Neon Operas

Brilliant Colors: The Complete Warner Bros. Recordings

It’s  funny how sometimes one piece of music can lead you on to discovering another seemingly unrelated work that has an immediate impact on you. In my desperation to hear the new Prefab Sprout album, I downloaded an audio file of a German radio show that previewed the album. On that show, was a piece of music that I never heard before, Morning Girl by the Neon Philharmonic. Intrigued by this orchestrated pop gem, I tried to find out more about the group, and eventually purchased the double CD Brilliant Colors: The Complete Warner Bros. Recording. The album lives up to its title and  is a comprehensive collection of the complete two albums they recorded for Warner Brothers as well as a number of additional singles.

The Neon Philharmonic are certainly a fascinating part of the late 60s Sunshine/Baroque pop song and it is interesting to read the biographies of their singer Don Gant and songwriter Tupper Saussy. The ambition of their first two albums was certainly set very high -to essentially create an album that was essentially a pop opera before this became fashionable. And while there may be an element of over-the-top production and lyrics in titles like Long John The Pirate and  F. Scott Fitzgerald & William Shakespeare, the quality of the songs and intricate nature of the arrangements soon wins you over and makes you realise these are works are real quality.

One reference point is probably the works Jimmy Webb did with Richard Harris that share the orchestral ambition and occassional melodrama with the Neon Philharmonic – some may be turned off, but for me, these are all works of real quality. Are You Old Enough To Remember Dresden? may seem like a pretentious title, but this is a work of raw power and an intense brass-driven arrangement and bassline that really reels the listener in.

Morning Girl was the hit, but there are a lot of great songs amongst the 33 on the two CDs (plus some radio spots). This was a great chance discovery on my musical journey and you can come along too; you can buy or download at Amazon here.

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