Roll Over

Artist: The New York Rock Ensemble

Album: Roll Over

This week we reach into the more obscure sections of the album vault, and pull out this gem from 1971.

The New York Rock Ensemble (which started life as the New York Rock and Roll Ensemble) had already recorded three albums; a daring fusion of rock and classical music (three of the players were Julliard-trained, including Michael Kamen, who brought his oboe along not realizing an oboe is not a rock instrument.)

However, while Kamen brought his oboe along for Roll Over (and Dorian Rudnytsky pulled out the cello), the album is considered the band’s most overtly ‘rock’ release, and also the group’s best seller.

A thorough listen reveals an album for the most part steeped in funk riffs and introspective lyrics, right from the opener on side one, Running Down the Highway. Reviews of the album cite it as ‘solid, if unexceptional’; a couple of weak tracks on side two detract from the overall strength of the release (for instance, I just can’t get my head around Anaconda, an odd little tale that resembles a poor imitation of Frank Zappa), and the band seems to lose focus after the first track on the second side, Don’t Wait Too Long.

The group itself was relatively short-lived, and only recorded one more album after Roll Over before dissolving. Kamen, who died three years ago, went on to have the most successful career out of the four members, first as music director for David Bowie’s Diamond Dogs tour, then moving on to score films such as Brazil, Lethal Weapon, and the Die Hard trilogy. He also won two Grammy awards for co-penning – with Bryan Adams and Mutt Lange – (Everything I Do) I Do It for You from the movie, Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves.