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VARIOUS – Fritz The Cat & Heavy Traffic Original Soundtrack Recordings (CD, Fantasy Records)

Posted: April 4th, 2007, by JGRAM

At the risk of fawning too much (and falling into commercial promotion) I really have made some exciting finds for just £5 in the extensive Fopp soundtracks section in recent months. I have to admit these days more and more I find myself buying DVDs instead of CDs and soundtracks instead of albums.

If anyone remembers the feature length cartoon Fritz The Cat, they will probably recall an over-reaching attempt at greatness, a narrative with many messages that unfortunately often fall wide of the mark rather than making their point. After watching the movie it comes as no surprise when you discover that R Crumb disowned the movie. At the same time however it is not a bad experience by any means, visually fun if not arresting and mildly informative if not educating. And it was always one of those movies to which there were amazing songs I wish I was able to own.

The backdrop of the movie is the political spectrum of sixties America where people were acting as if they had invented politic and protest but by the end of the period the savvy were becoming cynical while many were clinging onto the final threads of the lifestyle as the wise became resigned to having accomplished little change. As a result there is something of a beaten tone to the community which is heavily reflected in the sounds emitting from my stereo as this album plays. If you remember from the movie, Fritz The Cat was to some extent rallying against the heavy themes of the movie, being playful with his winning charade. In amongst the level headed themes around this score, often darting in is such a devilish influence/element. This was a truly great era for music.

The CD spreads over 27 tracks, 13 for Fritz The Cat and 14 for Heavy Traffic and if I’m honest I only stick around for the Fritz tunes. And in amongst the suave instrumentals of heavy Hammond organ that is the kind of music Bukowski would drink, some real heavyweights feature in the form of Bo Diddley and Billie Holiday chip in with cuts. Indeed Billie Holiday’s “Yesterdays” is the kind of song that could stop traffic, a track that thoroughly captures the pain of nostalgia and longing for the past. And juxtaposed next to that track comes righteous gospel celebrations from the Watson Sisters, quite probably an act that I will never hear a song by for the remainder of my days. The music generally is the kind that you would play poker too, genuine lounge than reminds me of output from such alt rock heroes as Golden and the Denison Kimball Trio. Indeed by the second you are faced by literal funk, utilising percussion in ways that Tortoise could only dream of, seldom does the xylophone being used as a lead instrument sound so good. For me, this is just the stuff of genuine greatness.

As the album slips onto the Heavy Traffic soundtrack there is a marked change in pace, not least represented by the reality that the first two tracks are variations on Scarborough Fair. Again the soundtrack is represented by some true heavyweights with Sergio Mendes, the Isley Brothers, Dave Brubek and Chuck Berry. Beyond an excruciatingly cringeworthy version of “Twist And Shout” by the Isley Brothers, a strange version of the ever reliable “Take Five” appears as the Heavy Traffic portion of the CD set provides its own worthy atmospherics.

There is nothing new nor necessarily cutting edge about this CD but it does serve as an example of a great hidden gem of a release that can be found in the most high street of stores with view to creating a perfect pseudo-boho ambience and a genuinely relaxing record.

Thesaurus moment: streetwise, urbane.

Fritz The Cat
Heavy Traffic
Fantasy Records


JGram, friend of the stars, chartered accountant and pie enthusiast, likes nothing better than KICKING YOUR SKINNY ASS by way of a carefully-timed half-nelson followed by the CLOTHES LINE! OW! So never, never cross him. His dog Snowy is equally rockhard and will bite your lim bs off in the blink of an eye. And then paw your eyes out for blinking when he's biting you.

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