Radiophonic Workshop CD collection

The John Baker Tapes Released On Trunk Records      25/06/08

Buying Choices

For a satisfying mix of lost film music, experimental synth collections and cosmic library jazz, you need look no further than Trunk Records, a website run by 38 year old Brit, Jonny Trunk.

A whole decade of ecclectic releases speak for themselves…
Soundtrack albums from The Wicker Man, Dawn Of The Dead and Blood On Satan’s Claw, The Walt Rockman Moog Moods (described by Jonny himself as ‘almost insane’) and Desmond Leslie’s Music Of The Future are just a few examples of Trunk's unusual output.
But this strange world of nostalgia and thrift shop mentality is about to get a whole lot more intriguing with their latest project.
The release of 2 CD’s by Radiophonic Workshop composer, John Baker.

Baker joined the BBC as a studio manager in 1960 and moved to the Delaware Road studio in 1963. There he pioneered many techniques based on pitch shifting and analogue tape editing. This he fused with a love of jazz to create his wholly unique recordings for BBC TV and radio programmes of the early 1960s.
By mid decade he was in great demand as a composer of library and production music creating soundscapes and rhythms with a blend of acoustic instruments, synths and Musique Concrete.

His often tragic story is simpathetically told by his brother Richard as sleeve notes on Volume 1 of this new collection of his work. The Volume 2 sleeve notes feature an obituary that appeared in The Times in 1977.

The John Baker Tapes – Volume 1
The CD opens with a BBC announcement, “the time is half past seven. Newstime.� Followed by Baker’s 23 second newstime ident. We’re then treated to themes from Tros Y Gareg, Vendetta, Dial M For Murder and various idents from Look North, Radio Nottingham and Women’s Hour. There’s an intriguing interview where Baker explains a few of his techniques. Describing a low pass as “muffling it a bit�! The extent of his editing prowess becomes apparent when he describes an effect achieved by cider being poured from a bottle that builds into an arpeggio.
There’s the sublime Submarines and the themes and idents from Tom Tom and Diary Of A Madman.
With over 73 minutes and 49 tracks in all, there’s certainly value for money and the CD closes with a variety of Radiophonic spot FX; C, A and B.

The John Baker Tapes – Volume 2
This features soundtracks, library, home recordings and electro ads from the period 1954 to 1985. There’s a swathe of jazz edged renditions here with Get Happy, Out Of Nowhere, Brass Bandied and Brass Widow. These are complimented by a large amount of electro cues, as Baker branches out into advertising jingles for the likes of Giro and Omo washing powder.
There’s a track of tape FX from the 1980’s and even an 8 second test tone!
The CD ends with a touching solo piano piece, All The Things You Are which highlights Baker’s chops as a conventional musician.

Sure, getting on for half a century later it’s difficult to distinguish this music from it’s many imitators. It may even appear a little naïve. But viewed as the first major retrospective of a Delaware Road composer, it’s a testament to the pioneering influence of the Radiophonic Workshop and in particular the hugely innovative work of John Baker.

The John Baker Tapes – Volume 1 is released by Trunk Records on July 28, followed by Volume 2 on August 25.

Simon Power

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