wax Poetics

Barbara Moore

Vocal Shades and Tones

Released 1972
record label Music DeWolfe
Written by Greg Casseus

Barbara Moore Vocal Shades
Barbara Moore Vocal Shades

As much as we lament the relative or complete obscurity of so many of our favorite musicians and artists, that’s nothing compared to the anonymity of the denizens of the library-music scene. And in the case of composer/singer/vocal arranger Barbara Moore, a woman in that virtually all-male game (albeit highly respected by her peers and colleagues), the anonymity is even greater. 

As with other library composers, her name was only found in the fine print on the backs of her records, which can’t even be called “releases” since they were never available at retail stores anyway. Nor did they ever have a picture of this lovely blonde English lady, being library albums. Despite all that, today the 1972 classic Vocal Shades and Tones on the legendary DeWolfe label is widely regarded among collectors, DJs, and lounge/easy-listening acolytes as an absolute essential. 

Don’t let the term “easy listening” fool you though, because this music is overflowing with richness, depth, sophistication, and, yes, groove. Moore’s genius for creating heavenly interweaving male-female wordless vocal arrangements over jazz-informed instrumental backing is at its zenith here and very reminiscent of contemporaries the Free Design. There’s even a foray into gospel and the aptly named dark, slow burn of “Steam Heat.” Once only found on the private shelves of media outlets, this wondrous work is thankfully now more widely available and one can only hope that 1981’s equally essential (and funkier) Bright & Shining will finally follow suit at some point.