Thursday, April 18, 2024

More post-WII nostalgia: "Do You Remember?"--Morton Gould and His Orchestra, 1948


Internet sources give 1949 as the release year for this boxed set, despite the 1948 date on the cover.  And, in fact, the matrix numbers for the 78 rpm set reveal that these were recorded in 1947.  Anyway, I'll go with the release year, though I sometimes favor the recording date.  It's always a toss-up.

"Music has many powers, but scarcely any more potent than the ability to evoke in the listener dozens of personal memories, some of them romantic, some amusing, some poignant, and many of them half-forgotten until brought to vivid life by some melody."  In the realm of liner notes, this is a literary device called "filling space with words."  And, yes, half-forgotten memories: After all, On the Sunny Side of the Street was a whole 17 years old come 1947.  Ancient history!

In older times, ironically, people had a greater sense of "old."  "Old" was older.  Nowadays, everything is kept in rotation, and audio recording copyrights go back to 1924, ludicrously.  But, prior to the abolishment of "old," mass-culture products enjoyed a much shorter shelf life.

So, instead of a sing-along or Lawrence Welk/Sammy Kaye/Paul Whiteman rehashing of older material (and, to an extent, older styles), we have the floating-on-air character of mood music, a genre which filled the airwaves of the 1930s and 1940s but which was, for some unknown reason, greeted as a new style by pop music critics when Mantovani's Charmaine made the 1951 charts.  Short-term memory issues?  The critics never listened to the radio during childhood?  

And I suspect, minus any hard evidence, that the classic mood style didn't gel well with the "old songs" format.  And here, the majority of the tracks (much as I like Gould's arrangements) lack much of a beat.  Exceptions: Twelfth Street Rag, practically a send-up of the 1914 Euday Bowman classic, which of course was a monster 1948 hit for Pee Wee Hunt.  Plus, The Sheik of Araby, though the rhythm is hardly pronounced, save in the clever, Grofe-esque opening.

I can find no evidence that this Gould album made the transition a from ML- (Masterworks) status to a CL- (popular) release, which suggests less than excellent sales.  It apparently first appeared as a 78 set, then a 10-incher, and then as the EP set featured today.  But no CL- release in sight.  Just in case it had known life in the CL- series, albeit with a different title, I checked out each track at Discogs.  And zero indication of a popular release.

Oh, and there was this catchy edition of the 10-incher (image swiped from Discogs):

By contrast, nearly all of Ander Kostelanetz's Masterworks material made it into the CL- series.  My guess is that the languid, seamless, just-sit-back-and-take-a-nap approach to the "old songs" didn't fly with the public.  In the realm of faux-1890s-1920s, people wanted a glee-club approach--preferably with a banjo or three--or anything else with a beat.  Even if it meant the "Mickey" (Mickey Mouse) styles of Sammy Kaye, Art Mooney, or Guy Lombardo.  Maybe, especially if.

But I'm very fond of this set, and I like the novelty of the "midnight strings" approach as applied to Whispering, Nola, and The Sheik of Araby (the arrangement of which has more than a hint of exotica). 

DOWNLOAD: Do You Remember?--Morton Gould and His Orchestra, 1948

My Blue Heaven



On the Sunny Side of the Street

Poor Butterfly

The Sheik of Araby


Twelfth Street Rag

(All arrangements by Morton Gould)


Thursday, April 11, 2024

No bummed-out banjos here: "Those Happy Banjos"--Art Mooney and His Orch. (Lion L-70062; 1958)

So, what do we call phrases like "happy banjos"?  Are they an example of anthropomorphizing or personifying?  (Clock ticking; buzzer.)  Right!  Personifying!  In this case, we're talking the happy sound of banjos, which is a human perception/experience.  As personified in the form of "happy banjos."

Aren't you glad I cleared that up?  And this was a problem LP.  Namely, with some bad engineering on Side 1, plus all-over-the-place Googling required to determine the probable recording dates.  I had to do some comparison listening, at least for one track, to determine the precise version.  But the banjos were smiling all the while!

Seven of these tracks were carried over from a 1953 ten-incher called Banjo Bonanza.  The carried-over tracks consist of the entirety of Side 1, plus 1949's Paddlin' Madelin' Home.  For some reason, 1948's Baby Face was not retained. 

