The Sounds of Tomorrow

The Sounds of Tomorrow: Mood Mosaic, Vol. 9

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With drummer Scott Ludwig (who also played his own electronic keyboard instrument, the Sonocon), Max Crook recorded the previously unreleased 1964-1972 material that comprises this set. As the inventor of, and a performer on, the Musitron -- the eerie electronic keyboard responsible for the solo on Del Shannon's "Runaway" -- Crook is an important, overlooked innovator. As a featured recording artist, however, it's a different story. Largely recorded between 1968 and 1972, the mostly instrumental material is -- in common with recordings by some other electronic music innovators, such as Jean-Jacques Perrey and Gershon Kingsley -- more like cheesy novelty tunes designed to showcase the instrument, rather than being music that not only integrates innovative technology, but can stand on its own merits. While the shimmering, distorted sounds the pair coaxed from their inventions were intriguingly strange (if dated to ears that have become accustomed to modern synthesizers), the songs were little more than lightweight, lounge pop/rock-ish (and, at times on the early-'70s tracks, lounge-funkish) vehicles upon which the instruments had space to strut their stuff. Though a few live 1965 cuts have slightly lower fidelity, these are somewhat more satisfying as listening; the novelty factor is lowered, and the musicians manage rather good, tense interpretations of "Summertime," "House of the Rising Sun," and "What Now My Love." Further oddities capping off the set include the Del Shannon-produced "Razz My Berries," on which Shannon plays guitar; "Hawaiian Vibes" (from 1965), which is very much in the exotica style; and an out-of-place vocal cover of Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart's "I Wonder What She's Doin' Tonight" that verges on garage rock. Excellent liner notes by Mark Brend, author of the book Strange Sounds: Offbeat Instruments and Sonic Experiments in Pop, explain the Sounds of Tomorrow's complicated story, with extensive quotes from both Crook and Ludwig.

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