Good news!!! Recently I received a message from Kevin Griffith of Isle of Jura Records: after almost 40 years "Voyage - A Journey Into Discoid Funk" is going to be re-released soon as an heavyweight LP + digital download.
The album was completely remastered from the original master tapes by none other than Matt Colton and you can order it directly from Isle of Jura Records by clicking here. For those of you living in Europe, the album is distributed by Rush Hour and you can order it here.
I was kindly asked to remove all the download links from this post, so you won't find any. Now you've the chance to purchase an official release re-mastered by an engineer with steel in his balls, do not miss it!
Brian Lawrence Bennett was born in Palmers Green, North London, on February 8th, 1940. His interest in music dated from an early age: as a small child he used to listen to radio broadcasts from the Aeolian Hall. He was soon hooked on the sounds of Glenn Miller and other Big Bands of the era.
He became fascinated by drums and percussion and lists Gene Krupa, Louis Bellson and, especially, Buddy Bich as his early musical heroes. By 1953, Brian had saved up enough money to purchase a rudimentary drumkit and he practiced constantly. Before long he was performing regularly with his school orchestra and youth club big bands.
He began playing professionally even before he left school, with his own Tony Brian Trio and The Esquires Dance Band. He also began composing music and writing songs from the age of fourteen onwards.
Brian's initial background was in Jazz and Swing, but by 1956 - the year he left school at sixteen to play drums in a Ramsgate skiffle group performing for holiday makers- he was equally adept at playing Rock'n'Roll. «It wasn't originally by choice», recalled Brian, «but there were more and more jobs being offered and I didn't want to turn them down!».
A teenage prodigy, he became the house drummer at the legendary 2Is Club - now known as the birthplace of British Rock'n'Roll - in London's Soho, backing artists like Tony Sheridan, Terry Dene, Vince Eager and Vince Taylor, and from there he earned a regular spot on the Jack Good's legendary TV music showcase Oh Boy!.
By 1959, Bennett was regarded as one of the top Rock & Roll drummers in England and one of the most sought-after percussionists around. That year he joined The Wildcats, the backing band of Rock & Roll singer Marty Wilde.
He remained with Wilde for two years, also playing outside live gigs with stars such as Tommy Steele, and he was also featured on a Wildcats instrumental release of "Trambone" recorded as the Krew Kats. In 1960 he embarked on the legendary tour featuring Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent and Marty Wilde.
When Marty embarked upon a career in films and musicals, The Wildcats evolved into The Krew Kats and cut a brace of fine instrumentals. After a brief stint as an orchestral pit drummer, in October of 1961 lightning struck for Bennett's career when Tony Meehan - then regarded as the top drummer in England - quit The Shadows, who were then the top Rock & Roll British band as well as the backing group for Cliff Richard, the top singer in the field.
The opening was one of the most coveted in the country - The Shadows were regularly topping the charts in their own right, and their concerts with Richard were riotous affairs, huge sell-outs in front of hordes of screaming fans across England - Bennett was offered the spot. He accepted and was with the group across a string of hit singles and albums, lasting through their intended official breakup in 1968, on the occasion of the group's tenth anniversary as a professional band.
His drumming talents were but one aspect of his monumental musical contribution to the band. He wrote or co-wrote over 100 tracks for them, as well as over 20 compositions for Cliff Richard... He also earned his first Ivor Novello award for composing the title theme to the movie "Summer Holiday", which starred Richard and the band - he also contributed songs to their subsequent movies, up through "Finder's Keepers".
A favourite feature for the audience at any Shadows' concert was always his drum solo, with "Little B" - a must showcase for every Beat-Drummer in the pre-Beatles era - perhaps being the best known and highly regarded piece which has inspired countless drummers over the years and is still performed now by budding young drummers at Shadows' music clubs throughout the UK.
Many drummers back then considered each new Shadows' record as a drum lesson - learning how to play the fills in classic tunes such as "The Rise and Fall of Flingel Bunt" and "Foot Tapper".
"Voyage - A Journey Into Discoid Funk", inner gatefold
In 1967 Bennett released his first solo LP exploring Jazz and Easy Listening territories with the aptly entitled "Change of Direction", which was followed in 1969 by "The Illustrated London Noise", a return to Rock and Funky music.
Following the 1968 "farewell" Shadows concert, he participated along with lead guitarist Hank Marvin and bassist John Rostill in the band's brief 1969 reunion for a tour of Japan.
