Conductor, composer, violinist, and pianist Mantovani was one of the most popular and prolific easy listening artists of all time. His trademark "cascading strings" (or "tumbling strings") effect gave him an instantly recognizable sound, and his heavy reliance on the string section in general helped map out the blueprint for much of the light orchestral music that followed in his wake. His repertoire did feature original compositions, but was built chiefly on lush adaptations of familiar melodies: TV and movie themes, show tunes, pop hits (chiefly of the MOR variety), classical material, and the like. Starting his career in the '20s, Mantovani was very much a product of the recording age: he focused almost entirely on recording, instead of live performance; he was one of the first artists to utilize the LP as a primary medium for his releases (as opposed to singles); he was one of the first popular artists to use stereo recording technology, and likely the first to sell over a million records in the stereo format. Fascinated by the studio recording process, he experimented restlessly with miking methods and other technical nuances over the course of an astoundingly large discography – more than 50 albums from the early '50s until his death in 1980 (not counting his numerous 78 rpm records, dating back to the late '20s).
Buddha's Sho Nuff Groove: The Best of Harvey Mason is an excellent 12-track compilation, featuring all of the fusion musician's biggest crossover smooth jazz and lite funk hits, including "Marching on the Street," "Set It Free," "Till You Take My Love," "What's Going On," "Liquid," "Don't Doubt My Lovin'," "How Does It Feel," and the 12-inch mix of "Groovin' You." This doesn't give a full picture of his talents as a sideman and producer, but it is a concise chronicle of his solo recordings and a welcome addition to his catalog.
Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys make up Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, who were responsible for some of the catchiest and brightest synth pop that the '80s had to offer. O.M.D.'s material was a step above other keyboard pop music of the time, thanks to the combination of intelligently crafted hooks and colorful rhythms that bounced and jittered with pristine charm. Their squeaky-clean brilliancy initiated by both their synthesizers and subdued yet attractive vocal styles gave them a more mature sound over bands like Duran Duran and A Flock of Seagulls, who were attracting a younger audience. The Best of O.M.D. is an excellent compilation of their polished music, starting out with less provocative material like the basic electronic wash of "Electricity" and the bare but ebullient fervor of "Enola Gay." As this set moves along, so does the craftiness of their work, which is evident on tighter sounding songs like "Tesla Girls" and "Locomotion," where the intricacy of their formula begins to take a more resounding shape. O.M.D.'s best work came from 1985's Crush album, which harbored the midnight airiness found in "So in Love" as well as the adolescent innocence that streamed its way through "Secret," which are two of the best tracks on this set.