!Shoot-out! TjB vs. BMB -- Round I: 1964

Select the group that in your opinion issued the best LP in 1964

  • Herb Alpert's Tijuana Brass

    Votes: 9 75.0%
  • Baja Marimba Band

    Votes: 3 25.0%

  • Total voters
    12

JOv2

Well-Known Member
Thread Starter
For the period 1964-1971, let's hold year-to-year comparisons to see how the LPs evolved between the two groups.
• Vote your poll choice and tell us a bit about why you made your selection.
South of The Border (SP 108 / SP 4108) — Baja Marimba Band (SP 104 / SP 4104)

sitb.jpg


bmb.jpg
 

Bobberman

Well-Known Member
I'm afraid I will have to abstain from voting this time because I love both these albums equally and they both have a huge sentimental value to me and both groups were using some of the same studio musicians at the time so the similarities and the wonderful music on both albums make it Impossible for me to choose between the two.
 

Harry

Charter A&M Corner Member
Staff member
Site Admin
I gotta go with SOUTH OF THE BORDER. It was an early acquisition in my first experiences with Herb and the Brass. And it was an early stereo record to boot. I wouldn't hear the BAJA MARIMBA BAND for many more years as I thought they were a "Mexicali Brass"-type knock of of the TjB sound. There were lots of those around and I always wanted the genuine article.
 

Steve Sidoruk

Founder, A&M Fan Net
Staff member
Moderator
I don't see how you could make any legitimate comparison between these two albums. SOB was Herb's third album and not only did he grow and make many changes after the first two, but it was recorded at Gold Star with the magic of Larry Levine at the console. There was a dramatic sound change from Volume 2 to South Of The Border. The BMB, self-titled, was just their first outing. It is a good album and I was very happy to acquire the 25-year A&M Japan CD version when issued.

As a disclaimer, SOB was my first A&M/Herb album that I bought on release in 1964, and it shall always occupy a special place in my heart & mind. :wink:
 

Rudy

¡Que siga la fiesta!
Staff member
Site Admin
I don't see how you could make any legitimate comparison between these two albums.
I can kind of see a comparison possible.

Was that first BMB album recorded at Gold Star also? (I don't have it handy to check the credits.)

In a sense, it was somewhat a spinoff of the TJB at that point in time and possibly shared at least a couple studio musicians, so the main comparison here would be the difference in arranging styles of Herb and Julius, and song selection. I also get the sense that the BMB album was recorded prior to South of the Border (based on the sound of it, but not the catalog number)--it's more in line with the TJB's albums after Volume 2 (which like you say, sounded drastically different).

We had both records in the house, but South of the Border wins for a similar reason--that album, and Whipped Cream and Going Places, were among my earliest musical memories. We didn't get the BMB album until maybe 1969 or 1970 when we got our first stereo console, and I wasn't allowed to play any of the "good" stereo records elsewhere in the house. So I am not quite as familiar with that one as I was the TJB albums at the time.
 

Rudy

¡Que siga la fiesta!
Staff member
Site Admin
Actually, the sonics of Rides Again remind me more of South of the Border...
 

JOv2

Well-Known Member
Thread Starter
One thing that makes the year-1964 group-to-group LP comparison interesting is Herb's presence given he produced both and co-arranged BMB (on the 1st BMB LP his arranger credit is listed ahead of Julius' while for the ensuing co-arranged LPs, Julius' name is listed first).

Like probably everyone, SOTB came first and years later I acquired the BMB LP from my uncle in 5th grade. Both LPs have aged well and while it's hard to definitively select one as "better than the other", I will select SOTB by a nose and change.
 
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Rudy

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Staff member
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In a sense, I gauged both albums on how well I know the tunes. I can remember a handful on the BMB album without hearing it, but know every note of South of the Border. Which is why I'd give it the nod. Not only that, this TJB album really put them on the map and as Steve points out, having Larry Levine on board to engineer that sucker really kicked it up a notch, and out of the "novelty" territory that Volume 2 could have been heading (although I still really like Volume 2 as, with the others, I grew up playing it all the time).
 

