Dick Hyman— “Give It Up or Turn It Loose”: Brace for the Obscure (60s rock)! — April 17, 2023


798) Dick Hyman — “Give It Up or Turn It Loose”

I give you “the most mind-blowing interpretation of James Brown’s ‘Give It Up or Turn It Loose’ you’ll ever hear” (Thom Holmes, https://moogfoundation.org/moog-a-history-in-recordings-dick-hyman-master-stylist-of-the-moog-modular/), “über-funky . . . [with] more freaky libidinousness than you’d expect from suit-and-tie-wearing, middle-aged white guy who likes to twiddle nobs” (https://jivetimerecords.com/2019/04/dick-hyman-the-age-of-electronicus-command-1969/), an “experiment in Electronic Soul . . . . [with t]he excitement of [Brown’s] singing and dancing . . . expressed electronically by the [Moog] Synthesizer in swooshes, sweeps, and explosions of what engineers call, ironically, ‘white noise‘.”* (The Candyman, http://stereocandies.blogspot.com/2018/10/dick-hyman-age-of-electronicus-1969.html)

The song comes from Hyman’s ’69 album The Age of Electronicus, which Matthias Kirsch calls:

[A]n amalgamation of hippie culture and avantgarde, spiced up with live drums on the tunes of the day . . . . Hard on the brink of sounding too hilarious, Dick Hyman always understands that the synthesizer ‘is not about to replace any instrument or orchestra’, but ‘when the synthesizer is used to create its own thing, the new aural events are remarkable for both the player-arranger and the listener.'”


Soundohm lauds the album:

Dick Hyman’s 1969 opus . . . [is] a visionary, funky excursion into the vast potential presented by the newly developed Moog synthesizer – stands as a shining example of the post-war avant-garde’s infiltration of the popular realm. Awash with creative optimism about the role of progress, change, and technology in society at large, it’s one of those obscurities that’s long been championed by diggers across the world, but has never fully gotten its rightful due. . . . [It] belongs to roughly the same canon of recordings as Wendy Carlos’ Switched-On Bach, Morton Subotnick’s Silver Apples of the Moon, Mort Garson’s Electronic Hair Pieces, and Raymond Scott’s Soothing Sounds For Baby. It encounters a forward-thinking artist harnessing the new possibilities presented by synthesisers, deploying it as progressive aural signifier within the popular realm, playfully diving in with covers of the Beatles’ Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da and Blackbird; Booker T. & The M.G.’s Time Is Tight and Green Onions; Aquarius from Hair, James Brown’s Give It Up or Turn It Loose; Burt Bacharach’s Alfie; and Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides Now. Joyous, funky as hell, and peppered with humor, The Age of Electronicus stands at the lofty heights beyond the exotica and kitsch temperaments that retrospectively burden many of its peers. Pushing the Moog to its limit – blended with primitive drum machines, repetitive bass lines, and robotic beats – it ventures into a world of space-age utopianism that presents a dreaming vision of a possible future that still might come. An absolute blast from start to finish, and a total immersion into the ’60s dream . . . .


Dusty Groove Records:

One of the all-time great moog albums of the 60s – served up by pianist Dick Hyman, who’d cut a fair bit of more standard material in the years before – but who also turned out to be a wizard with the new electric instrument, helping it to find a very fresh sound! Unlike some of the more offbeat moogy records of the time, Hyman’s approach focuses right in on the groove – using lots of influences from both soul and pop, but also exploding the electronics at a level that take the moog way past some of the more simple moog cover records of the period.


Jive Time Records:

While Robert Moog’s invention tends to time-stamp music with as much finality as Auto-Tune has done in this century’s first two decades, some of the former material has endured beyond cheap nostalgia thrills. And that includes this cover-heavy opus. . . . He applied his dexterity and ingenuity to the then-novel Moog synthesizer with both virtuosity and opportunistic glee. . . . Sure, Electronicus smacks of Moog-hysteria cash-in, but Hyman’s inventiveness with this familiar and relatively eclectic material raises the record high above most of its counterparts now moldering in bargain bins.


All that being said, Electronicus wasn’t as successful as Hyman’s first Moog album:

When the LP was released, the previous “Moog – The Electric Eclectics of Dick Hyman” was still in the Billboard Top 100 LP Chart. Surprisingly, “The Age of Electronicus” failed to repeat the success experienced by its predecessor . . . . [T]he now legendary “The Minotaur” . . . was the track [from Electric Eclectics] which got picked up by radio stations months earlier and was fundamental to the success of the previous album, becoming the very first single featuring a Moog synthesizer to chart. . . . The album only spent 11 weeks in the Billboard Top 200 LP Chart – peaking at #110 – and the poor performance of the “Green Onions b/w Aquarius” single, which peaked at #126, didn’t help the LP to reach the success I think it deserved. Furthermore, by the time “The Age of Aquarius” was released, record shops were also offering many other Moog albums . . . .


As to Hyman, Scott Yanow tells us:

A very versatile virtuoso, Dick Hyman . . . . can clearly play anything he wants to, and since the ’70s, he has mostly concentrated on pre-bop swing and stride styles. Hyman worked with Red Norvo (1949-1950) and Benny Goodman (1950), and then spent much of the 1950s and ’60s as a studio musician. He appears on the one known sound film of Charlie Parker (Hot House from 1952); recorded honky tonk under pseudonyms; played organ and early synthesizers in addition to piano; was Arthur Godfrey’s music director (1959-1962); collaborated with Leonard Feather on some History of Jazz concerts (doubling on clarinet), and even performed rock and free jazz; but all of this was a prelude to his later work. In the 1970s, Hyman played with the New York Jazz Repertory Company, formed the Perfect Jazz Repertory Quintet (1976), and started writing soundtracks for Woody Allen films.


* “Live drums play along with the Maestro Rhythmaster, a metronome-like mechanical drum device.” (The Candyman, http://stereocandies.blogspot.com/2018/10/dick-hyman-age-of-electronicus-1969.html)

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