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The Free Pop Electronic Concept - A New Exciting Experience (1970)

I owned this obscurity for a decade before I made the connection between it and the Portuguese-Belgian band Jess and James ... well before I read an article that laid out the connection. So much for my keen musical insight !

I won't bother going into Jess and James' biography. You can read it separately. That said, if you're familiar with their commercial brand of Euro-pop, then this one shot 1970 collaborative effort with Belgian classical composer and studio owner Arsene Souffriau will come as a major surprise.

Produced by Souffriau who also co-wrote all six tracks, "A New Exciting Experience" showcased the talents of Lameirinhas brothers James (bass) and Jess (lead guitar), along with Jess and James sidemen Scott Bradford (keyboards), Stu Martin (drums), and percussionist Vinagre. The original concept was quite avant garde. To quote the liner notes: "Take a third of free jazz and another third of pop music, and a third of electronic music, add several pinches of technical performances, shake and serve cold on a great record player ... the ear, however should be warmed up." So how'd it turn out? Funny to say, but from a musical stance at least half of the collection wasn't all that different from your standard Jess and James release. Tracks like '' and '' were quite commercial; the major difference being all five selections were recorded as instrumentals. Against this backdrop the album offered up a weird, but highly likeable stew of pop, psych, soul, and experimental sounds. This is nothing more than speculation on my part, but the album actually sounded like the band had recorded the basic rhythm tracks first with Souffriau dumping the experimental sounds during post-production. As a result, at times the set had a distinctive 'stitched together' feel. Unfortunately it also made for one of those releases you simply can't accurately describe so take all of this with a grain of salt.

Scott Bradford - keyboards
Jess (aka Tony Lam, aka Antionio Lameirinhas) -lead guitar
James (aka Wando Lam, aka Fernando Lameirinhas) -bass
Stu Martin - drums
Vinagre - percussion, sax

- 'Chewing Gum Delirium' started the album off with an interesting mixture of Booker T. and the MGs-styled Memphis soul with a bunch of electronic blips and burps dropped on top of it. The sizzling groove would have made Steve Cropper smile, though other than serving as an irritation the haphazard electronic sound effects added little to the overall feel.

- 'Cosmos Rhythms' was a little more experimental with the band turning in an extended, African-flavored percussion-based jam that allowed Souffriau's experimental edge a greater spotlight. Nice track except for the irritating sax figure.

- With Sauffriau's electronic frosting applied in an even heaver dose, 'Planetary Gospel' sounded like something the Ramsey Lewis Trio, or Ray Charles might have released in the mid-1960s - orchestrated soul-jazz. The in-studio party sound effects were actually funny to hear when juxtaposed against the electronic whirlwind.

- 'F.P.E.T. No 1 (Free Pop Electronic Theme' was another attractive Memphis-styled jam highlighted by some tasty lead guitar from Jess, Scott Bradford's B-3 Hammond and Stu Martin's Latin flavored percussion. Once again the basic groove was so strong that Souffriau's electronics really didn't add a great deal to the mix; in fact you seldom actually noticed the bleeps and blurbs on this one.

- The album closed out with another Memphis soul influenced number, though this time out The Memphis Horns would have been impressed. Showcasing an echoed helicopter-like sound, Souffriau's after the fact additions didn't add all that much to the package.

Jess and James fans apparently had no idea how to deal with this one so it met with instant commercial oblivion and the brothers promptly returned to a more commercial sound. Shame, since this one was so friggin' weird !

Original copies aren't very common explaining the asking price, but the Wah Wah and Vampisoul labels reissued the collection in vinyl and CD formats in 2008 (vinyl catalog number LPS030; CD catalog number VAMPI08900033652). The reissue included photos and liner notes by Antonio Lameirinhas. (source)

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