By the early '70s Brian was a highly successful and much sought after session drummer working with a vast array of different artists including Ella Fitzgerald, Olivia Newton-John, Engelbert Humperdinck, Richard Harris, The Walker Brothers and many more.
With The Shadows on extended hiatus, Bennett turned to other areas of music. He'd already developed some insights into the mechanics of music through his work as a songwriter, and he took a correspondence course in arranging and orchestration that, when added to his natural ability as a composer, ended up reshaping his whole career. He'd always provided vocals on the Shadows' own recordings, and now he re-established his performing credentials on the piano as well as the vibraphone.
He became Cliff Richard's musical director and formed The Brian Bennett Orchestra touring the world including the first Western rock concerts performed in Russia. Even more important, amid the string of hit albums with Richard that followed, he also started writing music for movies / television and part of this huge load of work was published on many library records by specialized labels like KPM Music and Bruton.
In 1977 he published his third proper solo album, "Rock Dreams", credited to the Brian Bennett Band, which was followed the next year by the Disco/Funk opus "Voyage - A Journey Into Discoid Funk", the subject of this post.
Brian Bennett, DJM promotional picture, circa 1977-78
Later on, Brian developed yet another career composing music for films. During the '80s, he was awarded his second Ivor Novello award (for 25 years services to music) and wrote music for a wide range of programmes including "Dallas", "Knotts Landing", "Pulaski", The Royal Wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer (!!!), "BBC Golf" theme, "The Sweeney", Dennis Hopper's film "The American Way" and Ellen Barkin and David MacCallum's "Terminal Choice". In 1990, he won his third Ivor Novello award for Best Score For a Television Series (The Ruth Rendell Mysteries).
From the 1990s to 2000, he was in demand more than ever and he composed music for the long-running series "The Knock", "Nomads of the Wind", "Global Sunrise", "Living Britain", "Dirty Work", "David Jason In His Element" and Hansjörg Thurn's film "The Arpist".
In 2001 Bennett was the proud recipient of the Gold Badge Award given by the British Academy of Composers & Songwriters Society. He also won the Royal Television Society Craft & Design Awards 2000/2001 for Best Original Title Music for "Murder In Mind". In 2004 he was awarded an OBE and collected his award from The Queen at Buckingham Palace.
In 2009 and 2010 Cliff Richard and The Shadows embarked on a 50th anniversary tour with 36 shows in the UK, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.More recently, Bennett wrote with his son, Warren, 24 episodes of the award-winning TV series "New Tricks". He also recorded and produced an album with Cliff Richard and The Shadows.
As of early 2015 he is working on a musical called "Soho", the music for a production called "Starchild" and an album of the music of John Barry played by The Brian Bennett Orchestra...
Although he'll always be associated with The Shadows, playing drums for them is merely one aspect of a glittering musical career.
"Voyage - A Journey Into Discoid Funk" contains the following tracks:
01. Voyage (6:25)
02. Solstice (6:21)
03. Chain Reaction (6:41)
04. Pendulum Force (6:24)
05. Air Quake (4:15)
06. Ocean Glide (6:41)
All tracks were remastered from the original vinyl in July 2014, they are available as a FLAC lossless format file or as a high-quality 320 Kbps MP3 file. Both formats offer complete printable PDF artwork.
Before burning this album on CD-R using the provided CUE file you must convert the original files to WAV format using an appropriate software. Here's an option for FLAC to WAV conversion and one for MP3 to WAV conversion.
As usual, please have a look at the comments for the download links.
"Voyage - A Journey Into Discoid Funk" was released in the U.K. by DJM Records with cat. number DJF 20532 in late April1978. During the same year the record was also published in other countries across Europe, and in 1997 it was finally re-released on CD - coupled with Brian Bennett Band's "Rock Dreams" by See For Miles Records.
Unfortunately, all the tracks on this edition were remastered from vinyl, not from the original master tapes... Anyway, the booklet of such CD offers precious information about Bennett and the album. The notes were compiled by Rob Bradford, here's some of them:
«...At this point in his career, Brian was employed as a producer/arranger by DJM. This put him in a position to fulfil some of his ideas for solo projects. According to Brian, there were several strands of thought behind "Voyage".
