Tonio Rubio – “Bass In Action No. 1” (1973)
Sound library music doesn’t get any more stone cold than this track. Music of any kind rarely does. What should have been a cornerstone of golden-age hip-hop, “Bass In Action No. 1” is an incredible audio stroll consisting of sweet glistening electric piano glissandi, an ice cold single-note bass line, and the ready-made laid-back hip-hop breakbeat. It’s enchanting for the first minute; but when the beat kicks in at 1:05, you won’t be able to keep from grinning. [Tonio Rubio is featured in on an equally groove-laden mix of tunes from around the world at Musicophilia.] Update: Corrected the streaming link.
Paolo Renosto (Lesiman) – Moto Centripeto (1973)
Another brilliant cut from the alternate history of popular music, aka Sound Library music. Echoing and reverbed piano and harpsichord float over dulcet vibes with abstract sounds, all grounded by a breezily funky bassline. This is cool beyond cool, the soundtrack to the movie version of life as one wishes it were lived.
Alan Parker & John Cammeron – “Ice Breaker” & “”Sahara Sunrise” (1973)
Sometimes it seems like the “sound library” world is a dream–this other world, this alternate history of popular music, kept like a secret until just the right time in a person’s music-geek-journey when it seems like there just wasn’t enough funk-with-strings, enough breakbeats-and-rhodes-and-percussion made in the real world. It’s really Blaxploitation soundtracks one step over, Serge Gainsbourg on a budget, Tamla-on-the-Thames, with a good dose of musique concrete and space-age-Moog thrown in for good measure, but for whatever nutty reason almost never commercially released at the time. These are two cuts from two of this alternate reality’s Big Names (who played with Serge and the Shadows et al in “real life”) from one of the most consistently great Library records (consistency is perhaps their one downfall, usually) and one of far too few that can be bought today, if you can find it.
Janko Nilovic – “Roses and Revolvers” (1970)
It’s incredible to think that this music was made as an aural hired-gun for advertisements or cheap television shows or films. If there were ever a track to get you excited about the of alternate universe of pop that is the realm of “sound library” LPs (which were almost never made available commercially), this is it. Fuzzed out guitar soars around twirling harpsichord and Rhodes over one mother-of-funk beat that is hip-hop ready, breaking things down and building up with incredible grace and care. But the coup de grace is the bassline, which has to be one of the best I’ve ever heard, remaining funky while carrying the core melodic duties of the track. I bet money you won’t be able to listen just once. This is the pinaccle, but if you dig it, it’s time to start digging those sound library blogs linked over at Musicophilia. [Nilovic is featured on several Musique du Monde mixes at Musicophilia, which you’ll definitely dig if you like this one.] (UPDATE: The wrong song was previously linked; it’s been corrected.)
1906 [Jean-Michel Jarre] – “Helza” (1973)
Early Jean-Michel Jarre is too hard to find, considering how crazy-good a lot of it is, like the insanely cool, spooky proto-synth featured in this mix at Musicophilia. This one is a sublime example of the sort of elegant but funky stuff the French/Italians/Germans were doing with instrumentation borrowed from Motown in the early 70s, bringing in choice touches of early electro. A solid, close-miced rhythm section (bass, drums, clavichord) carries the weight of the track along with spare percussion and rhythm-flute a la early Kraftwerk, but what takes it to a magic level is a ghostly, reverbed piano line that floats over the top, and electronic bits floating around the periphery. Magic stuff.
Bernard Estardy – “Emeute À Tokyo” (1972)
Top-notch early-70s sound library stuff here from a Frenchman who seems to be consistently strong, whether working in this “Psyche Rock”-ish electro-jam mode or in a Gainsbourg-like Chanson idiom. This one is a nice funky breakbeat (with phasing no less!) and rollicking piano surrounded by diving, swirling synths, for a resulting high fun factor. Check it the full album at the completely essential Library Hunt. [Bernard Estardy is featured here in a fairly different mode at Musicophilia.]