Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Library Book Sale CD Trove IX

Still reviewing my CD finds from half-price day at the Friends of the Multnomah County Library Annual Booksale.

Mannheim Steamroller: Fresh Aire III

"Why?" many of you are asking, and my response would be that I totally grooved on Mannheim Steamroller for a brief period in early adolescence, age 13. This period was also marked by enthusiasm for Styx, Chuck Mangione, the Alan Parsons Project, and Neil Diamond's soundtrack for the "Jonathon Livingston Seagull" movie. It was, obviously, a difficult time in my young life.

The Mannheim Steamroller schtick appears to be that of a guy with an excited but simplistic enthusiasm for baroque music, an amateur flair for composition, access to great professional recording equipment, and a room full of synthesizers and random accoustic instruments. The effect is occasionally pleasant, but always extremely cheesy. The music is so by-the-numbers that you can pretty much follow the thought process all the way through at first listen, second guessing whether that sythesizer crescendo was a bit too heavy handed (almost certainly; subtlety is not the Steamroller's strength) or if that fugue is really as clever as the composer thought it was (almost certainly not).

In sum, this stuff sounds like what ~I~ might come up with if given unlimited time and resources to craft an album of instrumentals. And lest there be any confusion, let me make clear that this is meant as a scathing put-down.

Fun Fact for 70s Survivors: Chip Davis, the central figure of Mannheim Steamroller, was also the brainchild of the runaway 1975 hit, "Convoy." Which, when you listen to it with this knowledge, is clearly a Mannheim Steamroller piece, with merely a different sort of spin and target audience. It was, incidentally, the second song I remember as being my "favorite," replacing Van McCoy & the Soul City Symphony's legendary "The Hustle." Did I mention, I was seven?


sister jen said...

Oh. My. God. MS & "Convoy"?? Explains SO much.

sister jen said...

P.S. I publicly apologize for any part I may have played in exposing you to your Top 2. I didn't mean to. I didn't know.

Ben said...

Sounds like you and I were on the same page for musical taste at age 13.

Michael5000 said...

@sis: I have long sense forgiven you.

@Ben: Arguably ugly secret -- I still kind of like Chuck Mangione. He's one of the featured artists on my "Dubious Jazz" Pandora station.

b said...

I loved "Convoy" when I was a little one too. I loved CD radios and all things big rig for about a year there.

I feel very out of the loop with Mannheim Steamroller though. I cannot recall every hearing them. I know I must have. I am going to iTunes to listen to samples just to see what you are talking about.

sister jen said...

Dare we mention "Year of the Cat"?

DrSchnell said...

I had a roommate in undergraduate years who was way into Fresh Aire and had all seven or whatever albums they had out at the time and played them incessantly. And I picked up the "Convoy" tidbit from him, and have yet to ever convince anybody else that it's true. But now, next time I come across an unbeliever, I can direct them to M5K, the source of Ultimate Truth (at least in Mannheim Steamroller-related trivia).

Michael5000 said...

Sis: See, now, I think "Year of the Cat" is a pretty good song.

DrSchnell: Having a college roommate who's way into Mannheim Steamroller doesn't seem quite right. It's kind of having a grandma who's really into the Grateful Dead. But I guess lots of people have grandmas like that now.