Monday, December 31, 2018

A sackful of singles and album extracts--20 of them!

The engineering, if it can be called that, on the Julius La Rosa disc (We Need a Little Christmas) sounds like something anyone could accomplish with a $9.99 microphone and a transistor radio.  Good Lord.  And La Rosa's over the top performance sounds like it was his last chance to escape the firing squad or something.  Did he always sound this outrageously fake?  Overdone enthusiasm is the kiss of death, even when you're selling a piece of fluff like this.  I'ts like someone grinning like Gene Kelly and shouting "I'M HAVING A GREAT TIME!  I WOULDN'T WANT TO BE ANYWHERE ELSE!" at a party and expecting people to believe you.

Come on, folks!  Haul out the holly!!  We don't need bass or mid-range when we've got the McChristmas spirit.

Then it's the Beginning of the End (what's with that name?)  with a track that's surreal in its superiority to the opening inanity.  Believe or not, this superb jazz-funk group used the same Gee Whiz backing tracks for an attempted Funky Nassau follow-up called Doin' the Funky Do (1972).  When and if I find an affordable copy of Do, I'll grab it.

The New Hallelujah (Hallelujah Chorus) is a Moog number arranged by Ralph Carmichael and featured on a Light Records LP--the kind which you're not sure about the title or who to credit.  It's an amusing relic (1970), and very well done.  Dallas Corey's sides are very pleasant vanity holiday singles, complete with children's chorus, and you won't be humming them for days.  Or even seconds.  But they're better than listening to Julius have a heart attack trying to sell A Little Christmas while the MGM engineer filters out the bass.  1982's Happy Birthday Jesus (leaving out commas didn't start with the internet) is another fluffy vanity (fluffy vanity?) effort--this time, with the artist's full name (Al Rosa) as the label, not just the surname (Corey for Dallas Corey)--and it's no disgrace to the season, either.  It's catchier, in fact.  The chorus is cool.  Cliche City, U.S.A., but that's called Christmas.  "Have a merry, merry happy birthday, Jesus."  And Al gives us a spoken section that sounds like it's the first time he read it.

"Angels sing-aling"?  Now, that's too much.  Sorry.

A 1941 Novachord Parade of the Wooden Soldiers?  Sure.  Collins H. Driggs was good friends with Ferde Grofe, but I don't remember the details and don't have time to look them up.  Driggs and Grofe played in a Novachord quartet at the 1939 World's Fair, I think.  Not positive.  Anyway, anyone listening to this would think the Novachord was a very limited proto-synth, and no one would blame them.  Actually, it made some amazing sounds--its range was uncanny.  No one was more surprised than I was to discover that.  There's a Driggs 78 on YouTube from the set this 78 came from, and I don't understand sound reproduction that awful.  It's not rocket science.   Use 78 needle.  Do some filtering.  Maybe the YouTube poster grew up listening to Julius' We Need A Little... and thought that was how sound is supposed to sound.

Two lovely Liberace sides from 1953, with a great picture sleeve.  People laugh at Liberace.  My jazz musician father insisted Liberace had limited ability.  I took ten years of piano lessons.  Liberace did not have limited ability.  Lew White tickled the ivories (or whatever they are on organs) quite well, too.  Ernie has featured these two delightful 1942 numbers, and I'm featuring them, too, so nyah.  John McCormack's unbelievably beautiful early-1920s version of the Bach-Gounod setting of Ave Maria sort of hurts my ears because of the transfer quality, which was likely first-rate for 1960; not so much now.  I just mail-ordered a copy of the 78 (whose label number isn't in my 78 dating guide--its listing stops short), so I'll get to see what I can do with it.  The performance by all three musicians--tenor, violin, piano--is a recording-history landmark. 

Ambrose Haley's 1947 Old-Timey Christmas is the ultimate contrast to the previous performance, but different isn't necessarily bad, and it's not only not bad, it's quite good.  "Authentic" is too relative a concept to have any meaning, and so I avoid using it.  But this is authentic, rock-the-jukebox country.  Bluegrass, really.  But bluegrass is country, after all.

The four Gateway label sides are standard budget-label holiday hit copies.  And I have no idea what I just typed.  Eileen Scott--and, off the top of my head, I recall it was her real name--is a familiar name and voice, and a good singer.  I don't know if "Jack Daniels" was a joke, or what.  And I seem to remember him showing up on the Broadway label, but we've talked before about the impossibility of keeping cheap-label data straight unless you're an android specifically programmed for that purpose, so I'll just say, um, Merry Christmas!  The angels are sing-aling.  And the New Year is about 30 minutes away....

