Friday, September 14, 2018

Rhapsody 21 (1962)--Paul Whiteman, w. Sondra Bianca, Pianist

Buster and I were wondering who Suzanne Auber is (she's still with us at the age of 87!), and I got Google-lucky and found out that "Suzanne Auber" was one of a number of budget-label pseudonyms for the superb concert pianist Sondra Bianca.  Here she is, playing for Paul Whiteman and credited by the World's Fair Records label under her actual name.

The "Suzanne Auber" pseudonym, by the way, appeared on last post's selection, Music of South Pacific and Oklahoma.

Critics complain about George Gershwin's allegedly poor sense of form (on long works), and I'll concede he was no Grofe in that regard, but he kept things moving.  Those critics might reconsider their complaint after hearing this poor man's Warsaw Concerto called Rhapsody 21, an adventure in repetition in which each permutation of the main theme is so obviously the main theme, what would Chopin say?  Some of Chopin's extraordinary Etudes are the same phrase over and over until the final measure, but so brilliantly developed, there aren't words to describe how brilliantly.  Rhapsody 21 is the same chunk of music repeated either literally or almost literally, with connecting passages that might have worked as silent movie organ stings.  Okay, I'm being mean, because this lightweight piece is actually very entertaining and skillfully scored.  And Sonia is terrific.  Just don't expect anything remotely close to Rhapsody in Blue, and you're all set.

I edited both sides together--the cut-off beginning of side 2 was not my doing!

Click here to hear: Rhapsody 21

Rhapsody 21 (Toni Mineo, Orch. by Attillo Mineo)

Sonia Bianca, Pianist, w. Paul Whiteman (World's Fair Records STV 82083/4; 1962)


Eli Oberstein returns! Music of South Pacific and Oklahoma (Rondo ST 536; 1958)

Soooo... My disc has the yellow label, so this pressing is from Eli Oberstein's time as owner of Rondo.  Now we know.  This was a thrift find, and it's in halfway decent shape, with most of the issues in the final band.  There's mild play damage, plus it's a lousy pressing (of course), so this took a little while to de-click.  There were the usual major clicks that required track-splitting, and... this was a trial.  Was it worth it?  Sure--it's great stuff.  Robert Russell Bennett did the orchestrations, (I thought they sounded familiar), which are terrific, and, whoever the Broadway Symphonic Jazz Orch. was, they do a generally expert job, though God knows what happened at the close of Oklahoma.  Weren't retakes allowed?  But I guess we can forgive a train-wreck when it happens in the final measures.  We know the I chord is coming.

Oh, and this is a MY(P)WHAE rarity--a stereo recording!

Music is fine, everything sounds very well-recorded in the first place--the master tapes probably rocked--but something bad happened during the transfer to vinyl (the left channel drops out completely at one point), and there are some very poor edits.  They rival the bad cut in the Beach Boys' Heroes and Villains.  None of the early cut-offs were my doing--I swear.  This includes the sudden drop-off at the end of Oklahoma's third track.

The Oklahoma tracks don't have individual titles, so I didn't give them any.  South Pacific is a single band.

I like the cover, even if the gorgeous model looks like she'd rather be somewhere else.  Actually, it's probably Liat, mourning the death of Lt. Cable.  In that case, extra marks for an unusually thoughtful budget jacket.

I'm not a big fan of musicals, but I love South Pacific in every possible way.  Maybe my three years on this ship has something to do with it.  We played games with the Russians during my time (early 1980s) on the Lockwood, too, and vice versa.  Once, a Russian carrier pulled up closely beside us, and I missed the whole thing because I was on watch inside in the Combat Information Center.  But, back to South Pacific....

The songs are magnificent, the characters are totally memorable (though Ray Walston's performance in the 1958 film almost has me taking that back), and the social statements are still powerful--because, sad to say, they're as relevant as ever.  The 1958 film could be a lot better, mainly because (as noted by John Kerr in an interview), so much attention was given to the set-ups--due to issues of lighting, weather, etc.--that the acting was rushed and under-rehearsed.  It shows.  And much of the dialogue must have been post-dubbed, given all the stilted line-readings from decent actors.  As an actor, Kerr wasn't exactly a live-wire lead, but I really like him as Cable.  But we're not here to discuss the 1958 film....

We're here to hear some great music and arrangements on a zero-budget label.  So good, we can forgive the "zero-budget" part.

Click here to hear:  Music of South Pacific and Oklahoma

1. Music of South Pacific (arr: Robert Russell Bennett)
2.  The Music of Oklahoma, Track 1 (arr: Robert Russell Bennett)
3.  Same, Track 2
4.  Same, Track 3 
5.  Same, Track 4

Music of South Pacific and Oklahoma (Rondo ST 536, 1958)
The Broadway Symphonic Jazz Orch., cond. by Suzanne Auber, Pianist.
(Orchestrations by Robert Russell Bennett)

"In these recordings the music has not been reshaped or reformed for the benefit of stereo"--from back jacket.  That's a relief!  I hate it when music is reshaped or reformed for the benefit of stereo.



