Alshire gives you seven fantastic songs written by Simon and Garfunkel, each of which has chalked up sales enough to make them eligible for the coveted Gold Record Awards. They are presented here in the inimitable style of Monty Kelly. Also included in the program are three Kelly original compositions. We believe you will enjoy these modern sounds of the big 101 String Orchestra.
Following his triumphant interpretations of the Lennon and McCartney songbook, Kelly furthered his foray into the generation gap with the subtle, cerebral material of Simon and Garfunkel. (Serendipitously, this album predated the release of the lethal “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”) This is an orchestrated vision of folk-pop blending Elizabethan regality, Impressionist delicacy, and Peter Max foppery - a rococo-baroque psychedelia in pastels, flower power background music for high-rent headshops.
The most panoramic track is "The Boxer." In Kelly’s hands, the dour dirge is transformed into a splendiferous shuffle, sparkling with air-freshening enzymes. If this is wallpaper, it’s stereogram wallpaper. The narrative of “The Boxer” is intact — amplified, even — as a defiant cornet propels the melody line through spinning constellations of harps, harpsichords, cellos, and trombones finally erupting, nova-like, into laser beams of the scruffiest imaginable fuzz guitar. Whoa.
“Mrs. Robinson” glows with translucent guitar riffs and phosphorescent strings while the rhythm section flexes muscle. “Feelin’ Groovy,” full of key changes and false codas, is as jaunty as Fred Astaire’s fanciest moves. “Homeward Bound” is permeated with Jimmy Webb wistfulness, while “I Am A Rock” shines both bright and perverse, all the better to emphasize the narrator’s tragic obduration.
After the interludes, the heavyweight tunes. Kelly sets up “Scarborough Fair” with his elegiac original “When The Trees That Are Green Turn To Brown,” a minstrel’s lament set upon the inverted chords of “House of the Rising Sun.” Then “Scarborough Fair” takes the stage, strumming pantomime poetry elegant and ancient. “The Sounds of Silence” is deeper still: thespian, intense, coruscating, despairing - a Shakespearean vibration.
There are two more Kelly compositions. “Orange Grove Avenue” is velvet Now Sound, whimsical fluff a la Love, American Style, and “Trav’lin’ Again” extrapolates the raw data of “Homeward Bound” to produce an organic mashup, pampered and mellow. Boldly enough, these two originals end the album – possibly Kelly’s finest session. Certainly, it’s Benjamin Braddock’s favorite 101 Strings album.
Extra special credit goes to the peppy felicity of the uncredited folk-rock rhythm section employed throughout the album – and that insane gamma-ray guitar man.
Originally released on Alshire, 1969.
Barry Stoller’sThe 101 Strings Review Blog is updated regularly.