The Second Disc

Expanded and Remastered Music News

The Baja Marimbas Get a “New Deal” with “Lazy Days” and “Junior High School”

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There’s been a lot of talk around these parts about A&M Records’ 50th anniversary celebration, and why not?  The label founded by Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss virtually defined the sound of AM radio in the 1960s before embracing cutting-edge new wave , rock and R&B sounds in the ensuing decades.  And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  When one thinks of the A&M Sound, however, those bright and breezy sixties pop songs just might be the defining style.  With the phenomenal success of Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass paving the way, A&M delivered gem after gem from groups like Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66 and Julius Wechter’s merry band of faux Mexicans, The Baja Marimba Band.  The Kritzerland label has just announced the release of two titles from the Wechter discography.

Despite the goofy oversize sombreros and fake moustaches, the sounds within the grooves of the Baja Marimba LPs were genuinely filled with impeccable musicianship.  Wechter, the main marimba man, had played on Alpert’s TJB records, and composed the hit “Spanish Flea” for his A&M boss.  Alpert soon encouraged him to form his own group, and the Baja Marimba Band was born.  Wechter was supported by session pros including Pete Jolly, Hal Blaine, Leon Russell and Tommy Tedesco, and arrangers like Nick DeCaro.  Alpert himself was the chief producer, especially in the early years, and all told, The Baja Marimba Band released some ten original albums on A&M between 1964 and 1971.  The band’s departure from A&M didn’t close the book on the Baja Marimba Band, however, and certainly not on the career of Julius Wechter.  A 1973 album for Bell Records proclaimed The Baja Marimba Band’s Back, and another LP arrived on the Applause label in 1982.  The final album to bear the Baja Marimba name arrived in 1990 on the Bay Cities label.  Credited to The Baja Marimbas and featuring Wechter fronting a new group of musicians, New Deal offered a new chapter in this musical story.  It was a bit jazzier than the old days, but every bit as delightfully infectious and instantly recognizable.  Now, New Deal is back from original producer Bruce Kimmel’s Kritzerland label in an expanded and remastered edition, retitled Lazy Days.

Lazy Days includes all ten tracks from New Deal.  Most were originals from Wechter and collaborator Jules “Julie” Greenberg, though the album led off with a sprightly run through “We’re Off to See the Wizard” from The Wizard of Oz, and also featured the George and Ira Gershwin standard “But Not for Me.”  Five bonus tracks have been added: “Green Bird,” “Nine on a Match,” a commercial spot for the Santa Anita Racetrack (“Daily Double”) and two from 1982’s Naturally, Gilbert O’Sullivan’s “Alone Again (Naturally)” and “Theme from Deep Throat.”  Yes, there was apparently something musically worthwhile among that notorious film’s attributes!

A limited edition of 1,000 copies, Lazy Days is scheduled to ship the first week of September, though pre-orders from Kritzerland usually arrive earlier.  And that’s not all.  Hit the jump for the pre-order link and track listing for Lazy Days, plus the lowdown on Julius and David Wechter’s Junior High School!

The 1978 short musical film Junior High School was a labor of love for directors Michael Nankin and David Wechter (Julius’ son).  Wechter and Nankin had already directed the short film Gravity, which had garnished them critical acclaim, when they set out to musicalize the Southern California junior high school experience circa ’78.  Made for under $35,000 (the filmmakers raised the money and received a grant from the American Film Institute), the film was shot in one month on location at Burbank’s John Muir Junior High School in Burbank, California.  Among the cast of real-life kids was a young starlet with a big career ahead of her: none other than Paula Abdul.

David Wechter provided the musical’s songs, and enlisted his father Julius to arrange them.  In addition, the elder Wechter provided the original underscore.  Julius assembled the top tier of L.A. session men, including several members of the Wrecking Crew.  Playing under Wechter’s leadership were Bernie Fleischer, Bobby Findley (of the Tijuana Brass), Lou McCreary, Tommy Tedesco, Dave Frishberg (a fine and idiosyncratic songwriter in his own right, who also appears and sings in the film), and Steve Schaefer.  It was engineered by Phil Spector’s longtime right-hand man, Larry Levine, who helped craft The Wall of Sound at Gold Star Studios.

Roger Ebert said of the film, “I think it’s probably impossible not to be charmed out of your socks by Junior High School.”   The film gained Michael Nankin and David Wechter the attention of Walt Disney Productions, and they repeated screenwriting and directing duties for the feature film Midnight Madness.  The 1980 movie marked the feature film debut of another future star, Michael J. Fox, and although not a hit at the time, it developed a cult following that continues to this day.

Kritzerland has a treat in store for fans of Junior High School.  It’s being released on Blu-ray and its soundtrack on CD, both in deluxe, expanded editions.  The Blu-ray of Junior High School also includes the aforementioned film Gravity, as well as a commentary track with the film’s creators and two retrospective featurettes: Junior High School Reunion and Return to Junior High School. The CD soundtrack (limited to 1,000 copies) contains several bonus tracks, including demos from Midnight Madness, Malibu Bikini Shop, and the never made feature version of Junior High School, which was in development at United Artists.

Like Lazy Days, the Blu-ray and soundtrack of Junior High School are both due the first week in September but will likely arrive earlier!  You can pre-order all three titles below!

The Baja Marimbas, Lazy Days (Kritzerland, 2012)

  1. We’re Off to See the Wizard
  2. Baja Noce
  3. But Not for Me
  4. Say “Si Si”
  5. Shorty
  6. Lazy Days
  7. Rumrunner
  8. Free Fall
  9. Pavane
  10. New Deal
  11. Green Bird
  12. Nine on a Match
  13. Alone Again (Naturally)
  14. Deep Throat
  15. Santa Anita Racetrack Spot (Daily Double)

Tracks 1-10 from New Deal, Bay Cities CD BCD-2001, 1990
Tracks 11-15 are bonus tracks, Tracks 13-14 from Naturally, Applause LP APLP-1008

David Wechter and Julius Wechter, Junior High School (Kritzerland, 2012 – CD / Blu-ray)

CD:

  1. Main Title (Junior High School)
  2. The Party Song
  3. Vicki in the Girls’ Lavatory/Vicki Hatches Her Plan
  4. Do What I Say
  5. Jerry Approaches Lon/The Long Hallway/Paper Pick-Up
  6. School Orchestra Tunes Up
  7. Woodshop/Home Ec
  8. “How’s Your Poor Nose?”
  9. The Itty Bitty Titty Committee
  10. Jerry Infiltrates Girls’ P.E.
  11. The P.E. Song
  12. Lori Notices Jerry/Who Took My Snowball?
  13. Eye Games in the Library
  14. Duet
  15. Writing Notes
  16. The Note Race/Relief!
  17. Junior High School
  18. Bye Bye Briefcase
  19. Junior High School (Vocal Tag)
  20. End Credits
  21. The Jimmy Gravity Song
  22. Gravity (End Credits)
  23. The New Kid in School
  24. Braces
  25. Midnight Madness (Demo)
  26. The Bikini Shop
  27. Sheila, That Talking Sheep

Tracks 21-27 are bonus tracks

Written by Joe Marchese

August 7, 2012 at 12:59

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