John Simon

Baroque Inevitable

  • AllMusic Rating
    6
  • User Ratings (0)
  • Your Rating

AllMusic Review by

Curiosities don't come much curiouser than The Baroque Inevitable, a 1966 LP of classical -- or more accurately, Baroque -- arrangements of '60s pop tunes, arranged, produced and conducted by John Simon, the producer behind the Band's first two albums, the first Blood, Sweat & Tears LP, Big Brother & the Holding Company's Cheap Thrills, Cyrkle's Red Rubber Ball and several other '60s classics. Simon was an in-house producer for Columbia, the label that released this LP, and it's the kind of left-field oddity that only a supremely talented individual supported by a major label could release: it walks a fine line between genuine art and kitsch, and is enjoyable as both. As the cheerfully psychedelic front artwork and tongue-in-cheek liners on the back suggest, Simon wasn't taking himself too seriously here -- any album that bears the legend "Being a Recital of the Hits of the Day, Performed in the Baroque-Rockque Instrumental Style Popularized by Bach, The Beatles and Other Notables of the 17th through 20th Centuries, AD" was made by artists that are in on several jokes, mocking themselves while tweaking stuffy classical conventions, as well. To be sure, there's a lot of lightness here -- in how the strings are driven by a rock rhythm sections, how the flutes carry melodies that are better sung, how fuzz guitars wind in and out of the mix, how harpsichords rock like they're pianos, how "Wild Thing" is melded with "Sunny" -- but that doesn't mean this is a flat-out lark: there's considerable skill and cleverness behind these sly easy listening arrangements and it never feels tossed-off the way that so many '60 mellow instrumental pop does. It strikes a good blend of sunshiney pop and classical substance, as Simon never takes the easy way out: "Yellow Submarine" could be glib, but the melody is downplayed and the performance sounds lush and fresh because of it, while "Strangers in the Night" is turned into dueling harpsichords that lead imperceptibly to a clever round of cut-n-paste collage. It's all interesting and provided you're in the right mood, gently enjoyable, yet it is still at its core a curiosity: the kind of record to marvel at once, to marvel that it actually exists, and to marvel that it's actually better than its description suggests. And after you marvel at that fact, it's unlikely you'll revisit The Baroque Inevitable all that often.

blue highlight denotes track pick