Vinyl Community Collaborative Composing Project

Vinyl Community Collaborative Composing Project

Hey there lovelies! Here’s the page for us to share findings.


Task 1: Please introduce yourself and what you’d be interested in contributing to the project to the gang.

Task 2: Please share your top 5 tracks which must include orchestral arrangers (soul/jazz/RnB/pop of 60/70s). What do you love about the sound? What do you think are the signature elements of the music you’ve selected that we should take note of for our collaborative piece?

Deadline: 28th September.

Best wishes,


Alfonso, I’m listening to music by Thom Bell on your recommendation, he has an interesting story too! I wonder what he does now? Would love to see these scores, how do I access them, record labels?

Lord ha mercy this as well:
Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time)” – The Delfonics – starts with french horn and glockenspiel! That brass!!

Read this interview about his collaboration with Johnny Mathis on the track ‘Coming Home” and this stood out:

“Musically, Bell fashioned an arrangement that further amplified the visual cues in Creed’s narrative. “I intended to meet the obligations of the lyrics of what he’s saying,” he explains. “It’s got to match. If the arrangement does not fit, I’m not ashamed to throw it in the trash. Just because I wrote it doesn’t mean it has to be in there.” Each musical component on “I’m Coming Home” painted a vivid scene: the interplay between the bass and drums summoned a train’s chugging rhythm on the tracks while the strings evoked rolling landscapes glimpsed from a passenger’s window. The soft horns simulated a distant train whistle heralding Mathis’ arrival.”

15 Replies to “Vinyl Community Collaborative Composing Project”

  1. Hi there,
    so I’ll take “task 1 & 2” in a single round and try to keep it brief. I am a writer with a tendency to garrulousness, so I have to pace myself.

    So introduction. Telex style. I come from the Czech Republic, but live in Germany since I was a kid. I am not a musician and if Bobbie-Jane hadn’t pointed out that her call (in Mark’s video) is directed at musicians and non-musicians likewise, I would probably not have replied. On the other hand I have always enjoyed creating my own music, which usually turned out to be rather simple or naive, but nevertheless a good experience. In this time and age – with technological means – even a complete layperson can dip into the world of Ambient and all kind of underground music. You can find my stuff here: – it’s basically all for free, which is appropriate. But musically it hardly touches anything Bobbie’s project is about.

    I guess I like the idea to create tiny musical sketches and fragments, to see if Bobbie can incorporate them into a larger context. Particularly if those sketches represent rather concret ideas or aspects of culture – in this case specific moments of daily life in a city. It’s a bit of a “terra incognita” for me, which was part of the appeal.

    So “Task 2” … I am not very saddle-fast in the world of R’n’B or Soul, even though I like almost everything that has Soul, Funk or Disco in it. But I am not an expert – maybe in 15 years. So I guess my contributions will be either very obvious, or extremely leftfield. Let’s get started. I try to add YT-Links, so whoever cares can have listen.

    I have put all tracks into a YouTube-playlist. Theoretically I could add all the other inspirations there.
    The URL is:

    ## 1. Ryuichi Sakamoto: “Kyoto” & “Cemetary”
    These are two small (usually overlooked) compositions from Sakamoto’s amazing soundtrack for Bertolucci’s “The Sheltering Sky” from 1990. Nice example of a strong, expressive orchestration that doesn’t need to be overly complicated and beautifully evokes all kind of emotions. Both tracks belong kind of together into one composition. I only found them separated on YouTube, so imagine it without the gap. 🙂

    ## 2. Klaus Schulze: “Ludwig II von Bayern”
    Klaus Schulze’s tenth album “X” from 1978 mixes Ambient-type of music with dark orchestral parts. Again music that doesn’t try to be too complex and derives it’s power from clear musical intentions. Of course it’s all big drama, not without a touch of pretentiousness. But then again – I like pretentiousness.

    ## 3. Jethro Tull: “Slipstream”
    Another orchestral miniature, this time from the seminal album “Aqualung” (1971), that probably everybody knows. But it is a sweet example of orchestral music put to good use. Not all “Prog Gods” knew how to do it properly without looking bloated. But in this case I find the orchestral function quite charming.

    ## 4. Jean-Claude Vannier: “Le Roi Des Mouches Et La Confiture De Rouse”
    Obviously Vannier’s 1972 album “L’Enfant Assassin Des Mouches” is a bit insane, but this part is a great example how orchestra and Rock instruments can beautifully gel together and create an impressive wall of sound.

