Jazz & Easy Review Rock Review Vinyl

101 STRINGS: Wacked out Psychedelic Loungecore

Title: Astro Sounds from Beyond the Year 2000

Label: Modern Harmonic

This one has been released for Record Store Day. Looking at the sleeve art of this album, you might assume that it’s one of those one-off concept pieces released to exploit a theme, idea or fad.

Not quite, the ‘band’, the 101 Strings Orchestra, was a concept created by Dick L. Miller for release on his own Somerset label (later sold to the Allshire label). Miller wanted his own Mantovani-esque outfit but rather than employ an orchestra of fixed personnel, he roamed Europe and employed a variety of musicians for one particular job, then they would play under his 101 Strings brand name. Once completed, he moved onto a different job, different tone, with different employees recruited for another album. In this way, the 101 Strings Orchestra name has produced many hundreds of recordings since the mid-fifties.

Specialising in loungecore or easy listening, the orchestra’s lush noises were always centred around a central subject. Hence the futuristic tone of this piece.

The psychedelic direction of this album was unusual, particularly in its arrangement. Featuring the creativity of the arranger, Monty Kelly and featuring Jerry Cole on guitar (yes, that Cole, the man who was a session man for Phil Spector and who had worked with The Beach Boys and The Byrds) the music itself had apparently already appeared elsewhere, via another psychedelic group, so this stuff was not original. The electronic effects and strings were retained and mixed with other organic sounds such as the fuzz guitar from hell and a particularly wacked-out Hammond organ that Booker T. would have been proud of. In short, these c-razy psychedelic rock noises filled the cracks opened by the orchestral arrangement resulting in a bizarre marriage between Bert Kaempfert and Jimi Hendrix through a kaleidoscope.

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