Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
Henry Mancini - Uniquely Mancinidot
artworkNow, you may wonder if lounge fever has overtaken me here, but not to worry. There's a lesson in this review.

Henry Mancini wrote some mighty melodic and surfable stuff, and even wrote a tune that the Astronauts covered on their first album. The liner notes from their Surfin' With The Astronauts album dubbed him Henry 'Hodad' Mancini, and "Banzai Pipeline" appears here in it's original version.

"Banzai Pipeline" has been covered by bands with great credentials, like the Raybeats, Fat Man and Team Fat, the Thrusters, Pavlov's Woody, the Boardwalkers, the Revelaires, the Boss Martians, the Blue Hawaiians, Danny and the Seniors, Thee Phantom 5ive, the Ventures, and others.

There are also some pretty strange covers here. So, without further adieu...
Picks: Green Onions, Stairway To The Stars, Night Train, Lullaby Of Birdland, Chelsea Bridge, C Jam Blues, Banzai Pipeline, Rhapsody In Blue, Cheers!, Lonesome, The Hot Canary, Moonlight Serenade

Track by Track Review

Green Onions dot
Orchestra (Instrumental)

Verging on petrifying, this orchestral arrangement of Booker T. and the MG's' classic Memphis studio jam "Green Onions" is just too bizarre. All the soul is gone, replaced by the suavit'e of the Mancini horns. The sax honks and squonks at times, and the horns do the long slow down glissando a la the "Pink Panther" theme. Very strange.

Stairway To The Stars
Orchestra (Instrumental)

French horn suave, soft moody slush, and cocktail swizzle stick schmooze. No "Stairway to Heaven" this.

Night Train
Orchestra (Instrumental)

James Brown's astounding "Night Train" becomes Henry Mancini's Pullman to detectiveland. I understand what he was doing with this, but not why. It doesn't seem to work at all.

Lullaby Of Birdland dot
Orchestra (Instrumental)

Harkening back to the forties, but without the fire of the big bands, "Lullaby Of Birdland" doesn't quite gel. Piano is the lead instrument, and as such, doesn't push "Lullaby Of Birdland" beyond the piano bar stage.

Chelsea Bridge
Orchestra (Instrumental)

Like a soft tribute to the Honeymooners theme song, "Chelsea Bridge" is late night fare for sure.

C Jam Blues dot
Orchestra (Instrumental)

The classic "C Jam Blues" is loosely interpreted from it's jazz foundation, all cleaned up and soul free. Spooky.

Banzai Pipeline dotdotdot
Orchestra (Instrumental)

This is it, the entire reason this LP is reviewed. If it wasn't for the Astronauts' fine surf version, no surfband would ever have covered it. I'm sure the fact that both artists were on RCA had something to do with it, and I wonder if the Astronauts heard this, or heard a demo, or were just brought sheet music. Anyway, to the review. Henry 'Hodad' Mancini's large orchestra suave sound permeates this. One has to wonder if its title was incidental to cash in on the surf fever that raged in LA, or if he actually thought this was surfy in some way. "Banzai Pipeline" is hauntingly vibrant, with the Mancini horn sound providing the power surges. You have to hear this once, if only to "get it" about the thumpy bass line in the Astronauts' version.

Rhapsody In Blue
Orchestra (Instrumental)

This is the sort of thing that opened sad bar scenes on Jackie Gleason's TV show, where some sad sack of a character would lose once again.

Orchestra (Instrumental)

Big band celebratory brash brass. High spirited, but a little too pristine for the genre.

Orchestra (Instrumental)

Slow piano moodiness yields to a verge-of-tears horn solo. Strictly tear jerker stuff.

The Hot Canary
Orchestra (Instrumental)

Flighty flutes chirp out an aviary excursion. Fanciful, but unremarkable.

Moonlight Serenade dotdotdot
Orchestra (Instrumental)

Like a low key theme from Picnic, this classic longs for an upbeat "Route 66" piano, or something. Soft and artificially old.