[9 July 2013]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
Some of the grooviest, not to mention most innovative music of the 1970s was never intended for release on a commercial record label. Instead, it was created and archived by production music libraries. These libraries commissioned and archived proprietary recordings and licensed them for television and radio use. Those local news theme songs and bits of background music for public service announcements? Likely music library material.
KPM was a British production music library that still operates as part of EMI. The music KPM created during the late 1960s and 1970s has since gained a cult following by hip hop artists, DJs, and Quentin Tarantino among others. Music For Dancefloors, which compiles some of KPM’s music during this period, shows why. Inadvertently, composers such as Alan Parker, Keith Mansfield, Alan Hawkshaw, and others were creating a unique, diverse, musically accomplished body of work that would prove to be ahead of its time.
And it was funky as hell.
The sole vocal track here, Parker’s “That’s What Friends Are For”, is an ebullient burst of good vibes that serves as a virtual blueprint for the “nu-soul” and “acid jazz” movements of the 1990s. Duncan Lamont’s Clavinet-led, wah-wah-infused “Funky Express” is the nastiest Blaxploitation theme that never was.
And there’s plenty of variety, too. P. Xanten’s “In Advance” is brassy jazz-funk, while Alan Moorhouse’s “Expo in Tokyo” fuses descending, Far Eastern scales with Hammond organ vamping. Music for Dancefloors also makes room for samba (Barry Morgan and Roy Cooper’s “Samba Street”, G. Callert’s “Brazil Express”), salsa (Has Ehrlinger’s “Jungle Baby”), dub reggae (William Farley’s “Reggae Train”), acid folk (Les Baxter’s “Freeway to Rio”), and several permutations of jazz. And it’s all rendered with a consistent focus on groove and bright, efficient arrangement.
Music for Dancefloors, compiled by DJ Adrian Gibson and Strut Records founder Quenton Scott, was originally issued in 2000. This “deluxe” reissue adds a second disc, comprised of a concert by the KPM All-Stars, a group of music library veterans headed by Mansfield. Yes, KPM’s cult following had reached the point where they could take the show on the road. The performances, though they lack the pristine edges of the studio work, are rendered with plenty of funk and musical chops before an audibly appreciative audience. The highlight is the closing medley of UK sports themes, including the oft-used The Big Match theme.
In the United States, the legacy of KPM lives on in the Monday Night Football theme, composed by KPM’s Johnny Pearson. Mostly, though, this is the kind of music vinyl junkies and rare groove collectors live for. Thankfully, Strut has made some of it available to the masses. Historically important but also eminently listenable, it’s really stuff any music lover should own.