Friday, March 05, 2010

Meco: The Wizard of Oz

Meco - The Wizard of Oz - 1978 (not available)

Albums like this sounded so much more interesting before the digital age. I have this record on mp3s, so the whole album plays continuously straight through. Now, Meco intended this album, like Encounters of Every Kind, to be a non-stop piece of music, but knew eventually the record was going to have to get flipped over. So he faded out at the end of side A and then built up again at the start of side B. It's understandable, obviously, but listening to it on my iTunes it's nearly fatal to the momentum. It's a sudden lull in the middle of the experience, and one it takes a while to recover from.

Meco assembled the same team for this third fantasy disco album, and this one improves immeasurably on the first two. It helps that he's using the score to the 1939 MGM version of The Wizard of Oz, so the base he's working from is solid. It starts right off with a big, bold, horn-heavy dance version of "Over the Rainbow," and just leads out from there. The first side is a pleasure to listen to. It only lasts about 14 minutes or so, and takes Dorothy from Kansas to "We're Off to See the Wizard," and features sound effects and a chorus singing a lot of the Munchkin parts. The entire A side, taken as one composition, is probably the strongest thing Meco's done in his first three albums (even including "Star Wars"). The whole piece just doesn't stop; even when it slows down (as in "The Cyclone," which features a dreamy section with a synthesizer playing a plaintive recapitulation of "Over the Rainbow"), the arrangements are so tight and the theme so focused and the beat so steady that it never once becomes boring or overwhelming.

The second side, then, takes a while to get started, and the whole thing just isn't quite as good. It starts off with "Poppies" and "The Spell," so it's kind of slower, anyway, and the woman singing/exclaiming for the Wicked Witch of the West gets kind of irritating. The second side is only good in fits and starts. "The Haunted Forest" is nicely funky, though. "If I Were King of the Forest" has little to do with the music from The Wizard of Oz, but has a majestic theme I wanted to hear more of (this section is only 57 seconds long). The real pleasure of side B is the final track, "The Reprise," which starts with a brief bar of "There's No Place Like Home" and then features what amounts to an orchestral overture of the music. It's really nice as an exit piece. Kind of jaunty, too.

Grade A-
A Side: I'd say the entire first side taken as one piece, which it really is (the single version, "Themes from The Wizard of Oz," isn't the same thing)
BlindSide: "The Reprise"
DownSides: "The Poppies," "The Spell"

Cross-posted from Septenary

1 comment:

J Koo said...

Holy Moly, how did I not know about this?