Friday, June 29, 2007
Gainfully Unemployed... and Happy!
Starting off for this post, I have a couple of renditions of Arman Kachutarian's Sabre Dance, from the Gayne Ballet Suite. Let me warn you, neither one are musically accurate, but one definately has better props and chops than the other. I'll let you compare, though...
The first one is by the Columbia Concert Orchestra, under the baton of Lou Bring. This Sabre Dance features none other than Oscar Levant on piano, and it tries to be a tour de force. Unfortunately towards the end, it becomes somewhat of a tour de forced... but his playing overcomes the difficulty of the piece. The flip side is much more relaxed, and a very nice little rendition of the Lullabye from the same suite... very nicely done. These were released on Columbia Masterworks, on the blue label, so they were considered the 'more serious' of the Masterworks library (the 'less serious' material got released on the green label).
Next, for comparison, we have Macklin Marrow and the MGM Orchestra in their rendition of the Sabre Dance. I think I have heard this recording before... on Peter Schickele's radio program where he blasts extremely bad recordings in the classical genre. Well, it may not have been this one, but it should qualify, at least in my opinion... nowhere as crisp and precise as the score calls for, this one kind of mumbles and fumbles through the piece, and makes something memorable into mush. But, hey, what do you expect from a disc that has the Bohemian Polka on the back? This was from an opera or something that was called "Schwanda, the Bagpipe Player" and was written by a gentleman with the last name of Weinberger. Ultimately forgettable.
Let's move on to a pair of pseudo-tangoes, 'done' by Marek Weber & his Orchestra. We have the classic Jalousie, which Marek forgot to turn up the heat on, and A Media Luz, which sounds like it could have been watered down so much that it was past becoming pap for a B-movie... come on, whistling?? Tangoes are supposed to be about love's burning desire, flame, and passion. These two are about as passionate as a piece of limp linguini. Feh.
Okay, let's improve things a touch. Percy Faith. Not the most invigorating of artists, but still a great contributor to Wonder-Bread pop music of the 50s. These two from Mr. Faith are eminently more listenable... the Tropic Holiday offered here (composed by Mr. Faith), is almost-samba, it has a bit of the tropical feel to it, but still the dependance on the harpsichord. More oy-vey than Ole' but still something nice to pass.... something.... the other tune on this Columbia disc is something that you may remember from a Panagra film "A Journey to South America". Yes, folks, this was music used for a travelogue/school geography film. It's a Peruvian Waltz entitled Gaviotta. It actually sounds pretty good for stock film music... I might use it for some commercial beds....
Something a little more juicy (but not much) is this pair from Al Blank's Harmonica Trio. These were recorded and released on a regional New York City label, that being the Riviera label. I don't have scans yet, but will post them in the near future. I guess these recordings were meant to cash in on the "Harmonicats" fad (that lasted all of, what, 3 minutes?), but they're OK in their own right. No toos Thielmans, but no slop, either. A couple of tunes that would make Mitch Miller proud, Up A Lazy River, and I Still Get A Thrill Thinking of You.
Still in the mid 50s, I found this little gem. Yes, it's not too bad, considering the rest of the stuff from this batch of 78s I have had to suffer through... Ed Farley's Orchestra, performing the hit he co-wrote, The Music Goes Round And Round. Yes, it comes out here. This, and the b-side, Ida, Sweet As Apple Cider, have some of the Dixieland feel to it, and are quite toe-tappable tunes. These wre on the DelVar label (again, scans coming), another New York City regional label... goes to show that independant labels are not just a thing of the 21st Century! One warning (and a mini-rant): this one may be a bit noisier as far as transfers go... the reason is this: the trombone player, as in a lot of trombone players of this era, seem to try and play with the raspiest tone possible, which makes pop and tick filters go absolutely BERSERK! I tried a bunch of different combinations, but could not get the recording where I wanted it, so I left it alone, pretty much. I have some Frank Brunis discs that I am dreading to encode for the same reason.... Dixieland trombonists seem to want to play with this sandpaper tone. Feh.
