Sunday, June 17, 2007


Sunday Afternoon Shellac

This Fathers Day stuff is not so bad... I get to watch racing, rest, and do up a bunch of 78s for your enjoyment! How much better can it get?

......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!

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