Listen: Bird Bath / The M.G.M. Studio Orchestra
The Mercury/Philips/Fontana labels were, in my opinion, secretly the best when it came to 60′s soundtracks. The industry elite likely considered United Artists or MGM to be the cream, but I just don’t think so. Those labels were outlets for their sister film divisions, so for quantity, they far outdid the Mercury group, but not quality.
Like Fontana’s BLACK ORPHEUS, the Mercury soundtrack to the Elizabeth Taylor / Richard Burton clunker THE SANDPIPER is slammed full of period piece background music, almost generically perfect for any B movie all nighter. In fact, despite the film being an MGM release, my guess is the loud thud of the movie’s flop meant their record division hot potatoed the soundtrack. What a God-send for Mercury.
And seriously, this Quincy Jones produced album is all over the map. In fact, via liner notes from the hand of composer Johnny Mandel himself, he intentionally attempted to accomplish something different in soundtrack music, wherein the “wildest possible variety of sounds and tempo….the surf, the grandeur of the mountains, the beauty of the land” were rolled into one whopping must of a vinyl album, not omitting the ultimate schlock standard ‘Shadow Of Your Smile’ along the way.
But it’s the closing track, and miraculously the 7″ single choice, ‘Bird Bath’ that takes the cake and really makes no sense in the context of all the other songs. Bordering on teen beat, late 50′s style, this was beautifully out of step by it’s release in ’65.
Why on earth did anyone at Mercury think this would get airplay and be a hit? Well, whoever made that decision, I sure would like to thank them. ‘Bird Bath’ is magic.