Hey, I said "Feh" twice in one post. Maybe I should have said "Meh."
Now that I have subjected you to the bland, let's get to some goodies.
I saw this in the same batch as the bland stuff and didn't think much of it until I put it on the player and (gently) dropped the needle. Ray Anthony on Capitol. Not much to get excited over, but these are not bad tunes! Mr. Anthony's Blues is not so much blues-y but it is a fun little instrumental, if you can get past the cheesy opening... The B-side, Cook's Tour, starts to bring the heat up a little, and it can be said that Mr. Anthony delivers.
Turning up the heat a little more is Charlie Spivak's rendition of Massenet's Elegy. Nice orchestral treatment of this, even though it's a Big Band cover of a classical tune, it plays very well. THe real heat comes in with the other side, Brother Bill. I wondered how a tune about hunting in Maine could swing as hard as this does, but then I looked at the composer: Louis Armstrong. That explains everything.
We'll close this week with a couple by Charlie Barnet that bring down the house. Gulf Coast Blues is a good example of how a big band can really swing through a bluesy riff thing, bringing as much energy as the studio can handle. This copy is a bit worn (gee, I wonder why...), but not bad enough that you miss what it's all about. Even the typical Decca shellac doesn't bring down the energy of this number. Nor does it on the A-side, Duke Ellington's Drop Me Off In Harlem. Yowzah! Now this is swingin'! Charlie's band kicks this one off in high gear, smokes the tires, and only gets better. A great swing session from a great band. This record actually had a 'cookie-bite' chip out of it, that went across the lead-in grooves, but there was enough lead-in on the track itself that I could get all of the track for you. It was worth the find. :)
Hope you enjoyed this batch, I have a real surprise coming up for you next time around (as much as a surprise as it was for me when I found 'em!)... what're they all about? It's a SURPRISE!
See ya next time, and keep those comments coming!
Sunday, June 17, 2007
Sunday Afternoon Shellac
......aside from the usual political fauleraul, but we don't do that here... much...
Well, what better way to start a Father's Day collection, than with........ Irish music! Theo Karle was an Irish-style tenor, but other than that, I don't know too much about him, other than that he may have been based in the Seattle, Washington area. The label he did these two recordings for, That Tumble Down Shack in Athlone, and Mother Machree, was the Linden Record Co., and it was based in Seattle. Linden was also the 'home' of Stan Boreson, a Seattle-area humorist, who specialized in pseudo-Swedish comedy records, much like Yogi Yorgesson did for Capitol in the 1950s... only Stan was funnier, in my opinion. Stan did the pseudo-Swede routine well into the 60s, and, if I am not mistaken, was a television personality in the Seattle area as well. My apologies regarding the condition, as these sides were done on early 'vynilite', and the material is very susceptible to scratching and wear... and this disc proves it.
Moving right along, how about some Banana Music! Here we have Buddy Clark making a lot like Der Bingle in Xavier Cugat's rousing rendition of a banana commercial, Chiquita Banana, also known as The Banana Song. What a clever reminder to never put your bananas in the refridgerator. The back side, South America, Take It Away! shows how well (or badly, as the case may be) Buddy Clark tried to imitate Bing Crosby imitating Desi Arnaz. Ouch. This one almost qualifies as Clanker of the Week. Cugat did some great recordings with the Waldorf-Astoria Orchestra, unfortunately, these two Columbia wonderments were not among them.
If anyone stops by Lee's MY(P)WHAE blog, he's been doing some good things about 'salon music', so I thought I'd add my two cents' worth (or gasoline to the fire) with a couple of recordings by the Victor Salon Orchestra, under the baton of Nat Shilkret. Nat had his own orchestra in the transitional era of recordings going from acoustic to electric, as well as heading up the Victor Salon Orchestra, which was for music that was more for sitting in the parlor than dancing. These two are very early electrical recordings, and the orchestra seems to feel a bit uneasy about playing real instruments, rather than those made specifically for acoustical audio recording. Google up Stroh violins and you'll see what I nean. Yearning and When You and I Were Seventeen show how well electrical recording could have been done... the instruments regain the delicacy that was lost in translation in most acoustical recordings.
