With perhaps the most misleading label to ever be applied to a particular genre, library music was music originally recorded with the intention of being used to provide background during film and television sequences. Not composed with particular scenes in mind the music was instead recorded and later sold to (usually lower budget) film production companies who then matched it to their needs. Since it was never intended to be listened to outside of this context and the songs were rarely heard from beginning to end, the music was free to work on a groove as opposed to being bound to conventional song structures. It also tended to emulate whatever sound was popular at the time as longevity was never one of its concerns either. If all of this brings to mind visions of Muzak® consider that the tracks collected on Cinemaphonic: Soul Punch were recorded during the heyday of funk and soul, Moog synthesizers were still new, and shaking your booty was a high priority. All of these qualities have made ’70s library music highly sought after by DJs looking for rare sounds and producers seeking obscure yet funky samples.
The 14 tracks on the second installment of the Cinemaphonic series are credited to names that you have most likely never encountered before — unless you were in charge of adding audio to car chase scenes for a B-grade British movie house in the ’70s (and even then . . .). An exception is the ubiquitous Dick Hyman who seems to have been involved in every musical genre of the 1960s and ’70s, from cheesy listening to Moog records to straight ahead jazz (and whose “Flute Loop” included here shockingly has nothing to do with the Beastie Boys track of the same name). Few of the songs stray very far past the three-minute mark and all are annotated with such helpful descriptions as “Punchy brass riffs with very exciting “funky” rhythm backing, short fuzz guitar and organ solo” (“Soul Punch” by Piet Van Meren) and “Understated moody theme over repetitive rhythm figure. Brighter, double tempo under flute solo from 1.10 to 2.20” (“Flute Salad” by Bill Geldard). Hey, you wouldn’t want to accidentally have “punchy” for your stealthy bank robbing scene and “moody” for your shoot out, would you?
While Italian and French music libraries are also highly prized, those staid, uptight British are bound to be responsible for a few double-takes after hearing these tracks. Apparently the British’s ability to absorb American-bred sounds and market them back to Americans was in no short supply during the ’70s. While electric piano and flute are popular accompaniments to the standard rhythm section, horns and (that most favored of British musical devices) string sections also make appearances. Moogs contribute melodies to a number of tracks including Alan Hawkshaw and Brian Bennett’s “Daytripper” which could hold its own next to some of Gershon Kingsley’s more commercial offerings of the same period. The songs have an unexpectedly contemporary feel to them or perhaps contemporary music has simply caught up to them (have you listened to the soundtrack to Miami Vice lately?). The rhythm section on Syd Dale’s “Knock on Wood” would not sound out of place amongst the grooves of a Stereolab record.
Compiler David Hollander can be given credit for assembling consistently above average soul jazz cuts made all the more surprising considering the fate that awaited the tracks. It’s enough to make you think that MIDI’s enabling of a musician to produce library music on a digital keyboard himself by the ’80s wasn’t such an advancement after all. If you ever find that your own life needs a little soundtrack music of its own you could do a lot worse than Soul Punch.