Various Artists

The Sound Gallery, Vol. 1

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The mainstream always lags way behind the cutting edge, so it wasn't until the end of the '60s that easy listening began reflecting such pop innovations as psychedelia and funk. The Sound Gallery is a collection of 24 tracks cut between 1968 and 1976 for British mood music LPs. This is easy listening at its peppiest, with considerably more bite (if that's the right word) than its American lounge/cocktail cousin. Go-go horn charts, wah-wah guitars, and vaguely rock-ish drums make these sound like nothing so much as soundtrack pieces to late-'60s and early-'70s movies that were trying desperately to be mod and trendy. Occasionally something packs some real oomph -- Neil Richardson's "The Riviera Affair," for instance, is brisk and uplifting '60s soundtrack music at its finest, and other tracks have touches akin to the more mainstream work of great film composers like Ennio Morricone. But it's really stretching credibility to try and pretend that this stuff is any less lightweight in the '90s, when the whole easy listening genre is undergoing rehabilitation at the hands of collectors desperate to find something new to excavate.

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