    ## 5. The Alan Parsons Project: “Damned If I Do”
    Let’s get to my favourite. While I think most of the “Prog-Rock plus Orchestra” expeditions tend to be rather checkered and ill-advised, there was one artistic collective that was just mind-blowing and always on the spot: Andrew Powell’s arrangements for Eric Woolfson & Alan Parsons were the most brilliant and effective use of an orchestra in a Rock music context. There are dozens of examples, but I need to make a choice, so I bite my lower lip, curb my zeal – and pick only one – from the 1979’s album “Eve”. Featuring the mesmerizing Lenny Zakatek from “Gonzales” on vocals.

    I hope you are not disappointed. I am sure the other guys will dig up all the good stuff from the world of Jazz and R’n’B. I’m looking forward to that, since those are regions I am still discovering.

  2. Thanks Ales! This is great! I will listen to your selections thanks so much for the playlist. I like the idea of you sending sketches for me to respond to. Great! I doubt I will be disappointed. 🙂

  3. Hi, I’m a songwriter and have collaborated on many projects and hope that I will be able to contribute on this project too. You can find my music here:

    I decided to pick five tracks that got their hooks in me from an early age, and am returning to find out what it was about their arrangements/orchestrations that had such an effect. Although I have been a songwriter for 40 years, I am self-taught, with no formal training, either in practice or theory; when I listen to music I do so as a fan, enthralled by the magic and mystery of music, and so analysing and deconstructing music is a little alien to me. Also, as a youngster, I had no concept of genre (excepting Classical) so I didn’t want to get too hung up on that when choosing these tracks.

    Dionne Warwick – Make It Easy On Yourself (Burt Bacharach, Hal David) 1962. From Presenting Dionne Warwick (1963). The version I have is from The Greatest Hits of Dionne Warwicke (sic.) Vol. 2 (1964).
    The haunting quality of this song, in the backing track, is very much a case of ‘less is more’ and I now find that this is provided by a vocal chorus, and that this version is in fact the demo (the first of many that Dionne recorded for and with Bacharach). The single released later in 1970 is orchestrated (arranged by Larry Wilcox) and is live. What’s interesting is that it’s the demo that would have been presented to the arranger/orchestrator to work from had Bacharach taken it into the studio to record ‘properly’. With both the demo and live versions available, you can hear how Larry Wilcox approached adding the orchestra. Paul Riser (cf. talk below) says that the one thing he regrets is that none of the demos for Motown were kept.
    Album, demo version:
    Single, live version:

    Dionne Warwick – People (Bob Merrill, Jule Styne) 1964. From Make Way For Dionne Warwick (1964). The version I have – as above.
    Produced by Burt Bacharach, it’s the muted trumpet that denotes ‘jazz’ to me, and I find it interesting how much we immediately read into a particular instrument. I now know this was written for the musical Funny Girl and (cf. comments on YouTube below) that the management at the Apollo didn’t want Dionne to perform it because of this, but she did and it went down a storm (hence my not wanting to get too strict about genres).

    Smokey Robinson & The Miracles – The Tears Of A Clown (Hank Cosby, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder) 1966. From Make It Happen (1967).
    Pure genius. I didn’t know that Stevie Wonder had written and recorded just the backing track, produced by Hank Cosby, but couldn’t come up with a lyric, so asked Smokey. I’ve always loved the juxtaposition between the tragi-comic lyric of the clown (based on Pagliacci, the character from the opera) and the celebratory music. The intro is more like an overture (it was the circus theme that inspired Smokey’s lyric) with its calliope motif on piccolo and bassoon, and the real thrill I find is when it drops into the irresistible push and pull of The Funk Brothers’ intro before the vocals come in.

    The Four Tops – Reach Out, I’ll Be There (Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, Edward Holland, Jr.) 1966. From Reach Out (1967)
    Produced by Brian Holland and Lamont Dozier. There is a plaintive feel to the figure played in the intro which, to me, is as much down to the instruments it’s played on (sounds like piccolo and something else but I haven’t been able to find that out); if it were played on trumpet (given the actual notes played) it would’ve had a Spanish/Mexican feel. So, again, choice of instrument can alter perception a lot. And then there’s the timpani mallets hitting the tambourine, such a distinctive sound, especially in the break just before the chorus. Brian Holland’s immersion in classical music apparently had much to do with the orchestration.