So, the four unique-to-this-LP tracks--Barefoot Days, Pal-ing Around With You, In the Twi-Twi-Twilight, and Johsu-a--were either recorded in 1958, specifically for his LP, or... they're earlier, unreleased tracks.  And there's 1953's "O" (Oh!), which was not on Banjo Bonanza, but was released as a single (45 and 78 rpm).  There'll be a quiz.

The sloppy. slapped-together quality of this enterprise suggests a quick release--namely, a cash-in on Sing Along With Mitch.  The tracks have the same general vibe, obviously, though Miller's choruses were all-male, while only three of these are men-only (Row, Row, Row; "O," and Barefoot Days).  Had all four of the unique-to-this-LP tracks been men-only, we'd have positive proof of a cash-in attempt.  But I'm nevertheless pretty sure.  

It's tempting to classify Mooney's 1947-1949 glee-style releases--Four-Leaf Clover, in particular --as part of a postwar trend of reviving the "old songs" of the 1890s-1920s, but said songs and styles were in a constant state of revival (and re-revival) prior to the late 1940s.  Beatrice Kay's Naughty 90's dates back to 1940, and Frankie Carle recorded versions of Stumbling and Twelfth Street Rag in 1942.  And there's the 1941 John Scott Trotter recording of Kitten on the Keys which I posted back in 2019.  In short, the neo-Dixieland/-Twenties/-ragtime period didn't start with Del Wood or Pee Wee Hunt.  As far as that goes, the novelty numbers of Zez Confrey were the neo-ragtime of their time, and we're talking back to 1920.  And people were assessing Dixieland as old hat as early as 1924!  ("Old hat as early..."?  Hm.)

Maybe the sing-along genre is simply a reflection/acknowledgement of an ongoing style of community singing, which would include glee and close-harmony vocalizing (Barbershop).  From the 1800s to the present, glees, church choirs, and Barbershop choruses have been happening behind the scenes of mainstream popular music, but because it rarely show up on recordings, outside of the private type (one notable exception: 1955's Alabama Jubilee), such music seems hopelessly dated.  And I think I've set the world's record for overthinking the sing-along genre!  But it has me puzzled.

Note: Heartbreaker is a 1948 number inspired by the Ferko String Band (!) and cowritten by Max (Rock Around the Clock) Freedman.  And could that group have inspired Mooney?  (The FSB did a 1948 version of Four-Leaf Clover which could almost pass for the 1947 hit.  Hm.) And Pal-ing Around With You appears to be from 1949.

DOWNLOAD: Those Happy Banjos--Art Mooney and His Orch. (Lion L-70062; 1958)

I'm Looking Over a Four-Leaf Clover, 1947

Toot, Toot, Tootsie! (Goodbye), 1949

Somebody Stole My Rose Colored Glasses, 1949

Row, Row, Row, 1949

Heartbreaker, 1952

Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue (Has Anybody Seen My Girl), 1949

"O" (Oh1), 1953

(Oh Boy!  What a Joy We Had In) Barefoot Days

Pal-ling Around With You

In the Twi-Twi-Twilight


Paddlin' Madelin' Home, 1949


Sunday, March 31, 2024

Easter 2024!! Eddie Brandt, Jerome Hines, Smith's Sacred Singers, Collegiate Choir, "Hoppy" the Bunny, Haydn Quartet


Joyous Easter music, rescued from Workupload exile.  As you can see, the bunnies are excited.  A mix of secular and sacred, though many (most?) details of Easter were, at some point in time, religious.  In All Around the Year (1994), Jack Santino (a former prof of mine) writes about Easter eggs as "natural symbols of birth, new life, resurrection, and renewal," and we won't even mention bunnies (rabbits) as symbols of fertility.  Except, I just did.  But Easter eggs, come 2024, are regarded as "secular" in nature.  (Actually, most eggs have no professed religion.)  Or an unpeeled egg, once peeled, can be regarded as a symbol of Christ's rebirth--a victory over death.  It's your call.

