Wednesday, October 28, 2020

The Haunted Victrola, 2020

My Halloween shellac post from last year, for anyone who may have missed it.  I was listening to my rips, and I was impressed (in a humble way, of course), and I thought I'd give this a second, um, life.  (Can I say that during Halloween?)

Carl Fenton's Spike Jones-esque recordings of Animal Fair and Go 'Long, Mule aren't Halloween offerings of the traditional type, but their treatments are so over-the-top nuts, I think they belong here.  Er, in this playlist, I mean.  Edward MacDowell's wonderful 1884 piano piece Witches' Dance (Hexentanz) starts the hearse rolling, and Leopold Godowsky could sure play the piano.  From a Brunswick 78 made in either 1921 or 1922.  Eduard (no relation to Gustav, afaik) Holst's Dance of the Demon is also superbly performed, though it took two guys to manage it--Victor Arden and Phil Ohman, piano partners who became bandleaders.  For some reason, I gave the Polydor label Brownies' Parade a probable recording date of 1928 the last time I posted it, and I must have had a reason, though I can't remember it now.   Maybe clues from a vintage publication that's no longer on line.  It's driving me mad, trying to remember.  Or, to borrow from a Spike Jones record, it's driving me sane.  Cool electrical-era sound quality.  Chopin's Funeral March, played by Prince's Band in 1909, is by Chopin.  I know this, because the label actually lists "Chopin" under Chopin's Funeral March.  It's from his 1839 Piano Sonata No. 2, and imagine how rich his descendants would be if  there were royalties coming on the march.  Murder is a very clever Byron (The Vamp) Gay number about the way jazz bands were murdering "wonderful" songs--totally destroying them, but in an irresistible way.  Sophisticated concept, excellent melody--why is poor Byron forgotten by song buffs?  Big Movie Show in the Sky has lyrics by an anything-but-forgotten lyricist--Johnny Mercer.  Not his best work, and there's something that really creeps me out about the song and this performance.  Which only means that it works all the more as a Halloween track.  Ironic, no?

Halloween is a rite of reversal.  Good is bad, bad is good.  Kids chow down on stuff that's bad for them--sugary stuff packed in rip-off "snack" sizes.  Using a holiday as an excuse to charge more--that's totally American!  It drives me sane, just thinking about it.

Which Hazel is a clever, if slightly oversold (by Al Herman) comic number composed by Abner Silver (real name, Silberman), with lyrics that include, "The guy who wrote Witch Hazel is in a padded cell," and here's that theme, 45 years before Napoleon XIV hit the charts.  That line also places the song in the song-which-refers-to-itself category, the kind of self-reference which normally happens in songs about dances (Charleston, Locomotion, Monster Mash, The Creep, etc.).  Strange--and very Halloween.  And how to describe John Tilley's The Loch Ness Monster, from 1934?  Or John Tilley, for that matter?  I hear a strong Monty Python edge to/in this satirical piece, recorded in England--I suppose it's the cheery but cynical tone, the sophisticated references, and the mild misogyny--that, and more.  The evidence is all there--the Loch Ness monster claim was known all along to be a hoax (and a tourist lure) by thinking people, and note how Tilley makes fun of the Nessie believers' habit of searching for clues--any clues--of past Nessie sightings.  And the Nessie nonsense continues to this day.  The complicated but cool Abominable Science! makes a great case for 1933's King Kong as the main inspiration for the Nessie legend we know.  If that sounds unlikely on the surface (no pun intended), it won't after you've read what the authors have to say.

Delirium is a sophisticated instrumental by Red Nichols pianist Arthur Schutt, and speaking of delirium, I originally labeled the track Derilium.  Which sounds like a substance H.G. Wells would have made up to get his characters to Mars.  The magnificent novelty Ah-Ha! (Sidney Clare-James V. Monaco) shows up three times in our list, though I didn't have time to rip the best version of all--the 1925 Grofe arrangement for Paul Whiteman,  But it's very possible that's up someplace at the blog.  We close with 1916's Spooky Spooks (great sound effects), and Zez Confrey's Greenwich Witch, played by Confrey himself, and brilliantly.

