Haven for Sale/St Elmo's Fire

Alan Haven

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Haven for Sale/St Elmo's Fire Review

by Richie Unterberger

Two albums by British organist Alan Haven, 1969's Haven for Sale and 1971's St. Elmo's Fire, are combined onto one CD on this 2010 reissue. With its covers of rock and pop standards like "Goin' Outta My Head," "Exodus," "Norwegian Wood," "Our Day Will Come," and "Deep Purple," Haven for Sale seems targeted for the hipper end of the instrumental easy listening market. Recorded with his trio, it was later overdubbed with orchestral arrangements by producer Keith Mansfield, with jazz trumpeter Maynard Ferguson guesting on trumpet. It's hardly the most challenging outing, even in a field that by definition wasn't the most challenging. But it's not dispensable either, as Haven gets a mighty groovy sound out of his Lowrey organ, and the backing usually cooks along in an agreeably swinging jazz-pop go-go manner. If you go for this kind of thing, it's a quality outing, Haven drawing penetrating tones and swoops out of his instrument with imagination, though the backup arrangements (including some wordless scat vocals by the Ladybirds) sometimes get on the saccharine side. St. Elmo's Fire was a far more creative project on Haven's end, as about half of it was comprised of his own compositions. Too, Haven was responsible for the arrangements and instrumental effects, the only accompanists being percussionists Robin Jones and Tony Uter. It would thus be satisfying to hail it as a far more expressive and edifying work. But it's not nearly as enjoyable as its predecessor, Haven delving into slicker, early bland fusion that makes much use of busy Latin rhythms. There's still some impressive and at times soulfully powerful organ work, as you'd expect. But it's still lounge-ish, instrumental, easy listening pop, and not as dynamic as Haven for Sale despite some modernization of the beats and technology. The historical liner notes include memories from Haven himself.

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