Bargain Bin Babylon: The Fluegel Knights: One of Those Songs

Bargain Bin Babylon: The Fluegel Knights: One of Those Songs

Never assume anything about an album purely based on its cover art.

We all understand the dangers of buying a record purely based on the cover. Awesome covers don’t always mean awesome music. A hilariously bad cover doesn’t necessarily translate into a hilariously bad album; it might just be bad. But, by far, my worst cover-art-purchase ended in early-’70s easy listening. Imagine it, finding One of Those Songs, an anthology hits album by the Fluegel Knights—an interesting name, to say the least—with a portrait of a girl with long, flowing hair on the cover and a song called “Camelot,” in a bargain bin. References to their “unique sound” on the back should have made the “Fluegel” part of the band name click. But, no, the jazzy flugelhorn-based sound that greeted my ears was still a surprise.

The Fluegel Knights, it turns out, were the creation of Dick Behrke, a conductor and arranger who released several flugelhorn-based pop albums for MTA from the late ’60s into the ’70s. Most of those albums were actually under the name King Richard’s Fluegel Knights and that just makes it all even better. Judging by the other KRFK covers in the “Other MTA Hit Albums” section on the back cover, One of Those Songs opts for particularly bucolic imagery to sell the music. The other record covers were all about nondescript, vaguely psychedelic color-swatch backgrounds for Behrke to pose in front of creepily. Seriously, take a gander at the dubiously-titled Something Super! someday.

But regardless of album designs, the music itself is soul-crushingly average and, to most, likely grating. This is the less funky, lighter version of the sort of music that soundtracked ’70s shows like “Charlie’s Angels” and “The Mod Squad.” And that’s not a compliment. No matter how entertaining “The Mod Squad” is, its music is the low point. And this album at least is mostly a collection of adult contemporary jazzy versions of hits and standards. Flugelhorn pop is bad enough but flugelhorn remixes? Side A features a cover of the jazz standard “Everybody Loves My Baby,” and Behrke makes a point of squeezing in a tympani solo for the ages. The general format here goes something like this: open on a flurry of light and carefree horns and flutes, mix in some jangly guitar, marimba and off-kilter percussion (frequently maracas and tambourines), maybe throw in a tympani solo and end with a rather abrupt finale flourish (“Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf” is a big offender on that last point).

It’s hard to say exactly what the appeal was. Some musical genres are impossible to make excuses for. But in terms of arranging peppy versions of hit songs, Behrke and producer Bob Thompson do show off some flourishes. Cole Porter’s “In the Still of the Night” gets a total reworking, with KRFK’s version going heavy on the marimba, maracas and, naturally, flugelhorn. And, of course, “Camelot” is actually a flugelhorn pop remix of the title song from the Alan Jay Lerner musical. To be clear, these versions aren’t butchering the original melodies by any means. “Camelot” is very recognizable and very recognizable as an abomination. Maybe it’s an acquired taste.

The only track on One of Those Songs that bears few marks of Behrke’s arranging is “A Lover’s Concerto.” That is, until the horn fades and Behrke leaves the listener with a free-form breakdown of ’60s guitars, tambourine and tympani, the actual notes bearing little resemblance to any interlude in the Toys’ original. The takeaway here is that you should always approach easy listening remixes cautiously and never assume anything about an album purely based on its cover art.

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