Elvis, the Beatles, Frank, and Herb?
The original Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass’s Whipped Cream & Other Delights was the fourth largest selling album of the ‘60s, behind only discs by Elvis Presley, the Beatles, and Frank Sinatra. The record provided the soundtrack to countless suburban backyard barbecues, pool parties, and graduation festivities. However, the very success of the album caused a backlash against it. Even before the decade was over the music was regarded as cheesy commercial fodder, equated with the vapidity of the middle-class, white bread audience that purchased it. No doubt part of this was due to the title song’s use as the theme for television’s The Dating Game” one of the first and lamest reality-style shows to hit the airwaves. That’s unfortunate, because Alpert and company possessed a horny genius for performing Latin jazz inflected pop.
A word about the Hispanic accents of the music needs to be said. Up until the first half of the ‘60s, musicians often colored their melodies with foreign flourishes to provide a touch of exotica. This could be done in a number of ways, through the use of odd instruments (did someone mention the zither and the theme to Zorba the Greek?), language (think of “Sukiyaki”, a hit single sung entirely in Japanese that had nothing to do with the food dish from which the song got its title), or, like Alpert and his band, adding a spicy accompaniment to non-ethnic tunes. This was not considered offensive or condescending. Indeed, the opposite was true. Listeners found this hip and progressive.
It’s been more than 40 years since the original Whipped Cream was released. Alpert has given the tapes to a number of different producers to remix and make ready for contemporary audiences. He’s also provided new solos on a number of the tracks to give them an added kick. The results vary, but this project succeeds overall. The various cuts come off as catchy, electronica-style lounge music. Just like it did four decades ago, this music provides excellent accompaniment for shaking up cocktails and chilling out to.
The best tracks on Whipped Cream & Other Delights Rewhipped are still the same ones that were the most excellent songs on the original album. Generally, the remixers don’t radically cut up the prize material as much as reframe the cuts and add beats and squiggles to them. This is true of Anthony Marinelli’s production of the title track (which also includes the band Ozomatli and Alpert contributing some new riffs), and John King’s remake of the first record’s biggest hit, “A Taste of Honey”. Both versions feature the same engaging instrumental licks that made the originals so damn cool and keep the horny hooks blaring, but in altered contexts.
Other highlights include Medeski, Martin, and Wood’s bluesy subversion of “El Garbanzo”, the Thievery Corporation’s gentle dub mix of “Lemon Tree”, Mocean Worker’s breezy “Bittersweet Samba”, and Marinelli’s funky take on “Lollipops and Roses”. Marinelli remixed six of the dozen songs and supervises the disc’s production. This gives the album a seamlessness that otherwise might be missing when songs are mixed by different deejays.
The same label (Shout!) responsible for this effort also has re-released the original Whipped Cream & Other Delights with two additional bonus cuts. The albums seem to be geared to two separate audiences. The 1965 disc appeals to nostalgia buffs who remember the album from way back when and to fans of that era’s music. This new record would be more of interest to contemporary music enthusiasts. Both albums have their merits, though, and fans of Alpert would benefit by owning both.
Incidentally, the cover art of the older album has become a part of urban folklore. The cover depicted a nubile young woman deliciously covered with whipped cream. The rumor was that if one were very careful, a person could peel off the thin outer layer of the print and be rewarded with a naked picture of the lovely lass. This wasn’t true, of course, but one would be hard pressed to find an album from back in the day that didn’t show signs of someone trying to strip the cardboard of its veneer. The remix CD features a photo of a similar-looking lady (model Bree Condon) in a whipped cream bikini as homage. It ain’t the same, but the fault lies not with Condon. Back in 1965, an image of a naked woman was hard to come by. Now it just takes the flick of a finger on a computer keyboard. Times have changed. So has the music. The fact that Alpert’s holds up so well proves how talented he was and is.