Used to be, when a popular musical group fell from favor, they'd "reinvent" themselves, ditching their perishable old shtick in favor of whatever "sound" was currently in vogue. They'd take this route as long as they could before finally being put to pasture on the oldies circuit. Albums from this period would often have "today!" or "now!" in the title (eg. "Junior Samples NOW!"). Or perhaps they'd take a more up-front approach, like "Count Basie In A Slightly Less Archaic Groove," or allude to some sort of sudden rejuvenation, like band singer Jayne Morgan's 1967 comeback L.P., "Fresh From A Nap." Sometimes, they'd attempt a full-scale graft of another artist's style, as in "Robert Goulet Tries To Sing The Contemporary Hits of Rod McKuen" or Mel Torme's "Kickin' It With Jobim."
But all kidding aside, one cannot understate what a boon the rock mainstream could be to an artist schooled in the older jazz styles. An innovative arranger could make much more expansive use of strings and voices (as Les Browns has done here with his "Super" Sounds Of Renown) without falling prey to the limitations of the "sweet band" style. Sure, to the ears of a young unsophisticated rock fan, it may ALL have seemed like "schmaltz." But in the hands of an ambitious bandleader, even a song like "Something" or "Michelle" could afford a group much more wiggle room than material like "Little Things Mean A Lot" or "Aren't You Glad You're You."
Big Band star Les Brown's long career had already included such highlights as giving Doris Day her big break, backing up Buddy Love in Jerry Lewis' "The Nutty Professor," serving as musical director for both the Steve Allen and Dean Martin television shows and accompanying Bob Hope on his tours in Vietnam. But for his 1972 album on the Daybreak label, Les Brown attempted what he called "the most radical change of musical direction we've ever taken." Into its marvelous pop art jacket, Brown packs "New Horizons" with enough funky Beatles, bossa, Carole King and Jesus Christ Superstar vibes to achieve an effect which, according to the liner notes, "reflects the conflicts and stresses of the 1970's as no other act on record has succeeded in doing." And while that's a pretty high mark to aim for (a goal usually reserved for such stratospheric acts as Black Oak Arkansas or Captain & Tennille), Brown and his group comport themselves in a manner entirely appropriate for inclusion 35 years later here at Bostworld.