Very often, the greatest artists just don’t fit. They stand out there on their own, and fall in strange, unexpected zones, often occupied only by themselves. This is was certainly the case for the American harpist, Gail Laughton, who’s lone, the 1969 LP, Harps of the Ancient Temples - long championed and hunted by record collectors - is finally receiving the vinyl reissue treatment after roughly a half century out of print. A truly stunning and visionary piece of work with almost no parallel in its moment, it’s impossible to express how excited we are to finally have copies in our hands thanks to Pleasure For Music.
Gail Laughton was born in Oklahoma to a family with a deep relationship to the harp, his mother as a teacher and his father as a builder of the instrument. As a young child, he played with his family's orchestra, touring Cuba and Panama, before joining the Oklahoma City Symphony in 1937, hired through the WPA at the minimum age of 15. Like so many musicians of the era, Laughton followed the call of the west, and went to work in Hollywood, playing on many film and cartoon soundtracks for years before endeavouring to produce a work of his own, the 1969 LP, Harps of the Ancient Temples, issued on the tiny imprint Rapture.
Channeling the ancient, mystical roots of his instrument, Harps of the Ancient Temples comprises 11 works for harp with aligned places, cultures, far gone dates. Standing on the verge of both modern classical and the space age - looking forward through visions of the past - the album has long been heralded by collectors ad fans as an important forerunner of ambient and new age movements, with tracks appearing on both the highly influential compilation, I Am The Center: Private Issue New Age Music In America, 1950-1990, issued to great acclaim by Light In The Attic in 2013, and the soundtrack of Blade Runner, making this a rare chance to immerse ourselves in the singular world of an artist who so many of us have appreciated, without rightful celebration, for so many years.
Airy and mediative, marked by complexity, creative sophistication, and a stunning mastery of its primary instrument - the harp - Harps of the Ancient Temples defies easy description. It renders a striking form of transportation, across the ages, through sound, leaving flirting images of the lost within shimmering, ethereal tones that shift toward blankets ambience, rising from the rhythmic striking of strings.
An absolute must for any fan of ambient and new age music, Laughton’s lone LP transcends the bounds of any genre and helps us rethink the possibilities of music emerging at the end of the 1960s. A truly wonderful and overwhelmingly beautiful immersion into a tragically under-celebrated artist, reissued for the first time on vinyl by Pleasure For Music, Harps of the Ancient Temples is an absolute must.