“Love So Fine” is something of a lost A&M hit. It sounded like it should have been a smash on the charts, yet it was pretty much forgotten over the years. Diehard fans of Roger Nichols with his Small Circle of Friends hadn’t forgotten, and Herb Alpert covered this with his Tijuana Brass on the Herb Alpert’s Ninth album. After a decades-long absence, Nichols and the Small Circle of Friends have released two albums in recent years, well worth seeking out if you liked their smooth vocal sounds from the original A&M album!
One of our favorite tracks from the Coney Island album was “Vento Bravo,” composed and originally performed by Edu Lobo. Here is the cut featured on his Missa Breve album from 1973.
It’s no secret that “Maniac” was a popular #1 hit by Michael Sembello (especially given its appearance in the film Flashdance), and it was a natural for Herb to cover the tune in a modern TJB fashion on his Bullish album. To the uninitiated, Sembello seemed like a one-hit wonder, but he was (and still is) a busy gigging musician, having appeared on many popular recordings. His experiences reach as far back as Stevie Wonder’s landmark Songs in the Key of Life, which he recorded on as a teenager. Sembello has also recorded his own music on A&M. Herb’s Bullish album hinted at “Tijuana Brass” on its cover, and the album coincided with a reunion tour of the 70s-era T.J.B..
The songwriting duo of Burt Bacharach and Hal David created the music for the Broadway production Promises, Promises, which was an adaptation of the Billy Wilder film The Apartment. Dionne Warwick would make this tune an international hit, and Herb covered it on his You Smile–The Song Begins album from 1973. The vocal version of tune appears at the end of the production.
The Crusaders (Joe Sample, Wilton Felder and Stix Hooper) had a hugely successful jazz/funk/R&B crossover hit with their tune “Street Life,” featuring the vocals of Randy Crawford. Herb not only covered “Street Life” on his Rise album, but featured the maestro himself, Joe Sample, on keyboards in this performance.
Here, then, is the full album length version of “Street Life.”
Herb Alpert’s Rise featured this low-key album track on side two. Penned by singer/songwriter Bill Withers, “Love Is” appears on his album ‘Bout Love. Long out of print, it has recently been made available on CD by way of the Complete Sussex & Columbia Album Masters box set, containing mini-LP versions of all of Wither’s albums, for about the cost of two single CDs. Essential!
The tune “Lemon Tree” has its roots in the late 1930s. Based on an old Brazilian folk song “Meu Limão, Meu Limoeiro,”, Will Holt wrote this English version of the song in the late 1950s. While the tune was performed by Peter, Paul & Mary, Bob Marley and The Wailers, Roger Whittaker, Chad & Jeremy and others, it was the Trini Lopez version (below) which would become a Billboard Top 20 hit. The Tijuana Brass would cover this on the food-themed Whipped Cream & Other Delights album in 1965.
Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass, Vol. 2 featured the song “A-me-ri-ca” from the wildly successful cultural milestone West Side Story. While the story was originally produced on Broadway, it was the film that became a cultural phenomenon, and cover versions of the film’s most popular songs were found on seemingly everone’s albums back in the day.
Alpert changed up the original’s polyrhythmic structure and set it to his own mariachi-themed arrangement, a favorite track on the Brass’s second album that is as much fun to listen as the original movie clip from which it was taken.
On a chance meeting in a Vienna bistro, film director Carol Reed heard Anton Karas’s playing the zither (for tips!). Upon having the revelation that this was the sound he wanted for his film The Third Man, Reed convinced the 40-hear-old Karas to compose the entire film score. Karas revived a tune he hadn’t played in 15 years as the main theme song for the film. In the UK, where the song was as wildly popular as it was in the US, the theme was more popularly known as “The Harry Lime Theme,” named after the main character in the film (played by actor Orson Welles). It topped the charts on both sides of the Atlantic, spending 11 weeks atop the Billboard best sellers chart in the US.
Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass originally recorded the tune as a single, with “A Taste of Honey” on the B-side. DJs began playing “Honey” instead, which opened the floodgates for the immensely popular Whipped Cream & Other Delights album. “Third Man Theme” would end up on the following album, Going Places, several months later.
Leading off side two of the Sounds Like… Tijuana Brass album was “Town Without Pity.” The tune was originally a 1961 recording by pop crooner Gene Pitney, with music composed by Dimitri Tiomkin and lyrics by Ned Washington. It was composed for the film of the same name, and received a Golden Globe along with an Academy Award nomination for best motion picture song.