    Dusty Springfield – The Windmills Of Your Mind (Michel Legrand) 1968. From Dusty In Memphis (1969).
    Produced by Jerry Wexler, Arif Mardin, and Tom Dowd.
    I chose this track because of a pragmatic decision made during the recording sessions that affects the whole feel of the track. Dusty needed space to breathe during some of the longer lyrical phrases, so Tom Dowd and Arif Mardin dropped in some 2/4 bars at certain points to help, and this, to me, lends the track a disorientating feel which suits the song. On Arif’s choice of styles and instruments, he says, “Some of the harmonic structures made me think of gypsies and Hungary. Hence gypsy music violin lines in the beginning and the addition of a Cimbalom, a Hungarian Zither, played with mallets. Strange combination of instruments one might say, considering the presence of a featured bossa nova guitar among other things.” Further; “My speciality being harmony and jazz chords, I suggested a more modern inversion with a touch of dissonance under a certain word to dramatize the lyric content.” This is the opposite to Paul Riser’s approach (cf. talk below) who avoids taking note of the lyrics so as not to mirror or accentuate a line with a musical metaphor.

    Finally, the talk below by Paul Riser offers a wealth of insight as he charts his career from his groundings in Classical and Jazz, to joining The Funk Brothers in Detroit as a trombone player (where he found himself very much a fish out of water) to notating lead sheets, to arranging, orchestrating, and then producing, for Motown. He also emphasises the factory element in Detroit where they’d often record up to 30 singles in a week, which meant that decisions had to be made on the hoof and quickly. He now wants to return to some tracks and re-orchestrate them with the luxury of hindsight and more time to do so.
    Tour of Detroit Studio:

  4. Ooh Ales, Just started listening in to the Sakamoto, “Cemetary” is beautiful. I love the strings at the beginning, scrummy chords! That really grabbed my attention! I’ll keep listening in!

  5. Currently, I am an English Instructor at Lawson State. Community College in Birmingham, Alabama. I am also an author. My publication is entitled “The Jazz Trope: A Theory of African American Literary and Vernacular Culture” ( 2008 Scarecrow Press, Inc./Roman and Littlefield Publishing Group, Inc.). I present the theory that Jazz, Blues, and Spirituals were metaphors for African American lifestyle and history. Various literary sources are included to illustrate the thesis. My interest and love for music has always included the overall production of a recording such as the arrangers, writers, musicians, instrumentation, labels, publishing, studios, producers, etc.

    So this was a welcome opportunity to share this interest with others who explore the inner workings of composition and instrumentation. Thank you again for allowing this sharing.

    Alfonso Hawkins

    All of the interviews and songs I have listed can be accessed from You Tube. I think you really would enjoy the song/tracks, recommended songs from selected LPs, etc. You may have already heard some of the interviews and songs. The Strings and Horns, rhythm and percussion arrangements are excellent here. Please let me know what more I can do.

    Thom Bell:
    Interviews on You tube: Unsung The Spinners; Unsung The Delfonics; Kenny Gamble PIR 40th Anniversary
    John Florez: Thom Bell Tribute; Fresh Air with Terry Gross: Thom Bell Interview.
    Song/Track: Frankie Bleu Mosses Theme from the Soundtrack The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh 1976
    (Great spiraling and soaring Strings in the intro with the Soothing Thom Bell touch throughout. Note Jack Faith’s Flute in unison with the strings).

    Recommended Tracks: Stylistics People Make the World Go Round 1972.
    Johnny Mathis: A Baby’s Born 1973 from the I’m Coming Home LP
    Elton John: Studio Video with Thom Bell and Musicians at Sigma Sound.
    Deniece Williams: Waiting and Love Notes from the 1982 LP.
    Lou Rawls: Ain’t That Love Baby from Now Is The Time LP 1982
    Rita Marley (I-3): Produced the trio’s LP (His Family has Jamaican Roots).
    Gamble-Huff : Pictured with Gamble and Huff (The Mighty Three)
    Bell sang background vocals on many if not most of his arrangements.

    Jack Faith (AKA John R. Faith): Major contributor of TSOP. Plays Saxophone and Flute as member of
    MFSB (The Gamble-Huff Orchestra) Master Arranger, Conductor, Musician.
    Song/Track: Jones Girls (Life Goes On) 1979 LP. (Flute in unison with the strings. Very beautiful with guitar chords in the intro. The strings supports the lyrics with horns tastefully using staccato throughout the song).
    Recommended: Jean Carn (Don’t Let It Go To Your Head); Dexter Wansel (I’ll Never Forget);
    Mcfadden and Whitehead (Ain’t No Stopping Us Now); Lou Rawls (Spring Again).