CLICK HERE TO HEARA sackful of singles

We Need a Little Christmas--Julius La Rosa, 1966
Gee Whiz, It's Christmas--The Beginning of the End, 1971
The New Hallelujah (Hallelujah Chorus; Arr: Carmichael)--Clark Gassman, Moog Synthesizer, 1970
It's Gonna Be a Mixed Up Christmas--Dallas Corey and Nashville Hillview Baptist Children's Choir, 1972
The Birth of Christmas--Dallas Corey, 1972
Parade of the Wooden Soldiers (Jessel)--Collins H. Driggs, Novachord Solo, 1941
Toy Symphony (Haydn)--RCA Victor Orch., c. Ardon Cornwell, 1947
Ave Maria (Schubert-Gounod)--Liberace, Orch. conducted by George Liberace, 1953
Christmas Medley--Liberace, Orch. conducted by George Liberace, 1953
March of the Toys--Lew White, Organ, 1942
Wedding of the Painted Dolls--Lew White, Organ, 1942
Parade of the Wooden Soldiers (Jessel)--Bobby Harris w. the Peter Pan Orch. and Chorus
Ave Maria (Bach-Gounod)--John McCormack w. Fritz Kreisler, violin, Vincent O'Brien, piano, early 1920s
Old-Timey Christmas--Ambrose Haley and his Ozark Ramblers, 1947
Happy Birthday Jesus--Al Rosa, 1982
Fall Softly Snow--Al Rosa, 1982
The Night Before Christmas Song--Eileen Scott (Gateway 9024 (45 rpm EP; 1956)
C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S--Terry Buter (Same)
Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer--Jack Daniels (Same)
Nuttin' for Christmas--Dolly Nunn (Same)


A Pietro Deiro Publications accordion Christmas

So, I just had one of the weirdest dreams ever.  After the Thin Man was just playing on TV, I was sleeping in my chair, and the dream scenes were happening in accordance with the movie's audio.  I'm in a big house, and Nick and Nora are there.  There's a huge basement which has recently been revamped, and a big party is going on down there.  Someone is murdered in the basement, the cops show up, and I'm looking for my Canon digital camera so I can take a shot of the one of the many elegant rooms down there--one of the thirty or so beyond a passage behind the furnace.  Nick is sitting at a table, being comforted by a woman who is not Nora, and he's somehow suspected in the crime, but he takes the situation casually.  When he's cleared, he responds with a shrug.

That's the problem with weird dreams.  They don't sound nearly as weird as they actually were when you describe them.  It's like, "I had this really strange dream.  I was driving a car."  "And?"  "I was driving a car.  Very weird."  "Driving a car is weird?"

I bought this ten-selection Christmas EP expecting "fake hit"-style tracks, but everything's accordion and percussion.  The eBay ad either didn't mention the nature of the music, or I failed to read the full description.  "Produced by Pietro Deiro Publications," says the label, Pietro Deiro having been a famous and influential accordionist of the early 1900s.  I have some acoustical Victor 78s by him that I haven't gotten around to hearing.

I deduced that it was an instructional record, but I could have avoided the task of deduction by reading all the way to the bottom of the tiny print--"Instructional record to be used only with accompanying text."  So, please don't use this record.  Download it, listen to it, but don't use it without the accompanying text.  I don't have the text, but eBay to the rescue, providing us with images:

Includes the record, too.  $14.99.  I'll pass, since I don't have an accordion.  The disc is fun listening--more entertaining than you might imagine.  Listen, enjoy.  Just don't use without the booklet.

Arrangements by Pietro Deiro, Jr.

DOWNLOAD: Pietro Deiro Publications Christmas

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree
I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
A Merry Merry Christmas
Jingle Bell Roll
When Santa Claus Gets Your Letter
The Night Before Christmas Song
The Santa Claus Parade
Everyone's a Child at Christmas
We Wish You a Merry Christmas

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer--Christmas Selections (No, 913, MO8H-3055/56)


Murphy Trucking Company: The Treasures of Christmas--3M Club Chorus (1980)

I was going to start my essay with, "This isn't your usual Christmas record," but is there such a thing?  What's a usual Christmas record?  I'm at the point where I'm not sure.  It's possible there are no usual Christmas records, which would mean that all Christmas records are unusual by definition.  The logical problem, of course, is that, if all Christmas records are unusual, then unusual is the norm.  In which case, all Christmas records are usual.  This is what an intense season of holiday music posting will do to you.  Learn from my example.  Don't let this happen to you.

So, the cartoon character is Murph, who looks like a Leprechaun but I'm almost sure is supposed to be an elf.  Or an elfrechaun, maybe.  On this disc, the 3M Club Chorus (don't ask me) sings five selections for the Murphy Trucking Company of Minneapolis/St. Paul, and they start out with We Need a Little Christmas, except it's called Melody of Christmas on the label.  How on earth did they get away with that?

