then and now. A CD reissue has never materialized and in my opinion considering Howard’s current status would be a perfect choice for a label like Wounded Bird and similar purveyors of lost classics. In the meantime, seek and ye shall find one of the best keyboard dominated prog albums you’ll ever hear.