THE NEW YORK ROCK & ROLL ENSEMBLE'S REFLECTIONS
their first two albums, The New York
Rock & Roll Ensemble
and Faithful Friends, the New
York Rock & Roll Ensemble had helped innovate the use of classical
instrumentation, classical musical influences, and even actual
classical compositions within a rock context. On one level, Reflections did so as well, but on
another, it was something of a detour. For rather than focusing on
original material, the band instead collaborated with Greek composer
Manos Hadjidakis on a score for a movie that was never released—though Reflections is the soundtrack that
would have been used in the film.
bassist/cellist Dorian Rudnytsky explains, a Turkish film actor, Ulvi
Dogan, had been involved with the production of a film titled Susuz
Yaz (in English, Dry Summer),
"which received lots of praise and won some awards in the late '60s.
music score had been written by Manos Hadjidakis [best known in the US
as the composer of the score for Never
on Sunday, including its title song]. Dogan wanted the film to
be released in the Unites States, but for this needed to 'modernize'
certain aspects of his (basically folk-style) film, and the idea came
about to write out a new musical score for the film, with Manos's music
and NYR&RE arrangements, sound, vocals, and lyrics. Manos came
looking for us; we found the idea appealing and interesting enough, and
went ahead with the project. The other obvious change was renaming the
film Reflections, and that's
why the album kept that title."
However, Rudnytsky continues, "If memory serves me,
Manos and Dogan had a disagreement of some sort. I'm sorry to say that
today I don't remember at all what it was about, but I do recall the
screaming fight between the two of them at Atlantic Records during one
of our sessions, and I know that it was a 'terminal fight.' One thing,
however, was certain—the project halted, although the score was
completed. We did not spend a lot of time mourning the stop on the film
release, since we had more and more live gigs to play and also began,
quite directly after the work for Reflections,
[working] on Faithful Friends.
Reflections was actually
recorded before Faithful Friends,
but released as the third album. We at that time gave no thought to the
commercial possibilities of Reflections,
since it was meant to be a movie soundtrack only."
The New York Rock & Roll Ensemble were
nonetheless happy to work with Hadjidakis on the project, for which
they were likely one of the few rock bands of the time who made for
appropriate collaborators. According to Dorian, "Manos wrote the music
and the orchestral arrangements. We did our own band arrangements of
his works. If he had specific wishes, then we complied without
problems, and if we had ideas for him, he also accepted them very
graciously and happily. The work together was extremely productive and
successful all around, if not a bit difficult at first for the
'non-classically-trained' members of the band. [Rhythm guitarist] Brian
[Corrigan] and [lead guitarist] Clif [Nivison], the self-taught guys,
had more problems with this music, especially since they could not read
music and everything Manos did was on sheet music or charts. But they
enjoyed the project as well once they got into it and became more
familiar with the Greek-style arrangements and orchestrations. I don't
mean to underrate Clif or Brian—they were extremely fast learners and
extraordinarily creative. They simply had not been confronted with this
sort of music nor style of work prior to this project."
Hadjidakis also produced the album with (in the
words of the credits) "the collaboration of Adrian Barber & Bruce
Tergesen," who produced the group's Faithful
Friends album and also managed the band. "We originally viewed
this studio work as a 'film project,' which for us was quite a positive
thing to do," elaborates Rudnytsky. "We were aware that to do a film
score could open new doors and possibilities for us. Already
[keyboardist/oboist] Michael [Kamen] and [drummer/oboist] Marty
[Fulterman] both had a distinct interest [in] those areas and pressed
very enthusiastically for this project right from the start. And in
this sense, it was very much a part of our band's work—steps for
building our future."
Every member of the band except Fulterman had at
least one lead vocal on the record (which also featured two
instrumentals), and all except Kamen were credited with supplying
lyrics for Hadjikdakis's music. "We simply picked out certain songs or
melodies we liked and felt a kinship to, and went off to do our best,"
remembers Dorian. "In some cases, more than one person wrote lyrics for
one song, and then the band as a whole chose the one we liked best.
This was normal for us. Manos also took part, but his English was not
100 percent so he commented less on the choices of the lyrics." Points
out Nivison, "Michael did write lyrics, but Manos didn't use his
lyrics. Although he didn't get credit, some of Michael's lyrics are in
the songs in spots. Manos tried all of us singing all the songs and
picked the vocalist that suited the song." Dorian also speculates that
Kamen might have taken relatively little part in the work as "he might
have been concentrating his creative work more for the then-upcoming
Atlantic sessions for Faithful
As for his own lyrical contributions, Rudnytsky
notes, "I specifically recall that no one else in the band wanted to
deal with the music that later became 'Orpheus.' I attempted several
different directions of lyrical ideas with this music and settled on
the Orpheus legend as a basis after discussions and advice about it
with my first wife Monique and her mother, the poetess Marie Ponsot. I
think it was due to the unusual lyric that everyone involved agreed I
should sing it myself as well—my one and only appearance as 'lead
singer.' 'Noble Dame' was more easy to write. My basis was an earlier
relationship I had had with, indeed, a noble young lady (a
Baroness) from Germany. She was the basic image I wrote at, and
of course then with imagination altered to become the person in the
song called the 'Noble Dame.' Life took its most peculiar and wonderful
course, and I met this Baroness again many many years later. One thing
led to another, and now Brigitte and I are married, and I am in Germany
due to her marvelous presence in my life."
Also using some instrumental contributions by Greek
musicians in the New York area, Reflections
was a creative endeavor for the band, but not a commercially successful
one. "The older people responded more favorably, the younger less,"
recalls Dorian. "Our root audience did not care for it much."
Similarly, Nivison feels the album "lost us all our audience and
confused all our fans. Atlantic had a three-album deal with us; they
used this album [which, as noted, was actually recorded before their
second LP to be released on Atlantic, Faithful
Friends] to fulfill their end of the deal. If we knew they
were going to use this as our third album, we never would have done it.
Ironically, the Reflections
album is the one that was a hit in Europe, had some Top 20 songs over
there, and has given us the most royalties and airplay of all our
albums. It also doesn't sound dated. It is timeless. It has been
re-recorded [on a 2005 CD] song for song by the Greek Top 20 band
Raining Pleasure, and is a hit again." Add Rudnytsky, "We were too
young and immature to notice and follow what happened with it in
Europe. If we had, I believe the whole Ensemble experience would have
been something very, very different after this album."
As it turned out, however, Atlantic Records dropped
the band after the LP's 1970 release, though the group (continuing as a
quartet without Corrigan) would record more albums for Columbia as the
New York Rock Ensemble. The late Kamen, as it turned out, would do
quite a bit more work on soundtracks after the group split (including Brazil, Lethal Weapon, and Die Hard), as well as making
important contributions to records by David Bowie and Pink Floyd.
Fulterman, too, made a name for himself (as Mark Snow) in the
soundtrack world, particularly for his work on television's The X-Files series. Rudnytsky
worked with Snow in Los Angeles for a time as a cellist for the TV/film
industry, although since 1995 he's been living in Germany, where he's
active as a cellist and bassist, and composes for theatrical
productions. "No bands since our time have had more than just one
member in the band who could whip out a classical instrument during a
rock set, and play it not only well, but on an internationally
qualitatively competitive level," he observes. "I'm still proud and
eternally happy for that chance I had to be in such a band."
-- Richie Unterberger
unless otherwise specified.
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