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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, "Whipped Cream and Other Delights"

Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass
"Whipped Cream and Other Delights"
A&M (1965)

1000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die

Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass were unusual in that its sound didn’t actually define the musical landscape of the ‘60s, but actually the television landscape. Whether the listener knows who made the music, it is instantly recognizable. Alpert’s music came to represent the most deliciously cheesy (said in the most complimentary way possible) aspects of the decade, most notably “A Taste of Honey,” which was used as theme music on “The Dating Game.”

What makes Albert’s crew so popular if not renowned for its artistic merits is that it was essentially a glorified mariachi band. Those who find “Whipped Cream” evokes feelings of Mexico aren’t wrong, but the themes are actually toned down from Alpert’s previous albums, which included the telling title “South of The Border.” Regardless of the new band (this was the first album featuring the Brass), the mariachi feel was still there thanks to the dual-trumpet approach (Alpert and Tonni Kanash both played). Like two guitars in metal, twin trumpets provide more volume and a heavier tone than one.

The band might not be the most talented group, but they play Alpert’s adaptations of pop standards cleanly and with precision. Those two factors don’t always earn credit from pretentious critics such as myself, but it’s foolish to call the group talentless. Plus, look carefully and you’ll see that pianist Russell Bridges would later change his name to Leon Russell. Russell put out an amazing album with Elton John in 2010 and earned entry into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.

If the listener can come to appreciate this collection of food-titled tracks, the controversy begins when classifying it. Tom Moon puts it under “pop,” and I disagree. True, Alpert (also an A&M executive) was aiming at a pop audience with this album (and it topped the Billboard charts for eight weeks), but I find his choice of instrumentation makes this a jazz album. As I mentioned, this isn’t the Miles Davis Quartet, but that doesn’t stop it from being jazz. Buckcherry might be much less sophisticated than REM, but that doesn’t mean it’s not rock music.

Between the uplifting, made-for-TV tracks like “Whipped Cream” and the slower sambas like “Tangerine,” the longest track is barely more than three minutes, and the album is less than 30 minutes. It’s light stuff, and like its subject matter, easily digestible.

INTERESTING FACT: The model on the famed album art isn’t actually covered in whipped cream. Due to how easily the confection melted under the studio lights, photographers coated her in shaving cream instead.

Whipped Cream by Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass on Grooveshark

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