To the treats!  All ripped from shellac housed in my cluttered Media Room.  And it's interesting that the new Blogger retains the HTML versions of older posts in their original form--which is to say, not in the extremely annoying rectangular clump that shows up for the new posts.  Since the new Blogger is forcing us to do more HTML work, I suppose it just had to make the task harder on the eyes.  I don't recommend that children trick-or-treat this year (the notion that it can be done safely is too bizarre to even contemplate), but otherwise I'd be recommending that kids considering going as New Blogger.  "Here!  Take all the candy!!!!"  (Door slams, porch lights go off.)

DOWNLOAD: The Haunted Victrola is Back!

Witches' Dance (Hexentanz) (MacDowell)--Leopold Godowsky, Piano (1921 or 1922)
Dance of the Demon (Eduard Holst)--Victor Arden-Phil Ohman, Piano Duet (1922)
Animal Fair--Carl Fenton's Orch. w. vocal chorus, 1924
Go 'Long, Mule--Same
Chopin's Funeral March--Prince's Band, 1909
Brownies' Parade (K. Noack)--Polydor Brass Band Orch., c. Joseph Snaga, c. 1928?
Me-ow--One-step (Mel B. Kaufmann)--Joseph C. Smith's Orch., 1918
Magic Eyes (Brown-Fiorito)--Oriole Orchestra, 1923
Murder (Byron Gay)--Plantation Jazz Orchestra, 1920
Mystery!--Medley--Paul Biese and His Novelty Orch., 1919
Jabberwocky--Joseph Samuels' Jazz Band, 1921
Ah-Ha!--Freddie "Schnickelfritz" Fisher and His Orch. w. vocal chorus, 1940
Which Hazel (Abner Silver)--Al Herman, 1921
Eccentric Rag (J. Russell Robinson)--Oriole Orchestra, 1924
Big Movie Show in the Sky (Dolan-Mercer)--Blue Barron and His Orch., v: Bobby Beers and the Choir, 1949
Ah-Ha!--Hollywood Dance Orch., v: John Ryan, 1925
Ah-Ha!--Oriole Orchestra, v: Mark Fisher, 1925
Midnight Fire Alarm (Lincoln)--Prince's Orchestra, 1920
The Loch Ness Monster (Tilley)--John Tilley, 1934
Delirium (Schutt)--Carl Fenton's Orch., 1927
Spooky Spooks (Claypoole)--Prince's Band, 1916
Greenwich Witch (Confrey)--Zez Confrey, Piano Solo, 1922


Tuesday, October 27, 2020

More Top Hit Tunes


This is a follow-up to my previous (Oct. 10) Top Hit Tunes offering, which seems like a very redundant point, especially since I designated this as "More..."  I haven't been myself lately.  I'm not sure who I've been.  Maybe my driver's license will give me some clue...

In fact, back in June I did an even earlier Top Hit Tunes post which featured sides from the Enoch Light period.  Today's post is post-Enoch.  These six-selection EPs were all pressed on junk vinyl, and while the EPs from the Light period (Waldorf Record Corp., 18 Top Hits, early Top Hit Tunes) weren't pressed on prime vinyl, they were far less noisy than these.  Have I thoroughly confused myself yet?

Todays' fake are from 1960 and 1961, a period I don't remember firsthand, as my earliest Top 40 recollections are from 1962.  Therefore, many of today's numbers were unknown to me until now.  But some were already familiar as oldies: Little Egypt (originally the Coasters), Little Devil (Neil Sedaka), Last Date (Floyd Cramer--country), You Talk Too Much (Joe Jones), Mother-in-Law (Ernie K-Doe),  Crying (Roy Orbison), the King-Goffin gem Halfway to Paradise (Tony Orlando, but which I first heard on a Bobby Vinton LP), and Don't Be Cruel (the version by Bill Black's Combo). For some reason, I thought I knew Summer's Gone, but I don't--I must have been thinking of some other Summer title.  Summer's Gone is the disaster of the set, and I have no idea why the fidelity is suddenly so pinched at the close.  It's nothing that I did.  At any rate, while "Arthur Poem" is a better singer than Paul Anka (who did the original), he's almost definitely under-rehearsed, and of course the audio disaster at the end ruins everything.  Otherwise, a classic cover.  (Cha-dunk, crash!)

