Mort Garson - Mother Earth's Plantasia - - Soundblab

Mort Garson - Mother Earth's Plantasia

by Howard Scott Rating:9 Release Date:2019-06-21
Mort Garson - Plantasia
Mort Garson - Plantasia

Mort Garson had one of the most diverse careers ever chronicled in the music business. In over forty years of activity, he worked with everyone from Doris Day to Ruby and the Romantics. At times, he was a session musician, an arranger, a producer, and a songwriter. His work can be heard on the strings backing up Glen Campbell’s “By The Time I Get To Phoenix”, and on NASA recordings created for immortalizing the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing.

Garson was also one of the first musicians to embrace Robert Moog’s synthesizer in the late 60’s. He had met Moog at an industry trade show in 1967 and immediately fell in love with the seemingly unlimited variations of sound the new machine could create. Albums like “Electronic Hair Pieces” and “The Zodiac - Cosmic Sounds” were created by Garson to put the newfangled electronics front and center. They were also documented as the first recordings made on the west coast using the Moog.

Under the pseudonym of Lucifer, Garson also recorded the album “Black Mass” in 1971, as well as a Grammy award-winning score for the children’s record “The Little Prince”, which was a spoken voice vehicle for Richard Burton. To say Garson was diverse is a monumental understatement.

In 1976, Garson released Mother Earth’s Plantasia, which he called “warm earth music for plants…and the people who love them.” The disc includes 10 cuts of Moog-heavy tunes with clever titles dedicated to our green friends such as “Symphony For A Spider Plant” and “You Don’t Have To Walk A Begonia”. The record was originally produced as a giveaway for customers of the Mother Earth store on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles and has been a treasured and valuable rarity for years, so a reissue has been clamored for, for quite some time.

It is interesting, some 43 years later, to hear how the Moog was used by a skilled musician who by then had been working with the contraption for almost ten years. Opener “Plantasia” gives us a bubbly background layered with a whistling base before the orchestral melody takes over. Have you ever stood in one of those never-ending lines at someplace like Disney World, where they blare uplifting music at you that hints at something special yet to come? That is what this tune reminded me of. It does a pretty fair job of giving the listener that same hint of great things ahead, so its placement as opener is fully earned.

A couple of standouts to my ears are “Ode To An African Violet”, which carries a darker undertone of jungle beats laced with spacey effects to ooze mystery and trepidation. “A Mellow Mood For Maidenhair” adds the sound of an electric guitar to the mix to give the song a different flavor than the rest of the record, while “Music To Soothe The Savage Snake Plant” does take the edge off, even if you don’t participate in photosynthesis.

Garson performs a slightly longer than half an hour demonstration of what a Moog could do in the hands of someone who had been immersed in every facet of the music world for decades. It is a pleasing, fun recording with no vocals, but also no boring, overindulgent  “look at what I can do” moments that others used to their own detriment in later years. (I once saw a well-known keyboardist try to impress the audience by playing two Moogs at once using both hands. The trouble is, the sound emanating from this exercise was so ghastly that the onlookers just starred in disbelief.)

It isn’t hard to see why this record has earned a substantial following over the years. It provides a rock-solid base from which later electronics-based bands have sprung and prospered and it serves as a great cornerstone for what would eventually become an entirely new category of recorded music.

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