    Norman Harris: Major contributor to TSOP; Played Guitar (Influenced by Wes Montgomery).
    Did some arranging for Barry Manilow in the 1970s.
    Song/Track: Blue Magic (Stop To Start). Strings and French horn introduces the song with a call and response theme.
    Recommended: The O’Jays (We’re All In This Thing Together); Norman Harris LP The Harris Machine.

    Bobby Martin (Aka Robert L. Martin): Architect of TSOP with Thom Bell. You Tube Interviews: Search
    Bobby Martin Arranger and Bobby Martin Channel. Also information from Google search. Frank Sinatra wanted him to work at his Reprise Record Label when it was starting. But he wanted to build Philadelphia International with Gamble and Huff.
    Song/ Track: Intruders (I’ll Always Love My Mama) 1973 LP. Note the great horn parts in the opening along with the soothing strings and guitar chords. Background chorus adds beauty to the overall song.

    Recommended: The Three Degrees (When Will I See You Again); Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, Intruders, Lou Rawls, Billy Paul (Me and Mrs. Jones) Vintage Bobby Martin. Worked together as arranger with Thom Bell in the early days. Arranged the theme for T.V. Show Soul Train in 1974 (TSOP sung by The Three Degrees).

    Gene Page: Worked with Barry White and numerous recording artists of the 1970s. Recorded personal LPs as well. Master Orchestrator. Trademark was High end strings.
    Song/Track: Love Unlimited (Walking In The Rain) 1972 with Barry White.
    Tastefully used French horns throughout the song.
    Recommended: Mr. Danny Pearson’s version of the song 1978.

    Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff Produced and sang background vocals on much of the above music. Joe Tarsia was Chief Engineer and Owner of Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia, PA. where Bell, Martin, Faith, Harris did most of their 1970s work.

  6. I really enjoyed Alfonso’s and Ian’s crash course in Soul music. I knew one or two tunes in both lists (obviously “Reach Out, I’ll Be There” by “The Four Tops” and “The Windmills” by Dusty) but I enjoy studying up on the rest. A very rich collection of amazing music. Thanks a lot for the effort!

    I have put what I could find in the before mentioned playlist:

    There is now a lot of amazing Soul and R’n’B music there.

    By the way, I was just listening to Chicago XI (from 1977) yesterday and realized there is this beautiful conglomerate of three songs at the end of the LP called “The Inner Struggles of Man” / “Prelude” / “Little One” that beautifully blend into each other and incorporate orchestral music in a very mesmerizing way. Great stuff!
    Check it out here:


  7. Thanks so much Ales for putting everything into a playlist! Amazing! I’d like to express to everyone how grateful for the amazing suggestions and ideas. Wow wow wow! I really loved the Paul Riser interview and learnt a lot, also the Thom Bell interview, as they gave some really interesting advice on their ‘sweetening’ process. I’ve made a time line of events for this project and will share in a different post. 🙂

  8. Hello!
    Well those of you who tune in to the Dr Rhythm youtube channel
    or the All Points Radio Show mixcloud channel
    will know I am a music head – also a bass head – who has been playing and enjoying the power, spirit and healing and collaborative experience of music for as long as I can remember!

    Bobbie was intrigued by the VC and the community of diverse but like minded people who step up to share, comment and enjoy the many varied types of music we all love to listen to and wanted to come on and see who would be interested in collaborating – sorry it has me so long to get my top 5 up here!.

    The five pieces of music I wanted to share are the following

    Shirley Bassey – Light My Fire
    A dramatic slightly over the top epic piece of orchestration of the Doors classic belted out in her own distinctive style – I think there is so much tension and excitement and dynamics in this arrangement.
    I was not surprised to find it has been sampled by J Dilla and re-made by Kenny Dope. The composer Johnny Harris is the string arranger of this tune and has a pedigree of working with the BBC and recording artists like Shirley Bassey, Tom Jones and Petula Clark – in an era where the exception would probably not to have the services of the BBC Light Orchestra on your live TV show rather than the other way round! I really like the juxtaposition of the epic string sweeps with the rawness of the drum and bass groove – it brings to mind the work of David Axelrod.