Monday, September 10, 2018

Best one yet

My next-to-latest comment from Jupiter was a classic (and a two-fer--two whacked-out texts joined together), and I was going to put it up, but then this one arrived:

It's perffect timme to makee a few plans for the longer term and
it is time too be happy. I've read this put up and if I may
I want too counsel you some attention-grabbing
things or advice.  Perhaps youu could write next
articles regarding this article. I desire to read more things about it!

I've been trying to tell that to people for years, and no one listens to me.  As for having someone counsel me some attention-grabbing things or advice, I've always wished someone would.  But what do they charge?  And who are "they"?  And I'm not sure I agree it's perffect timme to makee a few plans for the longer term, since I've got a ton of things going on right now.  But I'm always happy to have people read my put up.

And I just got a call from The Enquirer, said Caller ID.  Cincinnati area code.  Googled it--might be the Cincinnati Enquirer trying to get me to subscribe.  I'm about 140 miles away from Cincinnati, and I've never lived there, and their paper has never come here, and... what's up?

I know--maybe the Enquirer wants too counsel me some attention-grabbing things or advice.  I should have answered.


Friday, September 07, 2018

Moods for Pleasure Time--Royale Concert Orch. (Allegro-Royale 1506)

Gilmarvinyl asked if I have any background or showtune albums on the Eli Oberstein budget labels, and yes, I do.  This is one of them--and it's terrific. Even the recording quality is mostly quite decent, and that's often anything but the case with this family of discs.  My copy may very well have been unplayed prior to me placing a stylus in the grooves--no way to be sure, since cheap label pressings are never the best.  But the occasional clicks and pops--all removed--sounded to my ears like imperfections in the vinyl.  So I'm guessing that, when this arrived in my collection, it was fresh as the day it was born--if we don't count the sixty or so years it spent sitting around (or standing up, if it was properly stored).

Over the years, I've formed all kinds of elaborate theories about the evolution of mood music/easy listening.  I had it starting with light concert works (some of them novelties) of the late 19th and early 20th century--A Hunt in the Black Forest, Lotus Land, etc.  But nowadays I think of it simply as a specific treatment of song standards.  And I just typed two paragraphs in which I tried to describe that treatment in detail, but I failed completely, so I deleted them.  Let's forget it ever happened.

Easy listening/mood music is best described as, um, something.  Yes.  As a... kind of music.  That's it.

Whatever it is, it has coexisted with light concert music ("Pops") for decades--hence, Andre Kostelanetz and other "beautiful music" conductors made LPs of both the more salon-type works of Debussy, Ravel, Schubert, et al. and collections of tunes by Arlen, Berlin, and Youmans.  The two strains ended up on concert stages together, and eventually "Pops" came to include... anything.  Nowadays, "Pops" means, "There's an orchestra, yes, but nothing serious is going to happen, so don't worry."

The charming Every Little Movement is from 1910, so I don't know how it became a mood/easy standard (Meredith Willson did a version in that mode, too), but I'm all right with that.  Except for the piano sides (good, but not the "Royale Concert Orchestra"), these all have a heavily 1940s feeling, which means they could well be repackaged material by a name conductor or bandleader, despite the "Recorded in Europe" claim on the cover and the "Royale Concert Orchestra" credit.  Not that these covers would lie, except most of the time.

Is Limehouse Blues a mood standard, you ask?  To the best of my knowledge no.  The tempo's too fast, but Allegro-Royale doesn't care what I think.  It's another mood track of many moods, like Every Little Movement.  It reminds me of the Paul Whiteman "concert" arrangements, all of which featured four or five approaches to a given song in the space of a single twelve-inch 78 rpm side.  The over-the-top track on this LP, though, is Temptation, which starts out like King Kong waking up from a nap and finding Ann gone.

Before I close, here is the alternate version of this LP's cover (I think it's more common).  I swiped the image from Discogs.

Personally, I don't associate pleasure with an arrow in the, um, chest, but this is certainly way more interesting than my version.

Click here to hear: Moods for Pleasure Time--Allegro-Royale 1506

Linger Awhile
I'm in the Mood for Love
Body and Soul
I Didn't Know What Time It Was
All of Me
Every Little Movement
I've Got Five Dollars
April in Paris
I Can't Give You Anything but Love
Limehouse Blues
Just Friends
Penthouse Serenade

Moods for Pleasure Time--Royale Concert Orchestra (Allegro-Royale 1506)