Poe for Moderns: Music to Scare your Neighbours - Buddy Morrow & His Spooky Friends - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Poe for Moderns: Music to Scare your Neighbours - Buddy Morrow & His Spooky Friends

by Andy Brown Rating:7.5 Release Date:2012-10-29

Once you've outgrown trick or treating (or simply can't get away with it without looking kind of odd), Halloween is simply an excuse to immerse yourself in some decent (or trashy if you prefer) horror films. You'll also need something to read and, most importantly, some suitably spooky tunes.

The Cramps and the John Carpenter Halloween soundtrack should be on constant rotation and if you were going to choose a poet you couldn't go far wrong with a dash of Edgar Allan Poe. Poe has had a fairly broad influence on popular culture, after all, with everyone from the Simpsons to The Beatles having shown their appreciation for the works of the master of the macabre. You could be forgiven for not having heard of Buddy Morrows' jazz-horror obscurity Poe for Moderns, however.

The album was originally released in 1960 and has been widely unavailable for some time; this re-issue sees the original 12 track album combined with no less then 18 (!) extra tunes (under the banner Spooky Sounds for Scary Moments). What's more, Poe for Moderns and Spooky Sounds are distinctly unique entities.

Poe for Moderns is certainly a pretty strange LP and probably not the kind of album you'll find yourself listening to on a daily basis. That's not to say that Buddy Morrow and his Orchestra don't do a fine job bringing Poe's poetry to life. While my earlier description of 'jazz-horror' may have brought to mind the far-out sounds of the Sun Ra Arkestra, the album is actually a fairly laid-back affair. Think old black and white films, The Singing Detective soundtrack and, I don't know, the incidental music from The Pink Panther cartoons.

Not every track has vocals but the ones that do definitely work the best. Take the creepy spoken-word 'Annabel Lee' and you can almost picture Nick Cave relaxing to it in his study (in the basement). 'The Raven' takes Poe's best known piece and, appropriately, turns it into a maddening, but catchy, song. 'The Bells' stands out among the jazz noodling's as a particularly odd, Phil Spector-esque pop-tune. It's an interesting oddity and certainly sets the mood for Halloween, but it's the Spooky Sounds for Scary Moments section of the album that really impresses.

Spooky Sounds brings together a host of (mainly) obscure rock 'n' roll bands from the late 50s and early 60s; all of them obsessed with b-movies, the burgeoning teen culture and Chuck Berry records. There's also tonnes of humour here; I mean a song called 'The Purple People Eater Meets the Witch Doctor' (by Joe South) was never going to be too serious.

I'd be surprised not to find some of these records in The Cramps personal collections. Highlights include John Zacherie with 'Dinner with Dracula'; which contains the lyric, "The waitress, a vampire named Perkins was so very fond of small gherkins/ While she served the tea she ate 43/ which pickled her internal workings/Ha ha ha!" Quite possibly the best lyric I've heard in some time. Spooky Sounds is filled with saxophone solos, 1950s sci-fi sounds and some brilliantly fun and imaginative rock 'n' roll; there's not a weak moment over the entire 18 tracks.

Overall, this is a really unique package and would go down a treat at any Halloween gathering you may be having. Having said that, the songs on the Spooky Sounds for Scary Moments section are far too good to be resigned to once yearly plays; this is classic rock 'n' roll. As the helium-filled, pre-Butthole Surfers voice says on the aforementioned 'The Purple People Eater':"Yeah man, you're ugly but you sure can play". Can't argue with that. A very cool sound.

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