Friday, September 14, 2018

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.




Buster said...

Unlike you, I love musicals, and these two are particular favorites, so many thanks for the transfer!

Who do you suppose "Suzanne Auber" was?

Lee Hartsfeld said...

Apparently, she was Sondra Bianca:

A number of recordings show up at eBay under her real name. Four show up under "Suzanne Auber."

From Wikipedia entry: "For reasons unclear, her recordings were released on various budget record labels under a handful of pseudonyms. Some of these names include: Albert Cohen, Karl Bernhard, Frederick Antenelli and Suzanne Auber." Far out!

Buster said...

Interesting - I have at least one of her classical records.

I've got to learn to use Google myself . . .

Lee Hartsfeld said...

That's right. Shame on you. And in the cyber age!! Inexcusable!

But, seriously, anymore finding stuff on Google is an art. More and more, Google is defaulting its results toward the most commonly searched-for results, and never mind what the heck you or I put in quotes, word- or phrase-wise. I'm starting to despise these guys. To wit, I Googled a sentence (in quotes) that included the word "Harvey." And so Steve Harvey popped umpteen times. What the...???? Another time, I Googled a phrase to find out its meaning, and I ended up with promo after promo for a MOVIE by that name. Is Google getting kickbacks from TV and Hollywood for their shilling? Or is Google hijacking every search so that the "most popular" results come up? I suspect the latter. Google is culturally retarded.

However, all rants aside, I lucked out with "Suzanne Auber," because G. took me right to Wikipedia, I think. If not, it came up after a few matches. Can't remember. Thank God "Suzanne Auber" isn't the name of a movie or TV show--we'd never find out that she is Sondra Bianca. And Sondra Bianca sounded familiar, and I discovered why on eBay--she's the pianist on the Paul Whiteman recording of "Rhapsody 21," which I ought to put up. I don't have the LP but I have a promo picture single. Released in 1962 on World's Fair Records. (Thank you, Discogs.)

"Rhapsody 21" is an awful piece of composing. It's clearly the work of a trained musician, but one with no sense of form--it's that revolving-door kind of writing that usually comes from rock stars attempting to write "extended" pieces.

In other news, as you likely know, Gershwin allegedly had a son he never acknowledged. Given that the son ("son"?) grew up to look like George's double, I'm skeptical of all the skeptics. The (alleged) son died this year at the age of 91. I did not know that.

I'll have to study what the skeptics say. I fully believe in the cause of skepticism, but I think some skeptics are dead-set on debunking, which should not be their goal. The goal should be determining the truth, not taking out a claim. But you have the rabid "skepticism" of the James Randi type, and people forget how vitally important objectivity is. Either/or thinkers regard objectivity as a cop-out, as a concession to "woo woo." These folks drive me nuts, and I'm already borderline straitjacket material....

Gilmarvinyl said...

Thanks for this record! These albums are not easy to find, at least where I live. The Halo and Ultraphonic labels releases are far more common.

Buster said...

Well, of course the rap on Rhapsody (see what I did there?) was that it was a series of disconnected episodes. So maybe Rhapsody 21 (which I would love to hear) was an homage. I've never picked up any of the latter-day Whiteman records, and I'm not sure I've ever seen the one you cite.

Didn't know about George Jr. - interesting!

Lee Hartsfeld said...


My pleasure. I found this a few days ago at a local Goodwill. Most of the cheap labels that show up around here are SPC, Tops, or stuff from the Pickwick group, but Oberstein labels show up on and off. It seems like I used to find Rondo, Rondo-lette, Royale, etc. routinely, but not so much now. Maybe people are scooping them up for their colorful covers to use as decorations. I collect cheaply-made 19th century children's picture books (the models for modern comic books), but they're priced through the roof because people cut them up for "Victorian" illustrations. So, even though these books are common as dirt, they're in high demand and thus over-priced. I'd hate to see the same thing happen with budget LP covers....

Lee Hartsfeld said...

Rhapsody 21 coming up. Wish I had the pic sleeve that came with it. (At least, I think there was one. Discogs doesn't show any, so maybe I'm wrong.)

I'm editing it now. Listening to it again, it's too much repetition, but it's kind of fun. Sondra is terrific on it.

Researching George, Jr. He refused DNA testing, which has the skeptics skeptical, and I can't blame them. Then again, maybe he was eccentric. Or a phony. Hm....

RecordHunter said...

Thank you very very much. A few years ago I had never heard of Sondra Bianca and now I collect any recordings of hers I can find. She is terrific, as you've said. This, I did not even know existed. Thanks again

Buster said...

This is a really good record - arrangements, playing, recording!

Lee Hartsfeld said...

I think so, too! I'm astonished to hear anything of this quality on this label. So much early stereo sounded bad--either over-EQd or less than natural. But this sounds great. Quite a surprise.

Glad you enjoyed!

Buster said...

He must have licensed or lifted it from a reputable European source, and then not messed it up.

Marc Catalano said...

As always, your selections and transfers are appreciated. I don't think I'd have been introduced (or listened) to so many varied and obscure artists and recordings. Your transfers and clean-up work give this records a life beyond what they would otherwise have had and it is fortunate that you preserve and share them as you do.

Keep up the excellent work!

Lee Hartsfeld said...

Thank you, Marc!