22 Jun

Butantan

By  Robert Walton
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(Guy Wood)
Analysis of the Melachrino version by
Robert Walton

Occasionally for commercial purposes, a record is released which has absolutely nothing to do with the image or style of the official artist. In the case of Vaughn Monroe, that smooth big band ballad operator, was quite happy to take a back seat while The Maharajah of Magador was sung by Ziggy Talent. It proved to be a million seller, even though the main name on the label was Monroe’s.

Another example of “fooling the listener” in the light orchestral medium was Butantan played by the Melachrino Orchestra conducted by George Melachrino. While in a same genre there really wasn’t a hint of the famous Melachrino string sound about it. OK then, perhaps slightly! This very un-Melachrino-ish piece of Latin American music in rhumba tempo was released on a 78rpm disc in 1954. Maybe that’s why years later it was often spotted in piles of unwanted second- hand records. Anyway it appealed to me and I felt it was worthy of taking apart for examination. Sometimes the completely unexpected can be irresistible. The first three notes fit perfectly into this Caribbean type title.

Brass and strings provide the momentum in the opening of this composition. Did you notice at the very start, the recording engineer realizes he has a problem? The volume is too low but he quickly pulls it up to match the general level of the piece. Hard to believe this was actually released! And there was also a tempo problem when the orchestra gets too fast for the rhythm section, but eventually it corrects itself. When Butantan is repeated, plunging strings stress in no uncertain terms on the last “tan”. It’s about now one becomes aware of the orchestral Latin duvet surrounding a bed of strings.

The harpsichord begins the next phrase with lots of that forced string sound. Gradually we get back to the start with it getting softer and softer and ending in a very relaxed West Indian way.

By the mid-50s light classical items were becoming a thing of the past. There must have been pressure on Melachrino at EMI to modernize and have more Latin or novelty type things like more popular groups were churning out. Hence the emergence of pieces like Butantan.

“Butantan”
Melachrino Orchestra
“A Glorious Century of Light Music” Guild Records GLCD 5200

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Read 290 times Last modified on Thursday, 18 July 2019 08:27

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About Geoff 123
Geoff Leonard was born in Bristol. He spent much of his working career in banking but became an independent record producer in the early nineties, specialising in the works of John Barry and British TV theme compilations.
He also wrote liner notes for many soundtrack albums, including those by John Barry, Roy Budd, Ron Grainer, Maurice Jarre and Johnny Harris. He co-wrote two biographies of John Barry in 1998 and 2008, and is currently working on a biography of singer, actor, producer Adam Faith.
He joined the Internet Movie Data-base (www.imdb.com) as a data-manager in 2001 and looked after biographies, composers and the music-department, amongst other tasks. He retired after nine years loyal service in order to continue writing.