«I suppose that I was already becoming a bit 'Themic', if you like. Maybe it was leading up to creating music to complement or invoke visual imagery. I had this idea of the earth in space. Also, "Star Wars" was all the rage, so this space fantasy thing was very much in vogue. There were groups like Space and Meco creating interesting, yet commercial sounds. I was also listening to Brian Eno. I liked a lot of the material he was putting out. It was a different genre and I wanted to see if I could write some material along those lines. We probably realised that it wasn't going to be a great commercial success, but then again, you can never be absolutely certain. There was always a chance. I was delighted to be given the go ahead, so it was a voyage around the earth, if you like. One thing that I really hated was the sub-title, "A Journey Into Discoid Funk". Terrible! That was the idea of the marketing people, 'we've got to call it something, categorise it...' that kind of thing. I wasn't too keen on the sleeve either. I had some ideas of my own, a little montage sequence, representing each track. That was dismissed out of hand. I wasn't too keen on the spaceship thing. I was pleased with the music, though. I was listening to it recently for the first time in nearly twenty years. It still sounds good. I know that the critics at the time didn't like it much, but that didn't bother me. I stand by the quality of the music and the playing. It was all done live in the studio. It was recorded at The Music Centre, Wembley. All of the drums were played live and so were the synths. We were experimenting with all the latest sounds and technology, but the human element was still there. Nowadays, there'd be a lot more use made of computers, programming and sequencing. It was very enioyable. Francis Monkman and Alan Jones were both outstanding.»
With material of this nature, it's really up to the listener to make what he/she will of each track, which create differing moods and atmospheres. I'll make my own brief comments and than add a few of the appropriate descriptions typical of those found on Brian's library music albums.
Voyage: quite 'filmic' as Brian describes it. If orchestrated, then not out of place on the "Star Wars" type of soundtrack. Very stylish, mixing elements of groups such as Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk and The Orb. Present are elements reminiscent of Emerson, Lake & Palmer's arrangement of Coplands' "Fanfare For the Common Man". ('Prestigious, expansive, epic theme').
Solstice: a very quiet, gentle relaxing opus. Very dreamy and subtle. Ethereal, 'New Age'. ('Serene, slow, timeless atmosphere').
Chain Reaction: opening with slow, long rolls on heavily phased drums, the sound is similar to that achieved by Carl Palmer on parts of ELP's "Brain Salad Surgery" before launching into a quasi-2001 - type almost disco theme. ('Scenic, with underlying suspense').
Pendulum Force: ('Cool and funky, effervescent, unhurried, confident, optimistic stabs').
Air Quake: a very dramatic number, with lots of Sci-Fi type FX. Definitely echoes of Jean Michelle-Jarre and "Equinoxe'. ('Abstract, uptempo, exciting with stabs').
Ocean Glide: a beautiful, accessible piece which is actually Brian's favourite track on the album. There are definitely hints of a visual/aural combination here. This music could easily fit in with the type of music that Brian now provides for TV documentaries. A musical comment on the visual scene of your choice. It reminds of Mike Oldfield at his best. Mellifluous and romantic, but not cloyingly sentimental. ('Gentle intro, expansive melodic theme, epic romantic montage featuring piano').
When originally released during the height of the Punk Rock era, this album was ahead of its time. It received a mauling from dismissive critics. If I remember correctly, someone described "Voyage" along the lines of '...an album to play to your hippy mother's maiden aunt', whilst (even more unkindly) another merely described it as an album to put on in order to drive away undesirable guests from your party... early. Well, I beg to differ. In 1997, the music hasn't dated, it's refreshingly contemporary. Treat it as high quality New Age, atmospheric, ambient and you won't be disappointed.»
A magazine ad for the imminent release of "Voyage", April 1978
Here's the complete credits and personnel list of "Voyage - A Journey Into Discoid Funk" as they appear in the original liner notes:
Keyboards: Francis Monkman
Bass Guitar: Alan Jones
Percussion: Brian Bennett
Recorded and Engineered by Dick Plant.
Assistant Engineer: Barry Kidd
Synthesizers programmed and realized by Francis Monkman.
Recorded at the Music Centre, Wembley.
Written, Arranged and Produced by Brian Bennett.
Sleeve Design: Roy Simpson Ltd.
Brian Bennett, circa late '70s / early '80s
The following biographies of Francis Monkman and Alan Jones were written by Rob Bradford in 1997 and are part of the aforementioned booklet included in the CD version of "Voyage / Rock Dreams":
«The classically trained Francis Monkman was a graduate of The Royal Academy of Music. He was a keyboard player and organist of phenomenal talent. After graduating from in the late '60s, he soon decided that his future lay within the sphere of Popular, rather than Classical music.
Monkman rapidly teamed up with the classically-trained violinist Darryl Way, who had similar ideas. Along with charismatic female vocalist Sonia Kristina, they formed the influential outfit Curved Air. Monkman stayed for "Air Conditioning", "Second Album" and "Phantasmagoria". He also appeared on a retrospective live LP. He later joined forces again with Darryl Way for "Concerto For Electric Violin and Synthesiser".
Francis Monkman had also become a respected player on the session scene as well as developing his own composing/arranging talents. In 1978, he released his own solo LP, "Energism". Prior to that, he had appeared on LPs by numerous artists, including; Harvey Andrews, Kate Bush, B.J. Cole, Renaissance, Al Stewart and John Williams.
Known to both Brian Bennett and Alan Jones via the session scene, Francis Monkman was invited to play keyboards for The Shadows during their acclaimed 20 Golden Dates tour of 1977. As a result of this, Brian wanted Francis' redoubtable talents on "Voyage".
Later on, Monkman was to achieve a sort of superstardom as part of the immensely talented and hugely popular supergroup, Sky. Francis was present for "Sky" and "Sky 2". His talents were given full reign on pieces such as "Vivaldi" and "Toccata". Additionally, Francis composed a good deal of the group's music.
Thereafter, Monkman continued with session work and also concentrated more upon composition, developing a successful career in writing library music as well as TV work and advertising jingles. He remains an active and respected musician.»
Francis Monkman in 1976
«Although never officially a member of The Shadows, Alan Jones is always identified as such by fans. On and off, Alan played bass for the band between 1977 and 1989, appearing on many recordings and undertaking numerous tours with them. He is one of Britain's most accomplished bass players.
Jones was born in Rotherham, Yorkshire, on April 2nd, 1947. When he was still a small child, Alan's family moved South to the Sidden Hill area of Dulwich. In common with so many youngsters of that era, Alan was inspired by the early skifflers and Rock'n'Rollers. By the age of ten he was already playing guitar. In his first group, he initially played lead guitar, until it became apparent that the bass guitarist was not quite up to the job...It was at that point that Alan switched to bass guitar as his main instrument.
During 1964/65, he was playing in a band called Rhythm And Greens. In 1965, Alan auditioned for the job as vocalist/bassist for the Mecca Lyceum Ballroom Band. He beat off fifty-seven other applicants to land the job! In 1967, he was on the same bill as Johnny Howard and his band/orchestra. Johnny was so impressed by Alan's playing that he offered him the job as Ronnie Seabrook's deputy. Alan accepted and the job eventually became permanent when Ronnie later departed for pastures new.
In the meantime, Johnny Howard had been assisting Alan to read music and also setting up the odd session for him. «The first one I ever played on», says Alan, «was The Equals' "Baby Come Back"!». Alan rapidly became in demand as one of the top session players. He continued to mix session work and his Johnny Howard commitments until 1973. It was then, following John Rostill's tragic and premature death, that Alan became Tom Jones' permanent bassist for almost three years.
Shortly after his return to England, Alan was invited to audition for the bass guitar vacancy in the re-formed Shadows. Alan had met Brian Bennett when they both played on sessions (1970-73), plus, Brian was a close friend of Big Jim Sullivan (top session player and Tom Jones' guitarist). Personal recommendations don't come much higher than that!
During the 1980s, Alan continued to record for and tour with The Shadows as well as continuing a busy career as a session player... Not surprisingly, for "Voyage", Alan Jones was Brian Bennett's first choice as bassist.
Alan Jones and... Tom Jones in the mid '70s
The following videos offer a preview of the remastered album; here's "Solstice", "Pendulum Force", "Voyage" and "Ocean Glide", enjoy!
More information about "Voyage - A Journey Into Discoid Funk", Brian Bennett and Francis Monkman is available here:
If you have any other useful information about Brian Bennett and "Voyage - A Journey Into Discoid Funk" - especially corrections and improvements to this post - or if you spot any dead links, please get in touch with me at stereocandies [at] hotmail [dot] com or leave a comment in the box below, thank you!