Ray Conniff

Great Contemporary Instrumental Hits/I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing

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This discount-priced two-fer combines two successive Ray Conniff albums, Great Contemporary Instrumental Hits, originally released in the summer of 1971, and I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing, from the winter of 1972. As usual, Conniff is interested in presenting easy listening versions of recent pop hits, but the two albums take different approaches. The key word in the title of the unfortunately named Great Contemporary Instrumental Hits (a bit generic, no?) is "instrumental," since the album marked a return for Conniff to recording songs without their lyrics. He did not record without vocals, however, as his perky singers trace the melodies with wordless syllables ("ba-ba," "da-da," etc.). I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing, on the other hand, as its title implies, does feature vocals. This approach sometimes sounds sillier, actually. The Cher hit "Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves" was never what you'd call an authentic treatment of gypsy life, but it is odd hearing the chorus, which refers to prostitution, cheerily sung by a chorus. Similarly, the double-entendre lyrics of Melanie's "Brand New Key" are rendered with an apparently complete lack of understanding of their sexual innuendo. And Free Movement's "I've Found Someone of My Own" has its theme of infidelity and free love belted out with all the zest of "On Top of Old Smokey." In the world of Ray Conniff, anything could be scrubbed down and turned into innocent pop. Some of these songs remain familiar 30 years later, while others have faded into history, giving the album the air of a time capsule.

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