I still haven't decided whether or not I'd heard New Orleans before.  Or, if so, when.  I'll get back to you if I figure it out.  Ta Ta; When We Get Married; Let Me Belong to You; Let's Go, Let's Go; and Bobby Rydells' Good Time Baby (I neglected to capitalize 'Time' on the ID tag), Don't Worry, and Please Love Me Forever were all news to me.  Never on Sunday, however, falls into the melody-everyone-has-heard category, and Dedicated to the One I Love and A Little Bit of Soap seem like hits that would be universally familiar, if only by their titles.  I find the playlist, as experienced in one sitting, pleasant but drab, though there were some superb pre-Beatles rock and roll hits of the 1960s, especially in the 1962-1963 period.  The Top 40 was just slouching a bit when these particular fakes were faked.

Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavor, as many of you know, was a "skiffle" version of the 1924 Does Your Spearmint Lose Its Flavor on the Bedpost Overnight, and this fake doesn't sound all that different from the real hit.  Oh, and I'm just now (10/28, 12:14 AM) remembering that I wanted to mention the extreme fuzz tone on Don't Worry, which is a surprisingly good approximation of the distortion that occurs on the Marty Robbins original.  Thanks to RobGems68 for mentioning it.  Buzzsaw guitar tones probably go back to the 1940s (just guessing)--that is to say, distortion of its type must be as old as amplified guitar technology.  Each "legendary" instance of same is accompanied by a similar tale--loose vacuum tube, damaged amp, defective fader in the studio, etc.  Famous recordings feasting the sound include Howlin' Wolf's 1951 How Many More Years (lead by Willie Johnson), Jackie Brenston's Rocket 88 of the same year (lead by Willie Kizart), and the guitar sound on The Johnny Burnette Trio's 1956 The Train Kept A-Rollin' and Link Wray and His Ray Men's 1958 Rumble.  I'm sure there are many more instances.

Again, post-Enoch Waldorf sides here, his Waldorf labels having been purchased in late 1959.  I've previously established a post-Enoch Pickwick-Waldorf connection (say that twenty times!), and in fact the first five numbers in the set are from a Bravo EP--an EP which I'm assuming had a corresponding Top Hit Tunes release.  A pretty safe assumption, I think, but still an assumption...

These were evidently all originally sold as sets, and the numerical suffixes tell us the disc number.  For instance, Top Hit Tunes THC--11-3 was the third disc in (I guess) set 11.  If any of these came in envelopes (which is likely, since these were almost definitely mail-order items), then I've yet to see a Top Hit Tunes envelope, though I have plenty for the Bravo label.

Fun stuff, even if a little mild musically, and lovingly restored by me.  Took some work.  A lot, actually.  And whoever came up with "Sunny and the Moonlighters," "Bernie Bridges," "The Star Glazers," and "The Up Beats" should have gotten an award.

DOWNLOAD: More Top Hit Tunes

A Little Bit of Soap--Unknown (Bravo PEP-210-6)
Let Me Belong to You--(Same)
Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavor--(Same)
When We Get Married--(Same)
Please Love Me Forever--Sunny and the Moonlighters (Top Hit Tunes PH-603)
Baby Blue--The Up Beats (Same)
Mother in-Law (sic)--Gary Mitchell (Same)
Never on Sunday--The Tonalaires (Top Hit Tunes THC-10-1)
Ta Ta--Elliot Sweeney (Same)
I Feel So Bad--Bert Summer (Top Hit Tunes PH-70-3)
Every Beat of My Heart--The Calumets (Same)
Little Devil--Bernie Bridges (Same)
Halfway to Paradise (Goffin-King)--Matt Marina (Same)
Little Egypt--The Freckles (Same)
You Talk Too Much--Freddie Freeman (Top Hit Tunes THC-11-2)
Summer's Gone--Arthur Poem (Same)
Let's Go, Let's Go--Phil Regano (Same)
To Each His Own--The Dreamers (Same)
Diamonds and Pearls--Eddie and His Friends (Top Hit Tunes THC-11-3)
Good Time Baby--Pete Studer (Top Hit Tunes PH-60-1)
Don't Be Cruel--Happy Harry (Top Hit Tunes THC-11-3)
New Orleans--The Southerners (Same)
Last Date--The Star Glazers (Same)
Dedicated to the One I Love--The Bleecker Street Regulars (Top Hit Tunes PH-60-1)
Don't Worry--Jerry Frankman (Same)


Saturday, October 24, 2020

8 Top Hits, or Hits, Hits, Hooray! (Waldorf MH 3319; 1954)


Yet another budget LP which can't decide what its title should be.  A cool Waldorf ten-incher--a quick listen, needless to say.  At least Waldorf didn't go the six-track route here.  The cover promises eight, and by golly...

