Whipped Cream and Other Delights

Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass

album cover

More Songs About Food. . .

America wasn't exactly clamoring for instrumental pop in the winter of 1965. And it's safe to say there was little demand for an album that contained foods in all the song titles. And yet several months after its release, a Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass single called "A Taste of Honey" ballooned into a monster hit, and this album landed in the Billboard Top 10, where it stayed for an astounding sixty-one weeks (eight of them at number one). TV's The Dating Game pounced on the craze, using "Whipped Cream" to introduce the bachelorettes, and the later hit "Spanish Flea" to bring on the bachelors.

What explains the left-field success of the Tijuana Brass? Certainly some credit goes to the album's cover, which features a sultry model swathed in whipped cream. (Alpert, who co-owned the creative, independent A&M Records with Jerry Moss, recalled, years later, that this was the album where he "realized how important it is to be visual with instrumental music.") And the band's general sound was decidedly unique in those early British Invasion days—no other recording act was fusing traditional Mexican music (the mariachi fanfares that herald bullfights) with jazz, Brazilian samba, and R&B, a curious but utterly workable combination that has enshrined Alpert as a patron saint of lounge exotica ever since.

While so much subsequent instrumental pop (Kenny G et al.) is just noodling indulgence, Whipped Cream works because the Brass (which, until this album erupted, was really just a bunch of L.A. studio musicians) focuses so single-mindedly on rhythm, even on such calmer selections as "Tangerine." They all play as though it's their responsibility to sustain the sense of motion—of particular note are the athletic bass lines of Pat Senatore, which respect mariachi tradition while grooving like it's already 1969. Then, on top, the famed Brass approaches each theme as a percussive endeavor, punching out staccato phrases with militaristic precision. Hearing these tunes now, divorced from their moment, is instructive: What's often dismissed as pure period froth turns out to have some juicy meat on the bone.

Genre: Pop
Released: 1965, A&M
Key Tracks: "A Taste of Honey," "Tangerine," "Whipped Cream"
Catalog Choice: Whipped Cream and Other Delights, Rewhipped; Going Places!
Next Stop: Chuck Mangione: Feels So Good
After That: Jim Hall: Concierto
Book Pages: 18–19

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Comments:

#1 from Mike, Central NY - 10/22/2008 11:08

My father brought this record home the year it came out. It received heavy rotation at our house and I can say that it probably had a very big influence on my musical tastes as I got older. Of course the album cover had influences of another kind, but I won’t digress on that.

#2 from Melaleuca, United States - 08/27/2009 4:17

I’m not really a big fan of pop but songs about food intrigues me so I’m willing to give it a try. I’m ordering an album online.

#3 from Kim, Canada - 01/14/2010 10:34

I thought this sounded like bad elevator music the first time I heard it, but the more I thought about it the more I loved the concept.  Now I’m addicted to it.  I can’t get into the remixes on ‘Rewhipped’ though.  Anyone could have added a dance/electro beats in the background, but who needs it with songs that were this fun to begin with?

#4 from Mo, Washington DC - 01/22/2010 7:19

This is full-on “happy place” music. It’s The Dating Game and snazziness. It’s the soundtrack for your best indie movie moments. It’s unbelievably corny and swell and I just love the crap out of it.

Perfect pick, Tom.

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