It’s never been easy to pigeonhole Lalo Schifrin. The four-time Grammy-winning Argentinian composer created one of the most memorable television themes of all time with his “Mission: Impossible,” recorded jazz albums for labels including Verve and Creed Taylor’s CTI, worked with Count Basie, Cannonball Adderley and Sarah Vaughan, and scored innumerable films, racking up six Oscar nominations in the process. Now, Demon Music Group has reissued two lost gems of the Schifrin oeuvre, both originally recorded for Clarence Avant’s Tabu label, for the first time on CD. Gypsies (1978) and No One Home (1979) have recently arrived in deluxe, casebound expanded editions as part of Demon’s long-running Tabu series.
Schifrin joined Tabu fresh from CTI, where he had recorded Black Widow and Towering Toccata, both jazz fusion projects with dance and disco overtones. Those albums were recorded on the East Coast, as was CTI’s wont, with top session vets including Steve Gadd, Eric Gale and Will Lee. For his first Tabu recording, Gypsies, Schifrin headed to Los Angeles (Studio City in particular) where he could tap many of his favorite players from his Hollywood dates. 1978 was a busy year for Schifrin; in addition to scoring a couple of television movies, Walt Disney Productions kept him busy with Return from Witch Mountain and The Cat from Outer Space. Indeed, much of Gypsies – inspired by the rhythms of the titular people – plays like melodic film score cues. Funky but strongly melodic, the music of this instrumental concept album was anchored by Schifrin and Mike Melvoin on acoustic piano and the ubiquitous Fender Rhodes, and Schifrin and Ian Underwood on a variety of spacey synthesizers such as the ARP 2600 and the Mini Moog. They were joined by an all-star cast of Dean Parks on guitar, Abe Laboriel on Fender bass, Jim Keltner on drums, Paulinho da Costa and Emil Richards on percussion. A smoking brass section with such venerable stalwarts as Oscar Brashear, Lew McCreary and Ernie Watts added further excitement.
After the jump: more on Gypsies, plus No One Home!
Though the musicians lend a different color, the vivid and ebullient Gypsies feels of a piece with Schifrin’s CTI material. It’s equally contemporary but less dancefloor-aimed, more cinematic and more fully unified as an album. Three bonus tracks have been added for this reissue – the radio versions of “Moonlight Gypsies,” “Fortune Tellers” and “Prophecy of Love.”
The very next year, Schifrin returned to Tabu with No One Home. Whereas Gypsies was an instrumental album, No One Home would be emphasize vocal songs with jazz fusion flourishes. The road to the eventual release was a bumpy one, however. A. Scott Galloway’s liner notes detail Schifrin’s recording of a different, eight-song album featuring vocalist Sandy Graham which was shelved by Tabu (reportedly at the behest of their distributor, CBS) for being too “legit” sounding. One of the songs recorded by Graham for that as-yet-unreleased project was “No One Home,” which was reinvented by Schifrin and his associate producer Schuyler “Sky” Traughber as a funky club jam sung by Sylvia Smith. Tabu founder Avant had brought Traughber into Schifrin’s circle to aid the composer in creating a more “rhythmic” album. Traughber brought Minnie Riperton’s song “Oh, Darlin’…Life Goes On” to Schifrin’s attention; it became one of two songs on the LP not composed by Schifrin. (The other is “Middle of the Night” from Lalo’s old friends Louis and Monique Aldebert.)
As was the case with “No One Home,” the R&B-flavored “Enchanted Flame” was carried over from the Sandy Graham sessions and re-recorded with vocalist Sylvia Smith. Sylvia has another showcase on “You Feel Good,” co-written (like “No One Home”) with Gale Garnett of “We’ll Sing in the Sunshine” fame. Ian Underwood anchors the song with his burbling synth part; other musicians on No One Home include the returning Paulinho da Costa and Oscar Brashear, plus Wah Wah Watson, Paul Jackson, Johnny Graham and Tim May on guitars, Byron Miller and Ed Watkins on bass, Jerome Richardson and Kim Richmond on woodwinds, Leon “Ndugu” Chancler and Alex Acuna on drums, and Ronnie Foster, Patrice Rushen and Lalo on keyboards.
The emotional high point of No One Home may well be “Memory of Love.” Featuring Sandy Graham’s lone remaining lead vocal, a second lead from Virginia Ayers and an exquisite piano solo from Patrice Rushen, the softly rhythmic, beguiling ballad is further notable for its lyrics penned by Dr. Maya Angelou. (In 1979, Schifrin and Angelou would co-write an off-Broadway musical, And Still I Rise.)
Despite its R&B feel and high caliber of material, No One Home only mustered a chart appearance on the Jazz survey, reaching No. 39. Like Gypsies, it’s ripe for rediscovery today. This expanded edition, featuring another superb essay from A. Scott Galloway and remastering by Phil Kinrade, adds both the single edit and an instrumental version of “No One Home.”
Both Gypsies and No One Home – testaments to the enduring talent of the great Lalo Schifrin and true snapshots of a particular place and time – are available now from Demon Music Group and Tabu Records!
- To Cast a Spell
- King of Hearts
- Moonlight Gypsies
- Fortune Tellers
- Prophecy of Love
- Ring Around the Moon
- Moonlight Gypsies (Radio Version) (Tabu single ZS8 5509, 1978)
- Fortune Tellers (Radio Version) (TBD)
- Prophecy of Love (Radio Version) (Tabu single ZS8 5509, 1978)
- No One Home
- Oh Darlin’…Life Goes On
- Enchanted Flame
- You Feel Good
- Memory of Love
- Middle of the Night
- No One Home (Edit) (Tabu single ZS9 5519, 1979)
- No One Home (Instrumental) (Tabu single 4Z8-5520, 1979)