Thursday, July 7, 2011

Bob Sharples: Battle Stereo

Review # 29
Artist: Bob Sharples
Title: Battle Stereo
Format: LP
Label: London
Year: 1964

Technically, this should be filed under "S" I suppose. But I file under "B" for a couple of reasons.  First, on the off chance I ever want to actually listen to this, I'm more likely to remember the title than the name Sharples. Second, Sharples is the director of this record, but there's no indication who is actually performing these songs, and when I don't know the artist, I file things by title. So filing it under "S" is probably technically correct, but I keep this in "B" so I'm reviewing it now.

I don't remember exactly how or why this record came into my possession. It might have been something I picked up with the idea of using it for samples on one of my own music projects, but I'm really not sure. It's a collection of martial music from various wars, beginning with the Revolutionary War and ending with World War II. Alongside the music, throughout the record, are battle sound effects and famous speeches pertinent to the various wars.  It's a weird record.

This would have been a good record to review a few days ago on July 4. It begins with stirring drum roll and someone pretending to be Paul Revere, shouting "The British Are Coming! The British Are Coming!" If you think too hard about this, it doesn't make such sense for Revere to be shouting this, as the colonists at this point would mostly have still considered themselves British, and indeed, historians, from what I understand, take issue with this popular depiction of Revere's famous ride. But I digress. Another odd moment for me was during the Civil War portion of the record in which the band strikes up "Camptown Races," which I know best as a song performed by the Frogtown Ramblers.  Was this really a battle song? I looked it up, and apparently it was. I have a hard time imagining men rushing into the heat of battle singing "doo dah, doo dah, oh the doo dah day," but apparently this was indeed a Civil War song.

This is a strange, war-glorifying record.  But one thing that's kind of cool about it from a conceptual perspective it is that, according the liner notes, the various songs actually transition back and forth to indicate the significant victories and defeats of each war, and sometimes actually compete directly with each other for just a few seconds as one rises and the other falls.  So, in the Civil War section of the record for example, the music alternates between "Dixie" and "Battle Hymn of the Republic" in ways that are supposed to be timed to indicate union and confederate victories, and of course concludes with a great swelling version of "The Battle Hymn."

Wars recreated on this record include the American Revolution, the Napoleonic-Russian War, the American Civil War, the Crimean War, World War I, and the World War II (specifically the Battle of Britain). Whoever put this together really knew their wars and their martial music. This includes a lot of tunes that everyone would recognize, but also less familiar ones like France's "Aupres de ma Blonde," from WWI.  It also includes "Deutschland Uber Alles," a song which, if I'm correctly informed, is still illegal to play in several European countries.

So, from a historical standpoint, this is kind of an interesting record I guess, and the concept of the record is executed well.  But it glorifies war far too much for my tastes. This is the first time I've played the whole thing and I can't imagine doing it again any time soon.

Total songs listened: 341

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