The salon influence carried itself into dance bands, as seen here by two OKeh recordings from the 40s by Griff Williams, Love Is (with Walter King on vocals), and Foolish (with Lois Lee doing the vocal duties). The over-vibrato'ed saxophones and the syrupy-sweet arrangements make these two songs more suitable for parlor chat than dancing, but there is definately a danceable fox trot beat in there somewhere. Just don't expect any kind of foolishness on the floor... or maybe these were for making mooshie on the dance floor and not getting caught... Also, these might sound like they would have made the playlist in the UK, but there's no indication of an overseas recording on the label...
Where the Salon influence REALLY carried over was in the 'sweet music' of the post-WW2 era. Case in point are these four Sammy Kaye sides: Here I'll Stay, They're MIne! They're Mine! They're Mine!, I Hate to Lose You, and Green-Up Time. Vocals are by Don Cornwall, except for Green-Up Time, where the chores are handled by Laura Leslie. The official name of the band was 'Swing and Sway with Sammy Kaye', so I guess you could sway and croon 'neath the silvery moon on a night in June that makes you sweat like a buffoon that fell off a pontoon... definately not my cuppa, but still nice to listen to. I'm surprised that these haven't made the playlist in any of the 'Music of your (After)Life' radio stations...
Enough with the salon music, I may have already put you in a coma!
I have one 'transitional' recording before we get to the more modern era stuff, that being a pair of sides on Decca by none other than the legendary star of stage and screen, Deanna Durbin. I have never seen any recordings by her, so when this one showed up in the thrift store, I snagged it. They are still movie-type songs, but who knew she had the good voice? On Kiss Me Again and My Hero, we have a pair of very nicely sung tunes. And, for that period of Decca recordings, the shellac quality isn't that wretched for a change.
We'll close it up with a few more modern recordings, so you can get an idea of where the musical trends were headed in the pop music genre...
Dick Hyman was a brilliant jazz pianist that did a lot of recordings with his group in the early days of stereo LPs, in particular, his work on the Command label in the 1960s. These two pieces, however, show his mastery of the harpsichord piano (that's what it says on the label, folks). The Red Cat, and Threepenny Tango are neat indicators of the brilliance that was to come from Mr. Hyman and his fantastic fingers. And, yes, THreepenny Tango is indeed the theme from Kurt Weil & Berthold Brecht's 'Threepenny Opera', in case you were wondering. These were released on MGM's DuraLite material (their non-breakable-under-normal-use records), which was a bit less scratch-prone than others of the time... and they still hold their sound if you can find good unworn copies.
What can you say about a boxer from New York City that got his nose broken in his first bout. Not much, unless said boxer was Antonio Benedetti... his agent said that his broken nose would bring his singing career to a grinding halt, but we all know that said agent was full of hooey. The singer changed his name and recorded a few minor hits, then blasted upon America with a song about leaving his circulatory organ in a major CAlifornia city with hills and cable cars. What would have happened if Tony Bennett hadn't had his schnozz busted... I shudder to think of the loss of a singing talent for the ages. Here are two of his early recordings with the Ray Ellis Orchestra on Columbia, In the Middle of an Island, and I Am. Nice tunes, and you hear the vocal passion that can still be heard even in his most recent recordings.
I don't know much about the next artist, except that he played a passably mean saxophone when he wanted to. Grady Martin must have been heavily influenced by the likes of Bill Doggett and other R&B sax players, because he honks really well in his version of When My Dream Boat Comes Home. Backed by the Slew Foot Five (cringe), this passes for some decently playable R&B, kinda-sorta-maybe. What kills it is his cover of Allegheny Moon. Champagne bubbles, here we come. Wunnerful, wunnerful. Insulin will be available after the performance. Released on Decca, near-mint condition, etc etc. I actually didn't apply any kind of filtering or noise reduction on these two sides... what you hear is DIRECTLY what came off the disc.
