In his sixties heyday, Ivor Raymonde was one of the most sought-after and prolific musical arrangers in Britain. Specialising in a collision of lush orchestration with the raw energy of pop and rock, he became Joe Meek’s favourite collaborator, and elsewhere created bold, international hits for Billy Fury, Dusty Springfield, Helen Shapiro and The Walker Brothers. Moving to Decca Records in 1966 he combined A&R with his duties as their in-house arranger and made memorable forays into psychedelia and soul. ‘Paradise: The Sound of Ivor Raymond‘ sets its sights firmly on these glory days, collecting 26 hits, misses, b-sides, obscurities, and stone-cold classics. Replete with essays and liner notes, it’s out now on Bella Union.
Ivor Raymonde is fortunate to have a champion in his son, Simon Raymonde, former Cocteau Twin and Bella Union label boss. Touring last summer with Mercury Rev and the Royal Northern Sinfonia, Raymonde took the opportunity to present one of his father’s songs and say a few words about the project. It’s quite the bombshell to casually drop on a cramped venue full of Rev-heads: oh yeah, and my dad directed the orchestra for Scott Walker. The sheer bloody awe was palpable. ‘Paradise‘ is a much-anticipated labour of love from a son who you feel never quite got to know his dad as well as he would have liked.
Anyone familiar with The Walker Brothers’ ‘Make it Easy on Yourself‘, or with Dusty Springfield’s ‘I Only Want to be with You‘ will know that this is music from the uppermost echelons of what’s possible in a pop record. Both tracks are here and neither disappoint. ‘I Only Want to be with You‘ is simply glorious. A career breakthrough for both Springfield and Raymonde, it established his trademark soaring strings and powerful brass, backed by an exuberant, pounding beat. It’s a mighty wall of sound, joyous and revelatory – the actual noise of someone who is loved and in love.
Beyond these, there’s a treasure trove of less familiar material. We’ve got bubblegum pop from The Breakaways and Cindy Cole, a soulful interlude courtesy of Sonny Childe, and the caustic, valedictory ‘Beautiful Friendship‘ by Barbara Ruskin, one of the era’s few female singer-songwriters. Sixties psychedelia can be found crashing hard into its own quaint melancholy in ‘She Sold Blackpool Rock‘ by The Honeybus, and Spain’s Los Bravos put up a spirited assault on their anthemic ‘Black is Black‘. Ivor Raymonde himself is centre-stage on more than a couple of tracks, including a vocal credit on the sweet ballad ‘Mylene‘, and as bandleader on ‘It’s the Real Thing‘, a rollicking, barnstormer of an instrumental created at the behest of a well-known soft drink manufacturer and later sampled by DJ Shadow. There are very early singles by Tom Jones and David Bowie, and while both records work on their own terms, neither artist has hit their stride. Bowie, in particular, is clearly awaiting his dose of The Velvet Underground. But it’s nonetheless irresistible, even as a novelty tune, and it’s impossible not hear how thrilled the young Bowie is to be borne along by such a class act.
Raymonde’s output is constantly surprising. There’s apparently nothing he couldn’t turn his hand to. Take The Flies’ cover of ‘(I’m Not Your) Stepping Stone‘. This is the version that you bet the Sex Pistols wish they could have done and it certainly knocks The Monkees tepid accounting of it into a cocked hat. It’s so raw and grungy it could almost be Mudhoney. This is immediately followed by Ian Dury and the Blockheads’ ‘Sueperman’s Big Sister‘ from 1980. Dury had specifically sought out Raymonde for this composition (their other collaboration is the equally magnificent ‘Fucking Ada‘ – seek it out) and it’s a shame the single flopped, as it might have heralded an eighties renaissance for him. But it wasn’t to be and it doesn’t seem to matter, because there he is anyway, Ivor Raymonde, with a grin and a wink, knocking out a cheeky little arrangement for The Blockheads.
Twist and turn though this compilation does, for me it all comes back to Scott Walker and Dusty Springfield. Ivor Raymonde shared their vision of taking slick, American-sounding orchestral arrangements, stripping away the schmaltz, and giving the whole thing an underlying rock and roll swagger. He’s an unsung hero of British pop music, long overdue a fresh appraisal. With ‘Paradise: The Sound of Ivor Raymonde‘ his ship may finally be coming in again.