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!
I have the Levant sides on a 7" 33 and 1/3 single. Levant rules!
Very nice transfers!