Off the top of my head, I'm not sure, but I think Synthetic Plastics Co. also used the Hits, Hits, Hooray title.

Waldorf's 8 Bottom Hits used the same jacket, only upside-down.

DOWNLOAD: 8 Top Hits (Waldorf MH 3310; 1954)


Sunday, October 18, 2020

The Knox Brothers: Good News (Knox Brothers Records KLP-14)

So, a few things I wonder about this LP: the year, for instance.  Not noted on the jacket or sleeve, and I can't find it on line.  And why does the jacket say KBR-14, while the label says KBR KLP-14?  I thought that the junk labels held the patent to that routine (i.e., mismatching the jacket and label info).

But the big question--Take a look at the newspaper-style type under the song titles.  What's with all those weird, um, words?  Well, it's good ol' Lorem Ipsum--the "dummy text of the printing and typesetting industry."  From the 1500s.  Read about it here.

Wow.  In fact, it's over two millennia old.  However, right now I'm debating exactly what I should label today's music: Southern gospel or country gospel?  I'm inclined to go for country gospel, though the two styles can come pretty close.  The Knox Brothers of Oregon don't have a bluegrass sound, but neither do they have (in my opinion) a true southern gospel sound.  So I'm calling them country.  I have yet to decide whether country gospel, as I call it, is an offshoot of southern gospel or if it's been around all along.  "All along" meaning, since about 1900 or so.  

At any rate, I also regard The Sego Brothers and Naomi, Dottie Rambo, and (maybe) the Speer Family as country gospel, if that helps.  And/or if you wondered.  Now, lots of folks would say, "What the heck--it's all gospel.  Who cares about labels?"  And to those people who ask any version of the question, "Why worry about labels?" I say, "Okay, then let's call Homer and Jethro modern jazz."  Then, suddenly, labels become very important.  Funny how that works.  Or, "Let's just use one label for Frankie Yankovic and Pink Floyd.  What?  Let's not?  But you said labels mean nothing!"

Okay, I've stalled long enough.  Are these good tracks?  Yes, very good.  Not great, but this is very solid bop gospel... er, country gospel.  And it's yet another thrift gift from Diane, who gets less expensive and better thrifting where she is.  I'm not jealous, mind you--except when I get envious.    From the "Lorem Ipsum" notes, we learn that the group, um... Actually, we don't learn anything about them.  Well, except stuff like "Et tamen in busdam," which can be a real problem in winter before the roads have been salted.

As done by the Lewis Family, Beautiful Star of Bethlehem was one of my late foster mother's favorite gospel numbers, and the Knox Brothers do a very good job, too.  Just a Little Talk with Jesus is a 1937 standard not to be confused with the earlier A Little Talk with Jesus, which is a fine song, but in much more of a Sunday school vein.  My Soul Has Been Set Free, Meet Me Over on the Other Side, It Made News in Heaven, and A Song Holy Angels Can't Sing make for fine titles and fine numbers, though isn't I'm Gonna Sing a Song a little redundant?  What else is one going to sing, besides a song?  "Oh, my pretty Lorem Ipsum, She's got me all perplexed.  She writes me every evening, But she's using dummy text."

To the gospel...

DOWNLOAD: The Knox Brothers--Good News (KBR KLP-14)


Friday, October 16, 2020

World's Finest Stereo Sound by Grand Award--Stereophonic Spectacular--Demo, Volume 2


A limited edition Stereo "Phase X" sampler from 1959--post-Waldorf Enoch Light.  "In your travels throughout the world--Australia, Germany, Hong Kong, Singapore, or on the Rue de la Paix--you will find that Grand Award Recorded Sound is enjoyed and treasured by the person who demands 'Perfection in Sound.'"  Just have your phonograph with you at all times.  On the Rue de la Paix...

"Umm, er, I really need to get back home..."  "Yes, but not until you have provided us with 'Perfection in Sound.'  We demand it."  

