51 Shades of Geek

Hot Butter – Popcorn

Hot Butter - PopcornA novelty for the early 1970s, Hot Butter helped to drag electronically generated music into the American mainstream. Actually the brainchild of session keyboard player Stan Free, who had played on albums and on stage for numerous other artists, Hot Butter had to ease its listeners into the concept of music generated by machine by doing covers of familiar tunes, including the one that actually made it onto the charts, a cover of an obscure instrumental called “Popcorn”.

The novelty of it all is that, where the British and European listening public had been getting a steady indoctrination of electronic music via the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and other sources for years, often with a psychedelic connotation, the American public wasn’t yet on that same IV drip of music made with machines. There are wavering bass and melody lines in Hot Butter’s songs that simply couldn’t be performed, with the degree of consistency and accuracy heard here, by a human being. To smooth the shock of the new, there are some “real” instruments in the mix, usually drums.

Some of the best pieces here were echoplexed ’60s instrumentals – “Telstar” and “Apache” – that lent themselves well to the Hot Butter treatment. Other fairly well known songs also adapt easily to Hot Butter’s style, though nothing is as surprising as “Amazing Grace”, played bagpipes-style by synthesizers. That synths were at the core of the music was amazing enough at the time; that they were taking the place of an easily recognizable instrument in an almost universally-well-known arrangement was just another shock treatment, 3 out of 4 starsand it works wonderfully.

Though always intended to be a novelty act, Hot Butter may have had some life in it yet, and it’s a bit sad, after hearing Free’s virtuosity here, that the Butter didn’t keep simmering, leaving this act a bona fide one-hit wonder.

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  1. Popcorn (2:34)
  2. Day By Day (3:49)
  3. Apache (2:53)
  4. At The Movies (2:34)
  5. Tristana (3:29)
  6. Song Sung Blue (3:36)
  7. Telstar (2:26)
  8. Tomatoes (2:21)
  9. Amazing Grace (2:58)
  10. Love At First Sight (2:58)
  11. Song Of The Nairobi Trio (2:16)
  12. The Silent Screen (2:12)
  13. Mah-Na-Mah-Na (1:51)
  14. Masterpiece (2:18)
  15. Percolator (1:59)
  16. Skokiaan (2:12)
  17. Slag Solution (2:28)
  18. Sounds (3:13)
  19. Space Walk (2:52)
  20. Syncopated Clock (2:16)
  21. Tequila (1:49)
  22. Wheels (1:54)

Released by: Castle
Release date: 2000
Total running time: 56:58

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