When it came to making adventurous yet accessible easy listening music, Hugo Montenegro had few peers.
The string of easy listening albums he recorded during the '60s and '70s attracted a cult of fans by combining exotic instrumentation and experimental production techniques with a knack for a catchy, pop-flavored touch arrangements made the proceedings catchy and easily accessible.
One of his best examples of his unique style is 1972's Love Theme from The Godfather, an album that transformed a diverse array of pop tunes and film themes into exotic easy listening through arrangements that piled on space-age synthesizer and wild sound effects designed to show off quadrophonic engineering techniques.
The experimental tone is established from the get-go with "Norwegian Wood," which transforms the Beatles' Indian-styled pop tune into a lush, heady cinematic fanfare full of swirling strings, swinging brass, and rumbling percussion.
Other standout moments include "Me and My Arrow," which is transformed into synth-driven carnival music complete with crowd-noise sound effects, and the title track, which layers on fuzz guitar and trippy electronics to transform what was a delicate film theme into a surging, funky instrumental that would fit in on the soundtrack of a '70s cop show.
Montenegro also throws a couple of originals in, the standout being the album closer "Stutterology"; this quadrophonic-engineering showcase alternates a light, cheeky theme played on xylophone and keyboards with dark, suspenseful string passages over a rumbling percussion track.
Montenegro's refusal to play the tunes straight may strike some listeners as gimmicky and eccentric, but no one can deny the craft and skill that went into this recording.
Ultimately, Love Theme From the Godfather's combination of strong material and fearless experimentation makes it one of the most entertaining and consistent albums in Hugo Montenegro's catalog.
Anyone interested in exploring his singular style would do well to start here.