The roaring 20's, Hawaiian hits, Rodgers and Hammerstein, bullfight music, the Torchy Thirties, Cha Cha's, accordion sounds from Italy, and Dvorak's New World Symphony.  Except there's no Dvorak.  I guess that makes this LP a less than perfect demonstration of Perfection in Sound, but when it's the world's finest stereo sound, who can quibble?  Well, some folks may have.  Let's take a peek back in time--back to 1959...

"Honey, there's no Dvorak on here."  "Well, it's just a sampler."  "Yeah, but they show the album jacket on the back.  I'm going to complain."  "Well, make sure you do it through the proper channels.  Ha, ha!  Get it?  Channels?"

Even if none of this music is proper Space Age Pop, the "Phase X" stereo would make it so.  I'm pretty much on the same page as David when it comes to stereo--I regard it as a menace to 1950s and 1960s pop, generally speaking.  There are exceptions, however.  Well, I can think of one.  I have Guy Mitchell's Heartaches by the Number in stereo, which sounds great, and there are early Who and Rolling Stones tracks I prefer in stereo.  Plus, later Beatles, the Hollies, and select early Beach Boys sides.  But, generally, mono is my preference, at least until it started sounding less engineered.  I think I'm still suffering trauma from my stereo copy of Eugene Ormandy's superb 1958 version of Grand Canyon Suite, which can only be described as, "What were they thinking?"  The mono has a million times more punch.

But we were talking about Grand Award.  Someone was, anyway.   This is 1959, and so there's no mention of Waldorf anywhere on the jacket or label--Enoch Light had left Waldorf (and its fun but chintzy 18 Top Hits EPs) behind.  By "chintzy," I mean the vinyl--many of those EPs were well done, but the vinyl quality was dreadful.  No more junk vinyl, no more mail-order packages (unless this was mail order)--just wonderful, spectacular, glorious "Phase X" stereo.

My verdict on the stereo?  For its day, very good.  The engineers didn't mess with the sound (pointlessly panning anything, or the like), and while I find the separation a bit too artificial, Grand Award's "spectacular" version was still better than the norm--to my aging ears, anyway.  In this demonstration record, which (in tiny print) is identified as Volume 2, we get mostly big band, Twenties, Broadway, and easy listening, though the back cover shows a greater variety of genres.  I didn't notice any "torchy Thirties," for example, but maybe I wasn't listening closely enough.  

Every time I encounter a budget-label promo, I have to wonder if anyone actually read the hype--I mean, really read it.  Whether anyone sat around the table and discussed it.  "I enjoy and treasure GA's stereo sound."--Dad. "Well, I don't."--Son.  "Of course not --you like that rock and roll junk.  They don't even engineer that noise--they simply turn the knobs all the way up.  Someday, you'll learn to appreciate real music--real high fidelity."--Dad.  "That's Squaresville.  Dion, Fabian, the Falcons, and Frankie Ford are the most, Dad.  I mean Daddy-o."--Son.  "The most what?"--Dad.  "I don't have to take this."--Son, leaving the table.  "Hey, show some respect."--Dad.  "Let it go, honey."--Mom.

Meanwhile, I'm almost done with a Top Hit Tunes follow-up, but EP-compilation posts take forever to finish...  Meanwhile, I wonder if the "SD" in this Grand Award catalog number stood for "Stereo Demonstration"?  And, in the interest of not mixing moral judgements with my pop music history, I won't call out Enoch Light for making dough from all those rock and roll fakes, only to turn his back on the music when it came time for serious, glorious, spectacular Grand Award stereo.  He could have at least gotten Artie Malvin, Loren Becker, and the Brigadiers together for a "Wonderful Days of Fake Hits" stereophonic extravaganza.  With So-and-So and His All Star Rockers.  As a thank-you to all the Top Hit Club members.

At least we get a more or less fake hit with the I Want to Be Happy Cha Cha (originally the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra starring Warren Covington).  I say "more or less," because the Covington hit was actually the Tea for Two Cha-Cha--but why get technical?  Covington sounded downright sluggish next to Enoch's cash-in.

DOWNLOAD: Stereophonic Spectacular, Volume 2 (Grand Award GA 402 SD; 1959)