    Then we move on to Isobel by Bjork featuring the luscious strings and orchestration of Eumir Deodato. This version is the Deodato Mix and I just love the colour and slightly eastern flavour the strings bring alongside the percussion and the vocal melody – what a beautiful combination of sounds!

    The Bjork track is produced by Nellee Hooper who has strings form as part of the original production team behind Soul to Soul – who famously worked with the Reggae Phillharmonic Orchestra on Back to Life and Keep on Moving and the track is engineered by Howie Bernstein (also known as Howie B) who is the artist behind my next selection in his incarnation as Skylab alongside fellow collaborators Tosh and Kudo. The track is called Next and features a haunting looped string sample and an atmospheric single note acoustic piano mixed in with trippy electronics, a groovy sitar noodle and more underwater ambient magic. This track came out in the early 90’s and nestled in amongst the Trip Hop sounds of that time although this track is totally beatless! There is a haunting filmic quality to the track with a thunderstorm that cascades across the sonics about half way through and effectively washes the track away – a real mood is created and it all about the sounds.

    Next up is more something you might associate with the Dr Rhythm channel – the sounds of the Dells and the reverb drenched sound of the Charles Stepney conducted and orchestrated piece called Free and Easy from the album Freedom Means…
    The Dells are one of my fave male vocal harmony groups and the track brings to mind a more psychedelic soulful take on the classic sixties Burt Bacharach sound. The horns are particularly well employed to provide hooky stabs alongside the lone tremolo single note guitar line. There is a type of spacious reverb that runs through much of this late 60’s/early 70’s era of Charles Stepney work (Ramsey Lewis, Rotary Connection) – I just love it!

    And we end with a master arranger, composer and conductor – Gil Evans and the track La Nevada from the album Out of the Cool. Gil Evans manages to paint sonic colours, tension and beauty from his use of instrumentation. A powerful head of horns which set the compass for the soloists then to just rip things up.The horns and orchestration are used to gently complement and enhance the solos and provide the crossing over point between players stepping up to express themselves. I think there is some issue about You Tube posting the full track so here is the first 10 minutes

    That’s my five – would probably be a different selection tomorrow but this is the way i am feeling it right now!

  9. Thanks Mark! You’ve broken the rules a little as we said orchestral arrangers (soul/jazz/RnB/pop of 60/70s) but we forgive you and you shared in the original video we made. 😉

    The Shirley Bassey is amazing! So dramatic!
    I love the Bjork – Isobel, the original version! Thx for sharing the remix. Just reminded me of Golfrapp – Human Will Greggory wrote the strings!

    I’ll get cracking with my selections!

  10. Hey, well that leaves me to submit some tunes…

    1. Well I have to include Rob Temperton: Always and Forever – Heatwave
    Strings are really complimentary of the vocals and envelop the lyrics in a warm way.

    There a part where the flute and vocal are dominant and it’s lovely…. A little duet before the tutti orchestra comes in for the climax and oh that falsetto!!!

    2. Stylistics – Stop, Look, Listen To Your Heart – orch. Thom Bell

    3. Move on Up – Curtis Mayfield – orch. Johnny Pate.
    Like the cheeky interplay between strings and Curtis Mayfield during the chorus and the brass line is so iconic!

    4. Natural Four – Try Love Again orch. Leroy Hutson

    5. Thom Bell? Life In The Country – The Ebonys

    6. Brighter Side of Darkness – Love Jones
    I’m not sure who orchestrated it, it’s on 20th Century Records. Any ideas?

  11. There’s such a rich pallet of music that everyone’s provided, great research with the interviews as well. It’ll be interesting to see what the next step in your process will be, Bobbie.

  12. I have missed off an amazing producer, arranger, composer. Quincy Jones.
    If you haven’t already – I thoroughly recommend the Netflix documentary about his life. A very entertaining watch!

    Interesting to observe how he had jazz background, didn’t know he played trumpet, then started running/orchestrating/arranging for brass bands, then moved to orchestral….

    I like how he started with a limited palette, which is great training and then expanded to a larger ensemble (orchestra).

    I also didn’t know that he studied with Nadia Boulanger – esteemed composer/teacher of many amazing composers including Stravinsky. Quincy went to the best for his training. That has really inspired me.

    Although no strings in this one it’s so fun, the grooves, the use of cuíca is quite cheeky!

    Summer in the City:
    Iconic grooves, love the organ sounds, haunting strings, he is a maestro in how he takes a groove and develops it so fully. Genius!

    Ohhh… Last one:
    Aretha Franklin – One Step Ahead

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