|Cultural origins||1940s, United States|
|Space age pop|
Easy listening (including mood music) is a popular music genre and radio format that was most popular during the 1950s to 1970s. It is related to middle-of-the-road (MOR) music and encompasses instrumental recordings of standards, hit songs, non-rock vocals and instrumental covers of selected popular rock songs. It mostly concentrates on music that pre-dates the rock and roll era, characteristically on music from the 1940s and 1950s. It was differentiated from the mostly instrumental beautiful music format by its variety of styles, including a percentage of vocals, arrangements and tempos to fit various parts of the broadcast day.
Easy listening music is often confused with lounge music, but while it was popular in some of the same venues it was meant to be listened to for enjoyment rather than as background sound.
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The style has been synonymous with the tag "with strings". String instruments had been used in sweet bands in the 1930s and was the dominant sound track to movies of Hollywood's Golden Age. In the 1940s and 1950s strings had been used in jazz and popular music contexts. As examples in the jazz genre, there are recordings of Frank Sinatra.Another example of a practitioner in the popular context was Dinah Washington's "What a Difference a Day Makes". In the 1950s the use of strings quickly became a main feature of the developing easy listening genre.
Jackie Gleason, a master at this genre, whose first ten albums went Gold, expressed the goal of producing "musical wallpaper that should never be intrusive, but conducive".
Similarly, in 1956 John Serry Sr. sought to utilize the accordion within the context of a jazz sextet in order to create a soothing mood ideally suited for "low pressure" listening on his album Squeeze Play .Jerry Murad also contributed to the music, including a variety of types of harmonica.
|You may hear examples of Easy listening music performed by John Serry on his album Squeeze Play in 1956 Here on Archive.org|
The magazines Billboard and Record World featured easy listening singles in independently audited record charts. Generally 40 positions in length, they charted airplay on stations such as WNEW-FM, New York City, WWEZ, Cincinnati, and KMPC, Los Angeles. Record World began their listings January 29, 1967 and ended these charts in the early 1970s. Billboard's Easy Listening chart morphed into the Adult Contemporary chart in 1979, and continues to this day.
During the format's heyday in the 1960s, it was not at all uncommon for easy listening instrumental singles to reach the top of the charts on the Billboard Hot 100 (and stay there for several weeks).
Beautiful music, which grew up alongside easy listening music, had rigid standards for instrumentation, e.g., few or no saxophones (at the time, the saxophone was associated with less refined styles such as jazz and rock and roll, although Billy Vaughn was an exception to the rule), and restrictions on how many vocal pieces could be played in an hour. The easy listening radio format has been generally, but not completely, superseded by the soft adult contemporary format.
According to the Continuum Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World, "The public prominence and profitability of easy listening [in the postwar years] led to its close association with the so-called 'Establishment' that would eventually be demonized by the rock counterculture."In Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies (1981), rock critic Robert Christgau said "semiclassical music is a systematic dilution of highbrow preferences".
Easy listening/lounge singers have a lengthy history stretching back to the decades of the early twentieth century. Easy listening music featured popular vocalists such as Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, Patti Page, Tony Bennett, Nat King Cole, Rosemary Clooney, Doris Day, Perry Como, The Carpenters and many others. The somewhat derisive term lounge lizard was coined then, and less well known lounge singers have often been ridiculed as dinosaurs of past erasand parodied for their smarmy delivery of standards.
In the early 1990s the lounge revival was in full swing and included such groups as Combustible Edison, Love Jones, The Cocktails, Pink Martini and Nightcaps. Alternative band Stereolab demonstrated the influence of lounge with releases like Space Age Bachelor Pad Music and the Ultra-Lounge series of lounge music albums. The lounge style was a direct contradiction to the grunge music that dominated the period.
A concept album is an album whose tracks hold a larger purpose or meaning collectively than they do individually. This is typically achieved through a single central narrative or theme, which can be instrumental, compositional, or lyrical. Sometimes the term is applied to albums considered to be of "uniform excellence" rather than an LP with an explicit musical or lyrical motif. There is no consensus among music critics as to the specific criteria for what a "concept album" is.
Rock music is a broad genre of popular music that originated as "rock and roll" in the United States in the late 1940s and early 1950s, developing into a range of different styles in the mid-1960s and later, particularly in the United States and the United Kingdom. It has its roots in 1940s and 1950s rock and roll, a style that drew directly from the blues and rhythm and blues genres of African-American music and from country music. Rock music also drew strongly from a number of other genres such as electric blues and folk, and incorporated influences from jazz, classical, and other musical styles. For instrumentation, rock has centered on the electric guitar, usually as part of a rock group with electric bass, drums, and one or more singers. Usually, rock is song-based music with a 4
4 time signature using a verse–chorus form, but the genre has become extremely diverse. Like pop music, lyrics often stress romantic love but also address a wide variety of other themes that are frequently social or political.
Traditional pop is Western popular music that generally pre-dates the advent of rock and roll in the mid-1950s. The most popular and enduring songs from this era of music are known as pop standards or American standards. The works of these songwriters and composers are usually considered part of the canon known as the "Great American Songbook". More generally, the term "standard" can be applied to any popular song that has become very widely known within mainstream culture.
Alternative rock is a category of rock music that emerged from the independent music underground of the 1970s and became widely popular in the 1990s. "Alternative" refers to the genre's distinction from mainstream or commercial rock or pop music. The term's original meaning was broader, referring to a musicians influenced by the musical style or independent, DIY ethos of late 1970s punk rock.
