Sunday, April 16, 2006
Oh boy, what a great record!
I was going through the stack-that-has-no-Hawaiian-78s, encoding away, and found a disc that I wish I could get a clean transfer of for you... the recording is SO good... FOR AN ACOUSTIC RECORDING! I heard highs on the trumpet that made me weep, a clarity that would not be reached by the electrical recordings for some years, and a very hot pair of numbers as well! The band responsible for these sides-o-hotness was Ben Selvin's Orchestra, and the pressings were on Vocalion (the filigree-type label). "Sweet Child" opens up with a piercing horn statement, and then rolls on from there. Mr. Selvin sure knew how to knock 'em out. The vocal credit is not given, I'll have to do some looking to see if it is who I think it is... the vocalist almost has a Harold "Scrappy" Lambert feel to his voice, but then again, a lot of male singers did at that time. I'd place this one smack in the middle of 1920-1923, and the recordist has his notes very handy. My only woe is that this disc is so hammered that I can't give you a true feel for the quality of the recording. I heard it and my first thought was "This is an ACOUSTIC recording??"
The other side picks up from where "Sweet Child" left off and rollicks even merrier... "I Wish I Was In Peoria"... this side just plain STOMPS. It's a tune that will catch in your hook-memory and never let go after a few listens. I had to go very easy on the filtering to try and capture how GOOD the recording originally was, but as with the other side, the wear factor is pretty darn high. I can see why, though, as good as this tune is. Mr. Selvin: hats off to you!
Calming down just a touch now... fanning myself after those two rollickers...
I posted over on AudiOddities (see sidebar for link) a cut of theater organ music. As a keyboard player, anything with a good piano or organ recording is a must for me. Yes, I have 4 or 5 copies of Zez Confrey's "Kitten On The Keys" along with some of his other recorded works. Not wanting to get into a dissertation on the Joys of Ragtime (and Why Scott Joplin is not the Be-all and End-all of Ragtime Composers), let me just say that I enjoy all forms of keyboard music, from Biggs to Joplin to Waller to Shearing to Kenton to Tatum to Brubeck to Vince Guaraldi to Corea to Jarret to Keith Emerson to to to....... I think you get the idea. "There's A Rainbow 'Round My Shoulder" is an example of a singer (Ned Miller) being accompanied by a good player (Milton Charles) on a halfway decent Wurlitzer Theater Organ (in this case the organ at the WENR Radio Studios in Chicago, Illinois). The recording is on a Columbia Vita-Tonal electrical recording, and you do get a sense of how full and rich a theater organ can sound, even in this late 20s recording. Try THAT with a horn, Thomas Alva! This song was recorded by other, more conventional dance orchestras, but it still somewhat swings with the theater organ booming away.
The reverse to this side, "Sonny Boy", is kind of a quasi-Irish lament... but it still shows off the stylistic capabilities of Ned Miller, in that he can do the Irish Tenor thing as well as make an honest attempt at a hot dance number.
Let's shift some gears now... I love the Hawaiian Steel guitar. That's a given. I also love performers that don't give a poop about their critics. Sure, you can have great steel players like Sol Hoopii and Mr. Ferrera, but this player was accused once of having "absolutely no musical taste, whatsoever." BAH! Roy Smeck has more taste in his little fingernail than all of his detractors, I think so anyways... I only wish that he had recorded on a label that had decent shellac quality! I do know that others that get Roy Smeck 78s have a dreadful time remastering them, because they are mostly very worn because of being played to near-death. Combine that with Brunswick's use of cruddy shellac on their Melotone subsidiary label, and you get headaches during the restoration process. Anyway, here we have Roy Smeck's Vitaphone Trio performing "The Waltz You Saved For Me", and it illustrates the headache factor perfectly... great recording of a guitar trio (and I do not know who does the vocal here either), on absolutely horrid shellac, played to near death. Sigh. But, there's a good college try in the restoration... the reverse side, "By The River Ste. Marie" came out much much better, however... again, uncredited vocal and Roy doing the zany things he did on the steel guitar, but it is all quite quite tasteful. He's got to be right up there with Sol (Hoopii) and Sol (K. Bright) and Frank Ferrera and Felix Mendelsohn for acumen in playing the instrument...
I've got more things to get posted for you, but I just HAD to get the Ben Selvin sides up tonight. I think you'll see why.
Right-click on the link to download the tunes, you know the drill :)
Until next time,
Glad your family is better now.
Byron in Los Angeles
I have Frankie Lane doing 'By The River Saint Marie' as well, GGGreat! (on Mercury)