John Baker – The John Baker Tapes (Kruger music review)

Music review of two John Baker albums, originally written for Kruger magazine in July 2008.

Artist: John Baker
Albums: The John Baker Tapes Volume 1 and Volume 2
Label: Trunk Records

In the old days, the BBC could source its own original music and jingles at the Radiophonic Workshop, housed in Maida Vale Studios, London. Beginning in 1958 the workshop went on, most famously, to produce the score and sound effects for Doctor Who. Visionary though it was, that job has a tendency to overshadow their litany of other soundtrack projects. The workshop has now alas gone, as has its most prolific sound architect John Baker. But thanks to curator Jonny Trunk we now have these curious, weird and downright fun collections of restored workshop tapes and other archive material to enjoy. This is the sound of eccentric Britain in the 50s, 60s and 70s, often childlike and playful and strangely familiar even to younger listeners. Woman’s Hour, Dial M For Murder and BBC Cymru are among the many programmes featured, as are dusty library relics with titles like Piano Concrete MQ LP48/5. Much of this quality music is low budget, pre-Roland and most definitely pre-digital editing with Pro Tools etc. Baker would press the record button, pluck rulers and uncork bottles (three decades before the revered Matthew Herbert and other found sound magicians!) then painstakingly splice the tapes to produce rhythms, melodies and off-kilter incidentals. As a listening experience you may prefer to dip in and out. Volume 1 is the better starting point, while volume 2 rounds up the non-BBC material like obscure library stuff and home recordings. Both volumes have copious sleevenotes to satisfy the budding anthologist in you.

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