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Articles Home » 1974 Articles » Newton Howard, James - 1974 James Newton Howard
Newton Howard, James - 1974 James Newton Howard

ARTIST: James Newton Howard
ALBUM: James Newton Howard
LABEL: Kama Sutra
SERIAL: 0698
YEAR: 1974


LINEUP: James Newton Howard - all instruments * Brie Howard - drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 Six B's * 02 Bovere * 03 Newton's Ego * 04 Margaret I'm Home * 05 Ducks

WEBLINKS: www.james-newton-howard.com

Are film soundtracks the new classical music? That populist idea has been brought up more than once by a variety of critics and musicologists and if that's the case, will the music of Danny Elfman, Mark Isham and other film composers be as popular as Bach or Beethoven are in our day oh, say two hundred years from now? It's fun to think about and let's not forget another well known name in the current world of film scores and the subject of this review - James Newton Howard. Howard recently won a Grammy with Hans Zimmer for their work on 'The Dark Knight' as well as numerous nominations for the films 'The Prince of Tides', 'Signs' and 'Blood Diamond', but did you know long before hitting the Hollywood mother lode he recorded a progressive rock album? That's right, way back in the heady days of 1970 while still in music school studying under Marty Paich (father of Toto's David Paich) James began working on his first solo album which he didn't begin recording until the summer of 1973. Released on the Buddah Records subsidiary Kama Sutra, the eponymous debut didn't exactly burn up the charts, but remains a wonderful example of early Ameriprog.

The Songs
Make no mistake; this is a keyboard player's album and fans of Rick Wakeman and Keith Emerson will drool over Howard's classical extravagance but at no time does this album reach sensory overload as his contemporaries so often did. This is a vocal-less work and drums appear on just two cuts from James' wife at the time Brie Howard who was in the groundbreaking all-female band Fanny and later appeared on the 1986 pop album by American Girls. Her work is subtle on album opener 'Six B's' and just the opposite on the album closer 'Ducks' which is a superb ELP sounding rocker. In between we have the filmic 'Bovere' the colourful labyrinth of 'Newton's Ego' and the stunning 'Margaret I'm Home' which stands up to any progressive work coming across the pond at the time.

In Summary
This is a great record that seems to have gone un-noticed by much of the progressive intelligentsia both then and now. A CD reissue has never materialized and in my opinion considering Howard's current status would be a perfect choice for a label like Wounded Bird and similar purveyors of lost classics. In the meantime, seek and ye shall find one of the best keyboard dominated prog albums you'll ever hear.

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#1 | gdazegod on July 27 2009 23:26:32
Let's not forget that Trevor Rabin is now a member of that elite film score/composer group, having scored a number of high profile movies including 'Armageddon' all the way through to the recent 'Race To Witch Mountain'.
#2 | rostoned on July 28 2009 09:32:37
The infamous Tiger Lily label released a JNH s/t album in 1976. Different (way cheaper) artwork and song titles than the LP reviewed here but same songs and same music at the end of the day! Here's JNH take on it (taken from his web site):

'It is said that this very obscure LP contains the same tracks as the 1974 James Newton Howard solo LP, but with different track names. However, it misses the track 'Newton's Ego' and it features a new track 'Stars'. Several things make me believe that this LP is a bootleg. The label Tiger Lily Records is known to have released demo tapes without the knowledge of artists. Plus the album has exactly the same title as the 1974 album and features the same music under different names. Very weird to say the least.'
#3 | Eric on July 28 2009 11:10:00
I never knew this Filippo, thanks for the info. Tiger Lily was a tax-write off label like Tomorrow, Guinness and Dellwood, some interesting stuff on all of 'em, but shady at best!
#4 | rostoned on July 28 2009 11:41:16
Hats off to you Eric for letting us know about this obscurity in first place. After reading it I rushed to buy a pristine M- LP copy (the only one available at the moment) on ebay with its delicious gatefold (and apparently textured) cover on the uber deliciously monickered Kamasutra label. € 20 including shipping from US to Italy, a good deal since I saw more xpensive prices for this on MS.

Who needs a Wounded Bird skimpy CD edition anyway?
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