Purple is the second studio album by the American rock band Stone Temple Pilots, released on June 7, 1994, by Atlantic Records. The album, building off the foundations laid by the band's debut album Core, was a huge success for the band, selling 252,000 copies in its first week and debuting at number one on the Billboard 200 chart and remaining there for three weeks, eventually selling over six million copies. It spawned a number of successful singles — "Vasoline" and "Interstate Love Song" both topped the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart and hit number 2 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart, while "Big Empty" also cracked the top ten on both charts. Lesser known album cuts "Pretty Penny" and "Unglued" were also released as promotional radio singles.
Lounge music is a type of easy listening music popular in the 1950s and 1960s. It may be meant to evoke in the listeners the feeling of being in a place, usually with a tranquil theme, such as a jungle, an island paradise or outer space. The range of lounge music encompasses beautiful music-influenced instrumentals, modern electronica, while remaining thematically focused on its retro-space age cultural elements. The earliest type of lounge music appeared during the 1920s and 1930s, and was known as light music.
Nighthawks at the Diner is the third studio album by singer and songwriter Tom Waits, released on October 21, 1975 on Asylum Records. It was recorded over four sessions in July in the Los Angeles Record Plant studio in front of a small invited audience set up to recreate the atmosphere of a jazz club. The album peaked at 164 on the Billboard 200, the highest place Waits had held at the time, and is currently certified silver by the BPI. It has received critical acclaim for its successful mood-setting, capturing of the jazz-club atmosphere and characterization.
Middle of the road is a commercial radio format and popular music genre. Music associated with this term is strongly melodic and uses techniques of vocal harmony and light orchestral arrangements. The format was eventually rebranded as soft adult contemporary.
The Billboard charts tabulate the relative weekly popularity of songs and albums in the United States and elsewhere. The results are published in Billboard magazine. Billboard biz, the online extension of the Billboard charts, provides additional weekly charts, as well as year-end charts. The charts may be dedicated to a specific genre such as R&B, country, or rock, or they may cover all genres. The charts can be ranked according to sales, streams, or airplay, and for main song charts such as the Hot 100 song chart, all three data are used to compile the charts. For the Billboard 200 album chart, streams and track sales are included in addition to album sales.
Cool for Cats is the English new wave group Squeeze's second album, released in 1979. Cool for Cats contains four UK hit singles, more than any other album the band has issued. The album peaked at number 45 in the UK Albums Chart, spending 11 weeks in that listing.
The Great American Songbook is the loosely defined canon of significant early-20th-century American jazz standards, popular songs and show tunes.
Caravanserai is the fourth studio album by Santana, released on October 11, 1972.
Alexander Emil Caiola was an American guitarist, composer and arranger, who spanned a variety of music genres including jazz, country, rock, and pop. He recorded over fifty albums and worked with some of the biggest names in music during the 20th century, including Elvis Presley, Ray Conniff, Ferrante & Teicher, Frank Sinatra, Percy Faith, Buddy Holly, Mitch Miller, and Tony Bennett.
Chamber pop is a style of rock music characterized by an emphasis on melody and texture, the intricate use of strings, horns, piano, and vocal harmonies, and other components drawn from the orchestral and lounge pop of the 1960s. Artists such as Burt Bacharach and the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson were formative acts during the genre's original wave in the 1960s.
"Cast Your Fate to the Wind" is an American jazz instrumental selection by Vince Guaraldi; later, a lyric was written by Carel Werber. It won a Grammy Award for Best Original Jazz Composition in 1963.
Frank Sinatra's musical career began in the swing era in 1935, and ended in 1995, although he did briefly retire in 1971, before returning to music in 1973. Sinatra is one of the most influential music artists of the 20th century, and has sold 150 million records worldwide, making him one of the best-selling music artists of all-time. Rock critic Robert Christgau called Sinatra "the greatest singer of the 20th century". In addition to his music career, Sinatra was also a successful film actor, having won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Private Angelo Maggio in From Here to Eternity (1953).
Horst Jankowski was a classically trained German pianist, most famous for his internationally successful easy listening music.
In North American music, adult contemporary music (AC) is a form of radio-played popular music, ranging from 1960s vocal and 1970s soft rock music to predominantly ballad-heavy music of the present day, with varying degrees of easy listening, pop, soul, R&B, quiet storm, and rock influence. Adult contemporary is generally a continuation of the easy listening and soft rock style that became popular in the 1960s and 1970s with some adjustments that reflect the evolution of pop/rock music.
Orienta is an album by The Markko Polo Adventurers released in 1959. The album was produced by Simon Rady, arranged and conducted by Gerald Fried and recorded in stereo in Hollywood, California. The album uses a combination of sound effects and Asian-inspired music to tell humorous vignettes. Its suggestive cover art features a photograph by Murray Laden.
"Here We Go Again" is a country music standard written by Don Lanier and Red Steagall that first became notable as a rhythm and blues single by Ray Charles from his 1967 album Ray Charles Invites You to Listen. It was record producer by Joe Adams for ABC Records/Tangerine Records. To date, this version of the song has been the biggest commercial success, spending twelve consecutive weeks on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart, peaking at number 15.
Mood music has come to be known as easy-listening music; however ... in the strict sense of the term, mood music means background music written for radio and television programs (including 'commercials'), as well as feature, documentary and newsreel films.