Rob Price
Gutbrain Records
rob + = email

2021 July 12 • Monday

Jazz guitarist Mundell Lowe has done some soundtrack work, including some cool records of television and movie themes. But I didn't realize that he was also responsible for the 682nd Soundtrack of the Week: Billy Jack.

While Lowe contributed score, there are songs by others. And so the record begins with Dennis Lambert's and Brian Potter's "One Tin Soldier", performed by Coven. Apparently Coven was one of the first occult rock bands and singer Jinx Dawson a self described "Left Hand Path High Priestess and Ceremonial Mage".

The song itself is more or less an anti-war protest song with some martial elements to the arrangement, snare drum prominent, for example.

Next is Lowe's very short "Hello Billy Jack", an atmospheric 45 seconds or so of some percussion and wind moods.

Then there's one minute of "The Old and the New" which starts out with what sounds like Native American tribal music and, after ten or fifteen seconds, has some psychedlic rock faded into it so we hear both at the same time, the old and the new indeed.

Two songs written and sung by Teresa Kelly come next.

"Johnnie" is another anti-war protest song ("Why is there war? / Why is there killing?" etc.). It's a cool tune with acoustic guitar and wooden flutes as the platform for the singing.

"Look, Look to the Mountain" is a sunnier and sprightlier number with drums and a backing chorus, as well as cheerful lyrics about how the natural world is our treasure and such.

"When Will Billy Love Me" is a love song, as you might guess, written and sung by Lynn Baker. There are some nice touches in the arrangement, treatment of the flute which makes it sound almost electronic, as well as some subtle use of an instrument that might be some kind of keyboard or percussion instrument, I'm not sure. There's a daydreamy feel to this song and it's very nice.

Gwen Smith is up next, singing her song "Freedom Over Me", basically a gospel number. You only hear it for about half a minute and then it's onto Mundell Lowe's "All Forked Tongue Talk Alike", an unexpected jazz guitar feature with organ, bass and drums as well as a horn section. Presumably this is Lowe himself and it has that late '60s/early '70s jazz rock whatever thing going on.

Another Lowe piece, "The Challenge", follows and at first it sounds like standard dramatic underscore but eventually kicks into a sort of Vegas-y horn band number, as if Billy Jack's doing his stage show.

Side A ends with another gospel-like song, Lynn Baker's "A Rainbow Made of Children". It's like a much more energetic "Will the Circle Be Unbroken".

The B side is all Mundell Lowe cues, with the exception of a reprise of "One Tin Soldier" to conclude the record and "The Ring Song" written and performed by Katy Moffat.

First up is a half-minute Lowe composition called "A Most Beautiful Day", kind of a classic short soundtrack cue of the period that could be easily dropped into an episode of Columbo or Banacek or something like that.

The next piece is also by Lowe and the title, "An Indian Dance", sums up what you hear. Hand percussion, wooden flute, jingle bells and some vocalizing. It's followed by Lowe's "The Ceremonial Dance" which is surprisingly not more of the same but actually quintessential tv action/suspense music.

Then there's more lounge act jazz shuffling for "A Flick of the Wrist", which you could imagine hearing on The Love Boat.

"It's All She Left Me" is a slow version of the what sounds like the same melody from "A Flick of the Wrist" but with sinuous horns, acoustic guitar and flute as the main voice.

This mellow and somewhat pastoral feel is carried over into "You Shouldn't Do That" but the cue quickly becomes about action music. Having established that, however, Lowe takes the ensemble through various different zones of mood and texture, one minute just a solo bass clarinet, the next some percussion ostinato or staccato piano.

Up next is the previously mentioned "The Ring Song", which has kind of a Bobbie Lee Gentry crossed with Joan Baez quality. It's a brisk and engaging number with great guitar playing as well as energetic piano and rhythm section.

Lowe's "Thy Loving Hand" is next, basically a laidback gospel waltz.

After that comes "Say Goodbye, Cause You're Leavin'", a country rock tune with some great lap steel guitar playing.

And then there's just one more piece, Mundell Lowe's "I Think You Always Knew (The Theme from Billy Jack)", which starts out with some delicately beautiful nylon-string solo guitar playing that's a hybrid of classical and pop conventions. Then various wind instruments come in, flute and clarinet and such, eventually to be joined by electric guitar that also plays gently and precisely.