JOv2

Well-Known Member
Thread Starter
Agreed.

I guess Herb originated this thing as a parallel follow-up to the first two TJB LPs. So that the groups would not compete against each other, Herb wisely had "marimba + flute" define the BMB’s sound from the onset — all the more drawing up arrangements to ensure trumpets would not be a focal point (this would later become de facto marching orders for Julius once Lee Katzman became a member of the eventual group given Lee was a fiercely strong trumpeter).
 

Mike Blakesley

Well-Known Member
Staff member
Moderator
Larry Levine did not engineer the BMB album -- the job was done by Ben Jordan, according to the album's credits.

I would agree that Herb's arranging talents were probably equally applied to both albums, but he was definitely edging his own sound into more rock'n'roll territory and away from the South of the Border arena, his album's title notwithstanding. BMB may have been an attempt by him to have it both ways -- bring the TJB over to the American pop fold, which filling the Mexican-themed niche with Baja music. Doubling down on the Mexican sound, as it were.

I would have to vote for the TJB on this one. Like a lot of the A&M music, I got into the BMB starting in about the middle of their run -- I think the first music I had of theirs was Those Were the Days on one of those ill-fated black-plastic 8-tracks. It was one of the few that worked for quite a while, although eventually it too gave up the ghost. My most played Baja album is probably Fresh AIr -- I never did care for the first couple of albums all that much and the BMB has mostly been a "compilation-listening" artist for me.
 

JOv2

Well-Known Member
Thread Starter
I would agree that Herb's arranging talents were probably equally applied to both albums, but he was definitely edging his own sound into more rock'n'roll territory and away from the South of the Border arena,
Exactly! The following year (1965) -- with WC&OD and GP -- he definitely moves North of the border.
 

Rudy

¡Que siga la fiesta!
Staff member
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I would agree that Herb's arranging talents were probably equally applied to both albums, but he was definitely edging his own sound into more rock'n'roll territory and away from the South of the Border arena, his album's title notwithstanding. BMB may have been an attempt by him to have it both ways -- bring the TJB over to the American pop fold, which filling the Mexican-themed niche with Baja music. Doubling down on the Mexican sound, as it were.
Funny, it just occurred to me that a similar thing happened with Prince. He wanted to keep on creating his music that edged towards rock and new wave, but still wanted to keep his hand in funk and R&B, which is why he released albums as The Time. (Despite the touring band being the remains of the group Flyte Tyme, the first three albums were essentially recorded by Prince with Morris Day on vocals and an occasional solo by a band member from Prince's own band, like Dez Dickerson, or Jesse Johnson from The Time.)

Or, like Branford Marsalis recording under the pseudonym Buckshot LeFonque.

Turns out the BMB evolved into its own thing and once you get past the first few albums, there isn't much of a Mexican influence at all, although it always revolved around marimbas and vibraphones as the main instruments, and many of the band members all being part of the jazz community playing less challenging music for better pay. (And who can fault a career musician for doing that? They need to pay their bills like anyone else!)
 

A&M Retro

Well-Known Member
'South Of The Border' is a kick ass album. I liked it from the first listen. Sadly, I've never actually listened to a Baja Marimba Band LP from start to finish. It sounds like I need to fix that! I've always enjoyed their music when I've watched old video clips, etc., but I don't know the LPs other than by title.
 

Mr Bill

Gentlemanly Curmudgeon
Staff member
Moderator
I'm with Steve on comparing these two... You really can't do so fairly!

One was the artist's third album while the other was their first. Herb already had an established sound (though he was clearly heading in a new direction with SOtB, a direction that would be quite solid on the next album, WC&OD)

In that sense, it would be much fairer to compare BMB (4104) to The Lonely Bull than SOtB...

