Thursday, July 19, 2018

Proof that anything is possible: A professionally done cheap-label LP cover!

Discogs lists the year for Mission: Impossible and Other Action Themes as 1967 for the Canadian issue, and 1968 for the U.S. issue.  Note that the cover contains the mono prefix "DLP," but with "Stereo" at the very top, which saved the label, Design, from having to print "SDLP."  (A triumph of ink-saving.)  Meanwhile, in its Design discography, Both Sides Now assigns this catalog number to Richard Hyman's Genuine Electric Latin Love Machine  (the what?), which is a typo, of course, because Hyman's LP came out on Command, not Design.

At the time, that all seemed interesting and worth sharing.  I have no idea why.

Anyway, today we have the Secret Agents (yeah, sure) performing the M:I theme, plus "other action themes," which include renamed versions of Sabre Dance. Gliding Dance of the Maidens (a.k.a. Stranger in Paradise),  Funeral March of a Marionette (a.k.a. Alfred Hitchcock Presents), and Dance Macabre. Theses have been re-titled Under Cover Agent Theme; The Saboteur; Win, Lose or Sp;, and Majorca Express.  Action themes.  Ohhhh-kay.

After all, what is a cheap label to do?  Use legit action themes for the filler tracks?  Actually, for once, the genuine titles outnumber the cheats--a full five of this album's eight tracks are actual TV or movie themes.  How did that happen?  Was Design's quality control slipping?

The musical results are much better than we can logically expect, in large part because the Secret Agents are first-rate musicians, despite some shaky arranging,  abrupt and awkward fade-outs, and a total playing time of under 21 minutes (!).  Everything sounds under-rehearsed, though there are some superbly performed moments (e.g., the closing of Majorca Express, which makes up for the rest of the track).  And the discotheque version of Star Trek is far out--groovy, even.  This collection has its moments, and then some.  Even the sound quality is good.  Someone got fired; I just feel it.

Actually, the most amazing thing of all would have to be the jacket--a cheap-label cover that looks like some love went into it, and which actually relates to the material!  But they did one thing right--they printed the jacket titles in the wrong order.  Whew.  So it's not the end of life as we know it.

Click below to hear:

Mission: Impossible, and Other Action Themes--The Secret Agents

Mission: Impossible
Theme from Star Trek
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
Win, Lose or Spy
Theme from Mannix
Under Cover Agent Theme
The Saboteur
Majorca Express

(Design SDLP-237, 1968)


Friday, July 13, 2018

Hurrah! label 78 rpm from 1962!

This record was overpriced and on eBay.  (Coincidence?)  But I knew I needed to have it--I'm a fake-hits addict.  In other words, nuts.  As a rule, I spend as little as I can manage (short of stealing), but for this I was willing to part with more dough than it's worth--and it wasn't that overpriced by the standards of the venue.  eBay is where many a dealer grabs a Fair-minus-condition Goodwill LP and puts it up for $49 or more.  If you think I'm kidding, go record hunting on eBay.  Have smelling salts on hand.

In fact, I could make a case that, given the almost nonexistent general demand for hyper-obscure items like this, the value here is about forty-nine cents, practically speaking, and you're lucky to get that.  But convincing the dealer?  Right.  So I paid the bread.  Deed done.

Humorously (ha, ha!), this was graded at VG, which it is hardly.  When the tonearm jumps all through the first track (Let's Go), it's maybe G+, but be aware that the dealer in question rates his or her records on (not by) "visual qualities"--managing, in this case, to miss seeing the considerable groove wear I spotted on first sight.  Luckily, in addition to magic eyes, I have styli and software ready to deal with massacred tracks, as long as they aren't Let's Go.  I'm kind of complaining, but not really, because I wouldn't miss having this kooky artifact in my grubby paws.  Or spinning on my turntable, even.

Why is this so special?  Because it's a vinyl 78 from 1962!  I didn't know 1962 78s happened in the U.S., but obviously they did.  What compelled Bravo! (Pickwick) to put out such a thing is the mystery of the week, but they must have figured some of their buyers lacked access to 45 rpm playback, when they could have been pondering why anyone was buying their stuff in any format.  (I should talk, after spending good money for this.  But I'm a collector, so it's okay.)

Anyway, by 1962, Pickwick was pretty much in charge of the fake-hits field, though of course not exclusively (SPC, for one, was still in the biz, appearing under any number of label names), but putting them on 78s?  No way.  But way.  We have the proof before us.  Plus my word.

Tried three styli before concluding that a conical LP needle worked best (you never know).  The tracks, minus the obliterated Let's Go, and the folks who actually got them on the charts:

Go Away Little Girl (Carole King)--original by Steve Lawrence.
Release Me--original by "Little Esther" Phillips. 
Keep Your Hands off My Baby (Carole again)--orig. by Little Eva (Beatles, 1963, for radio.)
You Are My Sunshine--orig. Ray Charles.
Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah--orig.  Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans.  (Rated S for Stupid.)

Save for the backing vocals on Release Me, all very fine cheapies.

Click here to hear: Hurrah! label 78 from 1962.


Manhattan Serenade--David Whitehall and His Orchestra (1958)

This is an LP I've had for many years and love to death.  (Scan-n-Stitch Deluxe worked this time on the cover.  We dispose of failed experiments in the back of the lab.)  Gorgeous easy listening, though my last couple plays, the effect had dimmed from too much familiarity.  Hopefully, this is new to you.  If so, I envy you!

