Tuesday, April 2, 2019

More U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels: The John Schroeder Orchestra

THE JOHN SCHROEDER ORCHESTRA-Agent 00 Soul/Nightrider US Cameo C-389 1965

The late British arranger/producer John Schroeder had a vast CV. Coming to fame as the A&R man for the British label Oriole, he was best known for licensing releases from the US Motown label for British consumption on the label before EMI acquired the British distribution rights. Afterwards he moved to Pye where he became a producer and the man behind the commercially successful easy listening venture known as Sounds Orchestral (best known for their international smash  reading of Vince Guaraldi's "Cast Your Fate Into The Wind" which rose to # 10 on the pop charts and #1 on the "Adult contemporary" charts).  Schroeder then moved on to supervise Pye's off shoot label Piccadilly whilst continuing to be behind records by Sounds Orchestral as well as producing The Sorrows, David Garrick, The Bystanders, The Ferris Wheel and Geno Washington, to name a few. He also cut several of his own under the moniker of The John Schroeder Orchestra. The latter were, more times than often, kitschy instrumental versions of current contemporary pop/soul hits and occasionally theme tunes to TV shows and movies.  His third UK single, a reading of Edwin Starr's smash "Agent 00 Soul" was issued in September 1965 as Piccadilly 7N35271. It was issued two  months later in the US and was also his American debut.

John Schroeder with Helen Shapiro

"Agent 00 Soul" is characteristic of what would later become Schroeder's instrumental trademark with flutes playing the main riff backed by heavy bass/drums and brass with the only vocals being smooth female voices singing "Double 00 soul" at the breaks and some tasty Hammond in the mix. It is alleged that the track enjoyed a revival on the Northern Soul scene but seeing as that has been said about a host of 60's instrumental tracks I will treat that with a pinch of salt.

"Nightrider" is an instrumental with every thing but the kitchen sink thrown in: organ, bongos, flute, fuzz guitar, jazzy brass, the lot.  It's uptempo but too chaotic to be dance able but still very groovy thanks to the organ and the razor sharp production and arrangement.

Schroeder would later go on to cut the in demand and highly collectible LP "Working In The Soul Mine" the following year which was entirely composed of similar readings of soul/r&b tunes as well as the equally amazing "Dolly Catcher" album in 1967 that utilized a similar formula but with pop covers (and some very cool originals as well). He produced a host of pop-psych and soul/r&b bands as well as a deacdes worth of releases by Status Quo including their smash "Pictures Of Matchstick Men".

"Agent 00 Soul" was included on the 2005 Castle Communications double CD retrospective "Soul Coaxing: The Many Moods Of John Schroeder" while "Nightrider" popped up on the old and essential "On The Brink: Return Of The Instro Hipsters" instrumental CD compilation.

Hear "Agent 00 Soul":


Hear "Nightrider":


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