ATA Records: The Library Archive Volume 1.

Label: ATA Records.

Format: CD.

Release Date: ‘10th’ July 2020.

Nowadays, library music is highly collectable, especially the albums released by KPM, De Woife, Amphonic, Conroy and Sonoton from the sixties, seventies and early eighties. That is regarded by many collectors as a golden age for library music. This is ironic, as the albums of library music were never meant to fall into the hands of collectors.

Originally, library music was meant to be used by film studios or television and radio stations, and was never meant to be commercially available. The music was recorded on spec by music libraries who  often hired  young unknown composers, musicians and producers. This ranged from musicians who were known within publishing circles, to up-and-coming musicians who later, went onto greater things, and look back fondly at their time writing, recording and producing library music. This they now regard as part of their musical apprenticeship.

For the musicians hired to record library music, their remit was to music libraries with a steady stream of new music, which was originality referred to as production music. During some sessions, the musicians’ remit was write and record music to match themes or moods. This wasn’t easy, but after a while they were  able to this seamlessly. Soon, the musicians were able to enter the audio and write and record a piece of music that matched a theme or mood for a film or television show.

Once the library music was recorded, record libraries sent out demonstration copies of their music to advertising agencies, film studios, production companies, radio stations and television channels. If they liked what they heard, they would license a track or several tracks from the music libraries. That was how it was meant to work.

Sometimes, copies of these albums fell into the hands of record collectors, who realising the quality of music recorded by these unknown musicians, started collecting library music. That is still the case today, and nowadays, many original albums of library music are highly collectable. Often, though, these albums are beyond the budget of most record buyers. Luckily, many independent record labels are reissuing library music.

Hardly a week goes by without a new library music compilation hitting the shelves of record shops. Then there’s the reissues of classic albums of library music from the golden age. Sometimes, new albums of library music are released by a new generation of musicians. This happened recently.

This includes Neil Innes and Pete Williams who run ATA Records, and decided to try their hand at writing library music. The tracks they wrote and recorded at their studio in a lock up garage in Leeds, in Yorkshire, were one-offs and lay unreleased until recently. By then, they had an album’s worth of material and the eleven tracks have just been released on the compilation ATA Records: The Library Archive Volume 1. It’s sure to appeal to anyone interested in library music.

The music on ATA Records: The Library Archive Volume 1 is atmospheric, cinematic, emotive, evocative funky, haunting, weird and it’s also wonderful. It sounds as if Neil Innes and Pete Williams have been channeling the spirit of KPM, De Woife, Amphonic, Bruton, Conroy and Sonoton as they recorded the eleven tracks on the compilation. This has been the case for other albums released by the label.

This includes The Sorcerers’ haunting soundtracks, the big band brass of The Yorkshire Film and Television Orchestra and those purveyors of the finest soul-jazz. The Lewis Express who many people will remember for the Theme From ‘The Watcher’ on their eponymous debut album. Library music has influenced many of the albums released by ATA Records, and Neil Innes and Pete Williams have both played their part in these releases. They were also recording library music in their spare time over the last few years.

Eventually, there was enough for the first compilation in what they play to a series of releases The Library Archive. The first is ATA Records: The Library Archive Volume 1. It was recorded using the same recording  techniques and equipment that was used to create the albums released during the golden age of library music. Even the minimalist cover is a nod to the legendary KPM releases of the sixties and seventies which Neil Innes and Pete Williams have been inspired by.

That is apparent throughout ATA Records: The Library Archive Volume 1. It opens with the Slap, Whack and Blow, which is a horn driven slice of cinematic funk that sounds as if it was inspired by Keith Mansfield’s KPM recordings. This retro recording transports the listener back to the seventies when this was the type of music that could regularly be heard on British television. 

Duck Strut is driven along by the bass and combine with drums and percussion to create the groove. They’re joined by stabs of keyboards while the understated horns and flute sound as if they’ve been influenced by Quincy Jones on what’s best described as Brit-funk. Don’t be surprised to hear this track used on film or television in the future.

The Needle Nose is dramatic and cinematic and sounds as if it belongs in an episode of The Sweeney just before the blag goes down. Wiretap is another moody and atmospheric track with a cinematic sound. It would be perfect for a film shot in the seventies during the Cold War. 

Wigged Out sounds like a homage to Italian library legends I Marc. Especially the organ which was one of their trademark sounds. 

On Nuclear Wind I and II, Neil Innes and Pete Williams deploy a mellotron and Moog which were often used on classic library music albums. Here, their role is to provide the counterpoint to the tender, otherworldly vocals on these atmospheric and thought-provoking tracks.

Kaye Okay is another that sounds as if it was inspired by Keith Mansfield’s KPM recordings. It’s also a track that will be familiar to anyone who grew up in Britain the seventies. Tracks like this have a nostalgic sound as they were often used by television producers for light entertainment shows and will bring back memories for many people of a certain age.

Siren’s Sea is an acoustic track with a haunting and beautiful ethereal vocal. It washes over the listener as they imagine the scenes folding in front of their mind’s eye. 

Very different is Midnight Heist, a jazz-funk track which wouldn’t sound out of place on a seventies cop show. Closing the album is the experimental sci-fi sounds of Planet Nine. It shows another side to the library music that Neil Innes and Pete Williams have been making.

Hardly a week goes by without the release of a new library music compilation, the reissue of a classic album or new album that has been inspired by the genre’s golden era. Some of the new albums of library music are often a mixed bag, but ATA Records: The Library Archive Volume 1 is one of the best. 

It sounds as if it was recorded during the golden age of library music. This is no surprise as Neil Innes and Pete Williams use the same recording techniques and the same equipment. What is remarkable is that the music on the compilation was recorded in a lockup garage in Leeds. That is something Keith Mansfield, Syd Dale, Alan Hawkshaw and Johnny Hawksworth never did.   

These great names and the legendary labels like have also inspired Neil Innes and Pete Williams as they begin their journey with ATA Records: The Library Archive Volume 1, and hopefully they will go “marching on together” and create future instalments in the series.

 ATA Records: The Library Archive Volume 1.


  1. Library Music is beginning to achieve cult status in some circles, well that’s how it seems to me.

    • It definitely is. When I first collecting library music many years ago very few people were interested in the albums. I used to pick up albums for 50p or £1. Nowadays, some of these albums are worth £50-£75. It’s changed days.

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