I wish I could say that for the last record today... I decided to lay some REAL R&B on you for the closer. Roy Milton & His Solid Senders, with a pair from the Specialty label (the same label that was to host Little RIchard Penniman's run of hits in the late '50s). His cover of On the Sunny Side of the Street has some downright houserockin' beat, as does the other side, I'll Always Be In Love With You. But, come on guys, fess up on that piano solo! It's good, and if you recognize the two melodies used, you'll fall out of your chair laughing! This shows that one could have a rippin' good time in the studio and cut music that was FUN to listen to and dance to. No starchy cardboard here (although the noisy pressing and the groove wear may make you wonder if it WAS pressed on starchy cardboard!)...
Well, that's it for this week, hope you all had a brilliant Father's Day, and stay tuned for more shellac shanty goodness to come!
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
I want to start with a pair from Ray McKinley, recorded on the Majestic label. Why, oh why does it seem like 90% of the Majestic 78s get pressed off-center?? These are, so excuse the warble... the first one I picked up at the thrift store because of the A-side title, Red Silk Stockings and Green Perfume. Interesting title, but not too interesting of a recording, plus it has the grunge factor in the grooves. I did use the filtering plus noise reduction to get this thing listenable, and it is a cute little tune about the Old West (Movie version, since the song sounds like it was rejected from a bad B-move musical) and lady luck. Not the greatest, but hey, it's Ray McKinley, and it kind of swings. What REALLY swings is the instrumental B-side, Jiminy Cricket. This is a Ray McKinley original, and WOW this JUMPS. Also, with the grunge gone, you can hear some VERY subtle nuances in the recording itself, like the VERY muted cymbal work, and you can actually hear the acoustics of the recording studio. A rare thing in most Majestic pressings. Good Swingah!
Keeping up with the acoustical wonderments of just how GOOD a 78 can sound, we hop over to Jolly Olde for a pair from Mantovani, with vocal work by Lita Roza. These are UK pressings, and they sound so soo sooo good, even if it is a string section trying to sound like a Wurlitzer theater organ. If Someone Had Told Me (written by DeRose & Tobias, from the production "About Face") and the old crooner, Stars Fell on Alabama (a Parrish & Perkins tune). I may have put up the Phil Harris version either here or on another one of the sites, but this is a credible version of the tune. Not as good as Phil's, but quite servicable. And, yes, this is the same song that Jimmy Buffet covered on his "Cocoanut Telegraph" LP (which is a great LP).
Continuing with the sonic goodieness, we get to a pair of Harry Belafonte 78s, on the RCA Victor label, that I do not believe were released on any of his later LPs. These feature Harry with the Hugo Winterhalter Orchestra (I can see you cringe already...), and are quite quite good, both musically and sonically. Hold 'Em Joe, and I'm Just a Country Boy are diametrically opposite in tempo, but equally great songs. The first is from a Broadway show, "John Murray Anderson's Almanac" and is written by Harry Thomas. It tells of a stubborn, thirsty mule, and Harry Belafonte has a little fun with Hugo's boys in it. The second song is a ballad about unrequited love, written by Fred Brooks and Marshall Barer... it's a heartbreaker, but shows Harry B at his soul-calypso best.
And, for those of you that like the older acoustical-era recordings, here's a pair for you. We start with a Harmony label 78, which has an honest-to-goodness Irving Berin song on it, Roses of Yesterday, as recorded by Harry Trimble and His Oklahomans, with vocals by Robert Wood. If you hear a faint reprise of "Blue Skies" in there, you aren't alone (grin). The second song is a Gottler, Clare & Pinkard tune entitled Come On, Baby! It's done by Lou Gold and His Orchestra, with Jim Andrews on the vocals. A nice pair of flapper tunes for those who flapper, pretty indicative of the dance music of the 1920s.
Well, it's late, I have a bunch of stuff yet to do, and the hour long commute is awaiting me in the morning, so I had better post these and let y'all enjoy 'em. Keep the cards and letters coming, folks, and thanks for the support!
Until next time......