Chief liability: the cruddy sound on Side 2, not to mention the unequal volume between the two sides.  The first one sounds more recently recorded--and very well for 1957--while side 2 is compressed and over-EQ'd (I cut some treble, and it helped, but the bass is still flabby and out of balance with the rest).  I had to normalize the volume on the Savinos, but it's a valid move, because normalizing, of course, simply maxes the volume--it doesn't compress.  That would be adding injury to injury.  (Oh, and please bear with the annoying hum throughout.  RCA Camden, remember.)

The Domenico Savino selections are as good as mood music gets, and seem to have comprised a suite (was Stars Over Manhattan the title?).  If it was a suite, why didn't RCA Camden provide the title?  Because they were cheap?  Okay, I answered my own question.

No liner notes--just the shameful cheap-label bit of listing other titles on the same label.  ("6 Record Deluxe Packages"??  Come again?)

Anyway, I'm sure the Savino tracks qualify as fluff, but masterfully composed fluff, so I dig them.  Savino wrote pop songs during the 1920s, like Burning Sands, and sometimes spelled his name backwards on the record label (and, I presume, sheet music): Onivas.  I'm sure there was a reason.  Anyway, LP collectors have likely encountered his RCA Camden LPs, and he arranged for Paul Whiteman, and arranged for piano all of Ferde Grofe's orchestral pieces for Robbins Music Corp., and you get the picture.  He even arranged Grofe's once-hyper-famous On the Trail for two pianos.  The man had talent.  Whitehall's orchestra is terrific, too.

A ten-stars-out-of-ten light music classic, and if my ears have become too used to the tracks, it's only because they're so good, I've felt compelled to play them over and over through the years.  (Thank the stars for light-tracking tonearms.)  I didn't anticipate dulling the thrill, but these things happen.  Great stuff.  (Update: Dawn still moves me like crazy.)

Click here to hear:  Manhattan Serenade--David Whitehall and His Orch. (1958)

Manhattan Serenade
Love Is the Sweetest Thing
Song of the Flame
Stairway to the Stars
Song of the Vagabonds
Stars Over Manhattan (Savino)
Album Leaf (Savino)
Intermezzo (Savino)
Pretty Cinderella (Savino)
Central Park Casino (Savino)
Lovely Lady (Savino)
Dawn (Savino)

Manhattan Serenade--David Whitehall and His Orch. (RCA Camden 324; 1958)

I won't mention the fact that this LP contains thirteen tracks.  (Theremin wail.)  Oh, I just did.


Wednesday, July 11, 2018

When Scan-n-Stitch goes wrong. Or, Oops.

I could swear I did this correctly.  Apparently not, though.

Yes, I'm preparing the next post.  If I can get the scan right, anyway.

Maybe I can do a series of these, frame them, and sell them on eBay.


Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Ten Pop Hits--Juke Box Hits of the Week (Colortone 49103; probably 1958)

And we're back with another Pop Hits LP from the Waldorf family of labels--Colortone, this time.  The year seems to be the same (1958) as last post.  There's a less colorful (and less campy) cover, and some surprisingly bad vocalizing in spots.  Was Enoch losing his touch?  (I was going to type "his Light touch," but that's lame.)

"Juke Box Hits of the Week" this time, "starring" the Richard Redding Orchestra and Chorus.  On the label, the tracks get individual credits (so we know who to blame on this go-round).  One of the guilty parties, and a budget label regular, is Jerry Duane, who turns out to have had a very significant career.  (Hope you don't get the "SUBSCRIBE NOW" box.)

Jerry sang in vocal groups--with Stan Kenton, and behind Johnny Ray, Rosemary Clooney, Tony Bennett, and other Columbia vocalists.  Plus, he was the whistler on the Andy Griffith Show theme!

Correction (cue the red font): As Ernie notes in the comments, the Andy Griffith Theme whistler was actually the composer of same, Earle (Harlem Nocturne) Hagen.  Until and if someone can prove otherwise, that is.  In fact, I already knew it was Hagen, so apologies for my brain fart.  It's possible Duane remembered it otherwise, but he must have been mistaken.  The multiple claims, which include Fred Lowery and "Toots" Thielemans, are entertaining but most likely part of a made-up mystery.

Ahem.  Anyway, so why does Jerry sound so awful as one half of the duet on Forget Me Not?  It's not just that the Kalin Brothers original is significantly better, it's that Duane and Jack Brown sound like a drunken Homer and Jethro.  Were they cutting up?  Anyway, Duane is better on Queen of the Hop, though his singing is still nothing special.  Being a good whistler and part-singer doesn't necessarily make someone a good soloist, I reckon.  Take the Lettermen--amazing blend (even if augmented on certain tracks), unmemorable lead vocals.

In this playlist, we get high-quality covers of the Kingston Trio's Tom Dooley, Elvis' I Got Stung, and Ricky Nelson's Lonesome Town.  And lousy covers of The Teddy Bears' To Know Him Is to Love Him, The Big Bopper's Chantilly Lace (how could anyone make such a thing worse?), Ricky Nelson's I Got a Feeling (no pitch correction software in 1958, please remember), and Jimmy Clanton's A Letter to an Angel (I wonder if the songwriter had ever heard Pledging My Love?).  For all its faults, though, this collection is fun--and, by dollar-bin standards, pretty good.

Click here to experience: Ten Pop Hits (Colortone 49103, probably 1958)

Tom Dooley--The Tennessee Trio
I Got a Feeling--Johnny Hines
Chantilly Lace--Al Garner
Queen of the Hop--Jerry Duane
To Know Him Is to Love Him--June Dale w. Richard Redding Orch. and Chorus
I Got Stung--Dick Penrose
Lonesome Town--Loren Becker w. Richard Redding Orch. and Chorus
It's Only Make Believe--Johnny Hines
Forget Me Not--Jack Brown and Jerry Duane
A Letter to an Angel--Johnny Hines