Album + Compilation
Alpert and his Tijuana Brass were enormous, becoming the biggest-selling instrumental act in the US. In the UK, they enjoyed five top 10 albums and two top 10 singles. Although he had his first minor UK hit in 1963 with The Lonely Bull, a moody piece of bullfight music, it was the forever jaunty Spanish Flea that took him into the top three in 1966. The following year he was to soundtrack the original Casino Royale.
The first disc moves from his 60s heyday to his 80s revival. It is what it is, impeccably played, perfectly arranged. When easy listening became dubbed lounge-core to compliment Britpop in the 90s, Alpert's breezy rendition of A Taste of Honey was adopted by Chris Evans in his first, more notorious stint as a BBC breakfast DJ.
Why we should care about Alpert in 2010 is down to two shimmering recordings: Rise and This Guy's in Love With You. Recorded in 1979, Rise grooved perfectly and demonstrated how Alpert could be in step with the times. The breakdown became the main sample for the Notorious B.I.G.'s Hypnotize.
This Guy's in Love With You is the one for which Alpert will be most fondly remembered. Written by Burt Bacharach, Alpert's fragile vocal (one of the very few times he took the mic) is perfect for the song, which still sounds like a shy groom singing to his bride at his wedding for the first and only time ever in public.
This two-CD set also features a recent live recording of Alpert in cabaret concert with his wife, singer Lani Hall. It is straightforward, supper jazz, delivered impeccably. It will win no new fans but delight his hardcore audience, sounding fantastically out of time.
The Essential Herb Alpert proves that the smooth shiny veneers of Alpert and his horn were as central to the 60s as peace and love. You may not wish to return to it often, but the highlights here are rather fabulous.
- - -