Folk, Funk & Beyond: The Arrangements Of John Cameron

❉ There are so many facets to Cameron’s career and they’re all captured on this collection.

A working musician from a young age, John Cameron has been working continuously as an arranger, musician, producer and songwriter across jazz, folk, funk, soul, library music and film scores. This collection spans all these genres.

If you’ve ever watched the British film classic Kes, enjoyed a Donovan, Heatwave or Hot Chocolate record, spent time in the ’70s watching Top of the Pops or listening to the Sunday afternoon chart rundown you will be aware of John Cameron’s music without necessarily knowing the name. Compiled by Bob Stanley, Ace Records’ collection Folk, Funk & Beyond – The Arrangements Of John Cameron should remedy this as it brings together a selection from the work of this master of many musical genres.

A working musician from a young age, John Cameron was a member of the glittering Cambridge Footlights line-up of the mid-sixties that included Eric Idle, Germaine Greer, Clive James and Miriam Margolyes. Since then and up to the present day he has been working continuously as an arranger, musician, producer and songwriter across jazz, folk, funk, soul, library music and film scores. This collection spans all these genres.

Folk, Funk & Beyond – The Arrangements Of John Cameron opens with the intro to the score to Ken Loach’s film Kes. After arranging a previous, Donovan-based, soundtrack for Loach with Poor Cow, John Cameron continued to use top notch jazz musicians such as the distinctive flute player Harold McNair on Kes, but by doing this created a folk feel that complemented the images on screen beautifully. We’re all seen Kes and it is, of course, essentially a very sad film but watch it again and listen to the music on the 2001 Trunk Records soundtrack album and you see and hear how the music is a major part of the film.

When I interviewed John here in 2021 he stated: “Kes is still very close to my heart. Later on in life I got to work with technicians who taught me all kinds of sophistications. Fabulous line ups. But there is something about that early movie. It had some great players on it. Harold McNair, Ronnie Ross and Danny Moss. And Danny Thompson was on it…. I heard Ken say on the radio recently that basically the music shouldn’t carry any more emotion than what’s on the screen. It has to blend in and it’s a really good standard we set for that. “

There are so many facets to Cameron’s career and they all seem to be captured on this compilation. High production values on big hits for Heatwave (in collaboration with Rod Templeton) are represented by the album’s closing track, the smoochy Always and Forever. Hot Chocolate (for whom John arranged and produced with hit-maker Mickie Most) are represented by the brilliant and quite dark Cicero Park.

Cameron’s library music with KPM is very influential and much sampled ,and the collection represents this with two of his own compositions Half Forgotten Daydreams from Voices in Harmony and Heat Haze from the library music classic Afro Rock.

Cameron’s group CCS (infamous for the ’70s Top of the Pops theme) are represented here by the thumping Brother, sung by and co-written by Alexis Korner – a track which was itself used for many years as the theme to the BBC Sunday afternoon top twenty countdown. To people listening to radio at this time Alexis Korner’s singing and speaking voice were a familiar sound and this seemed a fruitful collaboration.

A distinguished songwriter in his own right, Cameron’s If I Thought You’d Ever Change Your Mind is a beautiful late ’60s George Martin-produced ballad performed by the weirdly-named duo Edwards Hand and shows how effective a songwriter he is. The song was later recorded by another George Martin protege, Cilla Black, and Agnetha Fältskog in 2004.

As with all Bob Stanley compilations, this album is full of hidden gems. The extremely weird Isn’t this Where We Came In is apparently from a “concept album by “out of control genius” Lionel Bart and features cowboy whooping, piano and Spanish guitar. It needs a couple of listens to appreciate. However the astounding brass arrangement and soul backing on Road to Nowhere, a Goffin/King song performed by Lesley Duncan, hits you between the ears straight away. Classic balladeering also appears on Avenue and Alleyways by the “Sheffield Tom Jones” Tony Christie, famously used as the theme for the Lew Grade ’70s TV series The Protectors.

The sleevenotes on the compilation include the usual informative and well written track by track commentary by Bob Stanley but also witty and informative comments on each song by Cameron himself. You get a sense of a hard-working and inspirational arranger at the top of his game willing to take risks and develop through jazz, folk and eventually soul and funk. It also gives you an idea of John Cameron as a master collaborator with comments on the artists, producers and musicians he has worked with including Donovan, Mickie Most and Harold McNair. Buy this excellent compilation as an introduction and you will want to dive into his work further.

❉ ‘Folk, Funk & Beyond – The Arrangements Of John Cameron’ (CDTOP 1631) released 26 May 2023 by Ace Records, RRP £13.12. Click here to order directly from Ace Records. Click here for John Cameron products available at Trunk Records:

 James Collingwood is based in West Yorkshire and has been writing for a number of years. He currently also writes for the Bradford Review magazine for which he has conducted more than 30 interviews and has covered music, film and theatre.  His Twitter is @JamesCollingwo1

Become a patron at Patreon!