--Mr Bill
 

Rudy

¡Que siga la fiesta!
Staff member
Site Admin
I'm more of a mind that albums recorded during the same year are more comparable than each group's first album. It took three albums to finally find a TJB formula that worked (and endured), whereas the BMB already came out of the gate at an advantage of being something like a TJB spin-off, sharing studio musicians, arranger, etc. The uneven Lonely Bull and somewhat novelty-oriented Volume 2 (laying on the Mexican/mariachi theme a little too heavy) really didn't establish a baseline as South of the Border did for all that followed. The first BMB album is much more consistent in style and sound, just like South of the Border.
 

JOv2

Well-Known Member
Thread Starter
Perhaps I didn’t optimally articulate the overall idea here...

I like the notion of a timeline approach to compare the year-to-year musical evolution of both groups. Both entities were Herb’s creations and it remains consequential to musical archivists and historians to review how each changed with time. Perhaps the head-to-head approach isn’t to everyone’s liking, but I maintain its validity for this exercise and ultimately believe it will support the goal.

From a high level standpoint, such an exercise is no different than your typical best new releases articles that music critics annually issue.
 

Bobberman

Well-Known Member
I reluctantly changed my mind and decided to vote For South of the Border after thinking about the positive impact the music had on me when I had my first copy of the LP back in 1980 ( I was 13 at the time) however I still love both this and the BMB debut equally I had SOTB before I heard the BMB debut a couple years later but given this is where The TJB found its sound and evolved from there ( The BMB would begin to evolve starting with Watch out just a couple years later)
 

Harry

Charter A&M Corner Member
Staff member
Site Admin
Well, I understood the premise, for whatever reason it was stated, and answered with SOUTH OF THE BORDER. It was a strong, early presence in my collection, while the Baja Marimba Band went unheard for many years. There's no way that any BMB album will ever beat out Herb's product - I simply don't have the two acts on equal footing.

I can say that I listen more these days to the BMB for just casual listening - a sort of catching up, I guess.
 

Mike Blakesley

Well-Known Member
Staff member
Moderator
I have always wondered how they landed on the idea of marimba + flute. There are other instruments that could have worked with the marimba. Maybe they just tried a few ideas and that was the one that clicked. But it would have been interesting to be in on those discussions. I don't think I've ever heard marimba+flute in any other recordings.
 

Rudy

¡Que siga la fiesta!
Staff member
Site Admin
I have always wondered how they landed on the idea of marimba + flute. There are other instruments that could have worked with the marimba. Maybe they just tried a few ideas and that was the one that clicked. But it would have been interesting to be in on those discussions. I don't think I've ever heard marimba+flute in any other recordings.
Flutes are popular in Latin American music, but I can't say I've always heard it with marimba, which was always more aligned with exotica back in the day. (After all, Wechter was in Martin Denny's group for a while, and used all types of percussion.)
 

Steve Sidoruk

Founder, A&M Fan Net
Staff member
Moderator
I have always wondered how they landed on the idea of marimba + flute. There are other instruments that could have worked with the marimba. Maybe they just tried a few ideas and that was the one that clicked. But it would have been interesting to be in on those discussions. I don't think I've ever heard marimba+flute in any other recordings.

Marimba and flute are often times found in Caribbean/Island type music - steel drum as well.
 

Harry

Charter A&M Corner Member
Staff member
Site Admin
This straight from Julius as an answer to Bob Papp: Julius Wechter Visits A&M Corner

Bob Papp…yes the sound of the marimba and flute was carefully planned by myself and Herb. Sometimes, like on “Coming in the Back Door” we used the bass marimba, so tall that we had to stand on ladders to play it. Sometimes on ballads we used an alto flute for more depth and sensuality.
 

Moritat

Well-Known Member
I'll go with Baja's first lp, and despite being their first effort, it remains one of the best. The songs mostly were moody, melodic and very pretty. They seemed to achieve their sound on their very first effort. On "Border", the group was still searching for their sound, and the lp was decent, but certainly not one of their best. Baja wins easily here.
 
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