Archie Ulm At The Yamaha EX-42

According to the liner notes of this self-released album from 1975, Milwaukee keyboard prodigy and supper club circuit regular Archie Ulm “devastated the traditional concept of organ playing by inciting his audiences to stunning highs of musical awareness.” On this album, together with “two of the finest musicians in Milwaukee,” Ulm “creates the ultimate effect, challenging his instruments to go beyond their designed limits in contemporary pops and rhythm and blues.” Unfortunately, they didn’t challenge the limits of their budget, for the end result is markedly lo-fi. Some of the electronic sound effects sound exactly like compression artifacts. In other places, the “total sound synthesis” is almost indistinguishable from the surface noise on this substandard pressing.

None the less, the performances of Archie and his group are both spirited and nuanced on such “mind-expanding” crowd-pleasers as “The Hustle” and “Popcorn.” The group also offers not-entirely-unexceptional run-throughs of “The Cat” and “Harlem Nocturne.” My personal favorites on the album are the television tunes: “Rockford Files,” and the album’s stand-out track, “NBC Mystery Movie Theme.”

Of course, the real star of the album is the Yamaha EX-42. Released in 1970 and retailing for tens of thousands of dollars, this brute of a space-aged keyboard looks like something an Imperial Stormtrooper would play. Such earthlings as Keith Emerson, Benny Andersson and Stevie Wonder were fans of its close cousin, the legendary and even more expensive Yamaha GX1. Not only would you have to knock a hole in your wall to get these things in your house, but you’d have to use a screwdriver to program them.

One can only assume that Archie had to stay on the supper club circuit for quite long time in order to pay for his bad boy. But at least it was easier to take on tour than one of these!

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[Bostworld - Derrick Bostrom]