Meaning that any and all controversy over religious holidays (at least in my culture) is a matter of sacred vs. popular rather than sacred vs. secular.  Approximately 80 percent of U.S. citizens celebrate Easter, and it's closer to 90 percent for Christmas.  Which means, obviously, that a hefty number of non-Christians are happily engaging in Christian events.  This, of course, inevitably leads to debate over whether or not these holidays are, in fact, Christian.  My take is that, if we celebrate them in the (so to speak) mode of Christianity, they are Christian.  Historically, that is. This fits in with my "The past can't be conveniently jettisoned" cultural-history stance.  To put it another way, Silent Night doesn't cease to celebrate the Nativity, even if sung by an atheist or a religiously-undecided person as part of the popular celebration.  That is, unless the text is radically altered to eliminate that central reference--in which case, it's an utterly new number, since the removal of the Nativity theme would necessitate a title change and the elimination of "holy," among other details.  It's enough to know that millions of Americans annually sing Christmas carols and hymns with little or no thought to the sacred nature of caroling.  It's simply something people do during "the holidays."

As to whether the spring equinox, the winter solstice, and other vital planetary events are the property of a given faith, or any faith at all, my take (forgive me) is that the planetary events take precedent.  Holy details are "scheduled" around the seasons, and obviously not vice versa, so...

How did I end up on that tangent?  I guess I'm saying that, even as a Christian, I'm overjoyed by the fact of any Christian holiday pulling popular duty--i.e., becoming a holiday of and for the people.  Such as Easter.  Hence, I feel that How Great Thou Art conveys the joy of the event (birth, rebirth, the return of leaves and flowers, "longer" days) as legitimately as Eggbert, the Easter Egg, though I would argue that the former is a more inspired work of art.

And any excuse to put Eddie Brandt (of Spike Jones fame) and (His) Hollywood Hicks, Jerome Hines, Smith's Sacred Singers, "Hoppy" the Bunny, Ray Heatherand the Cincinnati Baptist College Quartet in the same playlist is an excuse to be cherished.

And the "Anthony Auletti" credit for Bunny Hop (by the Peter Pan Orch. and Singers) is actually, "Anthony, Auletti," but we believe in keeping typos as they originally appeared.  And my all-time favorite gospel songwriter, Charles H. Gabriel, is represented by three selections, including the gorgeous 1925 Homer Rodeheaver--Mrs. William Asher duet, Love Led Him to Calvary.  Incredibly vivid fidelity on a nearly 100 year old 78.  And we close with two joyous Gabriel anthems, by way of conveying the joy of the season.  And nothing says "joy" quite like joyousness.

DOWNLOAD: Easter 2024

Peter Cotton Tail--Meadowlarks (Irene Records)

Old Rugged Cross--Mac MacFarland--(Same)

Easter Parade--Eddie Brandt and (His) Hollywood Hicks, V: Ruthie James (Same)

Christ Arose--Collegiate Choir, 1920

Easter Bunny Polka--Eddie Brandt and (His) Hollywood Hicks, V: Eddie Brandt and Ruthie James (Irene Records)

Jesus Died for Me--Smith's Sacred Singers, 1929

Are You Washed in the Blood of the Lamb--Smith's Sacred Singers, 1929

Power in the Blood--The Cincinnati Baptist College Quartet, c. 1971

How Great Thou Art--Jerome Hines, 1965

The Old Rugged Cross--Jerome Hines, 1965

Unknown Choir, Word Records--He Lives

He Arose--Haydn Quartet With Orchestra, `1908

Victory in Jesus--Church of the Nazarene Male Quartet, 1959

Bunny Hop--Peter Pan Orch. and Singers, Dir. by Vicky Kasen (1955)

Love Led Him to Calvary (Webster-Gabriel)--Mrs. William Asher-Home Rodeheaver, With Pipe Organ, 1925

Funny Little Bunnies--The Cricketts, Feat. "Hoppy" the Bunny, Peter Pan Orch.

Reapers Are Needed (Charles H. Gabriel)--A.T. Humphries and Lee College Choir, c. 1959

Awakening Chorus (Charles H. Gabriel)--Same

Peter Cottontail--Ray Heatherton (The Merry Milkman), 1951

Eggbert, the Easter Egg--Same


Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Stardust Melodies: Raymond Paige and His Orchestra, Raymond Paige's Young Americans, 1940-41 (RCA Camden CAL-153)

Sorry for my longer-than-planned absence.  Today's offering is from the mood-music/easy-listening radio heyday, though these are reissued 78s, not airchecks.  This appears to be the second edition of this reissue, and I have a dim memory of once owning the earlier Camden LP.  As ever, I love the "How This Record Value is Possible" bit on the RCA Camden back jacket: It amounts to, "We're doing you a favor by offering back catalog material."  No, we're doing RCA a favor by keeping its back catalog profitable.  Then again, "Here's some older stuff, priced down because charging a current tab would be unethical" wouldn't have the same ring.

