Johnny Arthey is a rather typical product of the British pop music machine of the sixties. He came up through the ranks, distinguishing himself first as an instrumentalist (he was a pianist for a military orchestra during his national service), then later conducting orchestras for the BBC. Soon he was one of the clique of go-to producer/arrangers for radio, television and, of course, pop records. He holds the particular distinction of scoring the strings added to records by such Jamaican artists as The Pioneers and Marcia Griffiths when they were released for the British market. He also masterminded the Reggae Strings and co-wrote the theme to the popular British children's program, "The Double Deckers." Like so many of his contemporaries, Arthey also recorded his share of production music records. Along the way, he released an intermittent string of instrumental recordings of popular titles.
Our current example is from the early 60s, when the dominance of the Lennon/McCartney songwriting juggernaut demanded the inclusion of not one, not two, but three tunes by the prominent duo. And aside from Millie Small's "My Boy Lollipop" and Dusty Springfield's "Wishin' And Hopin'," the rest of the songs are all by a who's who of Beatle also-rans. Dave Clark Five ("Bits And Pieces"), Gerry & The Pacemakers ("How Do You Do It"), Searchers ("Needles And Pins"), the Kinks ("You Really Got Me") and Manfred Mann ("Do Wah Ditty Ditty") are all represented. The standout track, however, has to be the Rolling Stones hit "Time Is On My Side." The signature Arthey strings saw moodily at the melody, while throughout, a lead guitar freaks out in a nervous Richardsian approximation of a blues lick. The track stands in dirgelike contrast to the album's otherwise cheerful and up tempo contents.
At the end of the day, all I really want from a record is a faceless rhythm section with a full orchestra backing it up. If the group wants to add some originals, that's fine; but really, it's all about "instrumental performances of the same exciting vocal versions." This album delivers those requirements in spades. Hell, all you have to do is look at the cover and you know you're in for some excitement. Whoever titled this record really knew how to market their product.