For once, LP-wise, I did a good deal of equalizing, dynamic adjustment, and even added very slight reverb, just to pump more life into the sound.  It seemed a bit too "flat."  Normally, I would have pushed up the treble slightly and let things be, but I felt these transfers needed more punch.  My plan was to retain the main file, in case I didn't like the changes--but I blew that.  I should have used the "save as..." option for the original file and not the extra-doctored "project."  Live and learn.  I had the right idea, only in reverse.

These tracks, recorded in 1940 and 1941, originally appeared on two 78 sets by Raymond Paige and His Orchestra and Raymond Paige's Young Americans (falsely credited here as "American Youth Orchestra").  These images come courtesy of eBay:

No idea if "Young Americans" refers to a youth orchestra or if Paige simply used it for a catchy handle.  However, going for youth association while performing older songs: That's kind of odd.  But no one asked me.  (I was nowhere to be found in 1941.)

Because Paige was an RCA artist, his performances, while Kostelanetz-esque (how's that for an adjective?), lack the lovely spacious, distant-miked sound that graced Kosty and Morton Gould's Columbia recordings from the same period.  And the arrangements, while perfectly good, aren't quite up to Kosty's or Gould's.  On the other hand, all examples from the first wave of mood/easy-listening have historical significance, even if nowadays it's hard to picture folks relaxing to soothing music from 12-inch 78s as they plopped, one after the other, onto the turntable platter.  (These sets were typically designed for changers.)  Then again, a good phonograph would have produced better fidelity than a radio set, despite the lesser ease of use.

And, checking just now, I didn't enter "Endearing Young Charms" as "Enduring Young Charms."  Whew!  I often think one thing and type another.

To the radio-era easy-listening sounds of Raymond Paige...

DOWNLOAD: Stardust Melodies: Raymond Paige Orch. and Young Americans, 1940-51

Rhapsody in Blue

When Day Is Done--La Cumparsita

Mood Indigo

Donkey Serenade (Chansonette)

Night and Day

Let Me Call You Sweetheart

Star Dust


My Moonlight Madonna

Believe Me, If All These Endearing Young Charms--A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody

Thru' the South (Swing Low, Sweet Chariot; Turkey in the Straw; Deep River)

By the Bend of the River


Monday, February 19, 2024

Monday afternoon gospel: Smith's Sacred Singers (and two guests): 1926-1930


Of course, I'd hoped to have this up yesterday (Sunday), and I might have succeeded if the originals were in average-to-above condition.  But sacred shellac of the late 1920s has a far lower probability of showing up in decent shape than "pop" 78s.

But I did manage to get twelve sides good to go for this Monday.  The two "guest" artists are Rev, J.C. Burnett and His Quartet with the "folk" version of Will the Circle Be Unbroken (which, far as I can determine, is a variant on the 1907 Ada Habershon-Charles Gabriel hymn).  That, or the 1907 hymn followed from a folk source.  But, at this point in my investigation, it seems like a popular-to-folk migration.

And the other "guest" performance features the 1907 Circle, as performed by "citybilly" greats Bud Billings and Carson Robison.  Robison, while an imitation-"hillbilly" singer, did an important service in popularizing genuine from-the-hills material--and he was a gifted performer, besides. 

The rest are fabulous numbers by J. Frank Smith's quartet, Smith's Sacred Singers, spanning the years 1926-1930 and recorded in Atlanta, Georgia.  I really should know, but I'm not sure whether Columbia had a studio in Georgia or whether the group was recorded in "field" style with portable equipment.  Easily researched on line, I'm sure, but I'll leave that to you, dear reader/listener.

Here's a group photo I swiped from the great SecondHandSongs site, one of the net's most amazing resources:

1927's We Shall Rise might be my favorite SSS performance of all, and it's one of two resurrection-morning numbers often confused.  At one point, I went to the trouble of documenting the two numbers after much songbook research, but of course I can't recall the details offhand.  And a quick blog-history check didn't help.  The numbers in question are not as blatantly similar as A Wonderful Time up There and Gloryland Jubilee, both 12-bar boogie tunes, but they're close enough.

And the superlative 1927 SSS version of He Will Set Your Fields on Fire is an important document of the song as written (two years earlier, in 1925), and not with the "swingy" 2/2 pulse that came to dominate country and Southern gospel.  The distinction between the as-written and "swingy" pulse is too subtle to describe--it's akin to a choral score written in quarter and eight notes but with the instruction to introduce a "swinging" triplet pulse.  Country/bluegrass typically does not involve a jazz/R&B pulse (just every once in a while), but it rocks in its own way.  We're hearing Fire before it acquired the standard Chuck Wagon Gang/Cary Story feel. 

I hope that made some sense.  Sometimes, the slightest change in the feel of a performance can make a world of difference. 

Getting back on topic, SSS's style is often described as "shape note" (a variant on "shaped notes"), a term which refers to "Sacred Harp" singing, a choral style (typically rendered in the shouting manner of SSS) that started in New England and made its way down South.  "Shape note" refers to notation styles in which the scale degrees--do-re-mi-fa, etc.--are represented by (as the term implies) different shapes.  The most common variant is a repeated four-note scheme, which works because the standard seven-note Western scale (with the "do" degree doubled) consists of two tetrachords separated by a whole step.  I personally find shape notes an epic pain to read, and it seems, along with all the other music-reading shortcuts of its type, like more hassle than help.  Learning the various key signatures isn't all that much harder than memorizing different notehead shapes.

And... since any SATB or close-harmony number can be rendered in shape-note form, "shape-note" technically does not refer to a specific performance style.  But the SSS members were likely "singing school"-trained; thus, their style would be closer to "Sacred Harp" than not.  Aren't you glad I cleared that up?

Life's Railway to Heaven might have been my late foster mother's favorite gospel hymn, since the text is such a brilliant exercise in sustained spiritual metaphors: The spiritual journey of life as a train ride.  She was an OSU English prof and thus appreciated all expert vernacular examples of that literary device.  She also loved the allegorical aspect of A Tramp on the Street (aka, Only a Tramp), in which the tramp turns out to be no less than Christ himself.  Allegory-wise, Deliverance Will Come (more often titled Palms of Victory) is a condensed version of Pilgrim's Progress, that 1678-1684 work chosen by the Guardian as the greatest novel of all time.  SSS takes Deliverance at a slow tempo, in contrast to later versions.  

Oh, and apologies for the wrecked condition of Shouting on the Hills, but it's too good to omit.  Plus, it increases the track count from thirteen to fourteen.  Not that I'm superstitious, but I'm superstitious.

As mentioned before, the 1928 Bud Billing/Carson Robison Will the Circle Be Unbroken presents the 1907 hymn as written, its lyrics intact (save for "Is a better world" revised into the more hopeful, "In a better world").  Though beautifully done, the recording is not something modern ears are likely to regard as remotely folk--or country, for that matter--but for 1928 listeners, it was a different story.  That is to say, the 1920s had its pop-country variant, just as we have ours today.  In fact, the latest variant is something I can happily do without, though I like the now-"classic" country of Marty Robbins, Hank Snow, and Johnny Cash.  A reminder that "authentic," "classic," etc. are temporally specific labels (and, usually, in reference to our own period).

To the downhome goodness of Smith's Sacred Singers:

DOWNLOAD: Smith's Sacred Singers, Feb. 2024

We Shall Rise--Smith's Sacred Singers, 1927

He Will Set Your Fields on Fire--Same, 1927

I Will Sing of My Redeemer--Same, 1927

The Church in the Wildwood--Same, 1927

Will the Circle Be Unbroken--Rev. J.C. Burnett and His Quartet, 1928 (Take 2)

Deliverance Will Come--Smith's Sacred Singers, 1928

The Home Over There--Same, 1928

Life's Railway to Heaven--Same, 1928

Meet Me There--Same, 1929

Working for the Crown--Same, 1929

City of Gold--Same, 1927

Climbing up the Golden Stairs--Same, 1927

Will the Circle Be Unbroken (Habershon-Gabriel)--Bud Billings and Carson Robison, 1928

Shouting on the Hills--Smith's Sacred Singers, 1926