Anyway, this is followed by Santa Claus Is Coming to Town, then the rest of the numbers are slow meaning-of-the-season songs.  The 3M Club Chorus is very good, and the stereo sound is decent.  Nevertheless, the star of the show here is the label design, the clear vinyl, and the goofy fold-out cover.  Side One was pressed considerably off-center, which is why I didn't rip this last year.  This time, I got out my tapered reamer (after doing the label scans) and widened both spindle holes.  Took a few tries, but I got Side One centered.  The old Dual turntables had removable spindles, which was a great idea that I wish would have become standard.  But it didn't.

Ironic that this is dated 1980, as the Murphy Trucking Company folded in the 1980s.  And if anyone can interpret the dates/captions on the front cover, please comment.  "Minnesota's gift to the nation"--1977.  "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town"--1978.  The... what?

Maybe Murph is a Leprechaun, and he does seasonal work at the North Pole and sees no need to change his suit.  Clothes in elf sizes are hard to find, unless you're willing to wear children's styles.

To the Murphy and the 3M Club Chorus: The Treasures of Christmas--Murphy Trucking Co., 1980

Melody of Christmas 
Santa Claus Is Coming to Town
Holiday Joys
Through the Eyes of a Child
December Child

3M Club Chorus--The Treasures of Christmas.  A Murphy Production, 1980.


Sunday, December 30, 2018

Sunday morning gospel--Fields on Fire-athon; Pictures/A Picture from Life's Other Side

I haven't done a Sunday Morning Gospel in a long, long spell.  Kind of nice to get back into the spirit.  I've done research on both of the songs in this morning's -athon but never came up with definite dates.  He Will Set Your Fields on Fire, a country and bluegrass gospel standard, is credited to H.W. Ballew (words) and Mrs. L.L. Brackett (music).  Someone stole the copyright in 1943 (the usual "Arr. by" scam) but it's clearly a quartet piece from the late 1920s.  And I just now noticed that The Music of Bill Monroe (Neil V. Rosenberg, Charles K. Wolfe, University of Illinois Press, 2007) gives a year of 1902 for the song, but I've found no other source for this, and I find it odd that neither I nor the folks at have located an early printing after much searching.  It could well be 1902, but it has a 1920s sound, and Smith's singers were an as-written sort of group, which is my weird way of saying that they stuck to the songbook versions, coming as they did from the shape(d)-note tradition, which was highly disciplined and not very flexible.  

I'd love to see the original sheet music version of Fields.

Ironically, although the later versions of the song sound faster, they're actually taken at a slower tempo than the 1927 Smith side.  It's the fast bluegrass strumming under the melody and harmonies that makes things sound faster.  A similar evolution happened with rock songwriting, come Carole King and other folks who traded eight-bar sections for sixteen, with that Beatles-style beat moving things along, even as the melodies slowed down.  Will You Love Me Tomorrow may be the classic example (quarter and half notes).  Classic 32-bar AABA standards move faster than rock tunes when played as written, but they don't have that beat.  Swing treatments are an exception, as they have a strong forward push rhythmically.  Bill Haley was quite frank about rock and roll coming from swing, and he was right, but don't tell any of the Rolling Stone folks. They know the truth--rock and roll started in the Grand Ole Opry.

Anyway, in my awesome playlist,. we hear everyone from the Smith gang to Carl Story to Kitty Wells to Pat Boone.  I love it, I love it.  Unfortunately, I don't have the 1967 version by the Browns, the folks who hit it big with The Three Bells.  I thought I did, and I'm annoyed to discover I do not.

Pictures from Life's Other Side, a.k.a. Pictures from Life's Other Side goes back at least as far as 1898.  It's the kind of socially-conscious song common in the late 1800s--evangelical Christianity was a socially progressive thing in those days.  Not to give any "seculars" a heart attack, but it's true.  Having said that, despite its message that we should watch out for those who have fallen by the way (the "mighty gallery of pictures" line has no equal in pop song history--none), Pictures was turned into a gospel number--it didn't start as one.  I don't consider this a folk song--it doesn't sound like one--though given the weirdness of song publishing then and now, more than one version may well have found its way into print, each one copyrighted, for what copyrights were worth once the major labels started scouting for "folk" talent.  Suddenly, A.P. Carter's name was on recently published gospel material, and, even across the many decades, I feel for the real authors.

Click here to hear: Fields on Fire-athon

He Will Set Your Fields on Fire--Smith's Sacred Singers, 1927
He Will Set Your Fields on Fire--Carl Story  and his Rambling Mountaineers, 1960
He Will Set Your Fields on Fire--The Lewis Family, 1976
He Will Set Your Fields on Fire--Bill Monroe, 1954
He Will Set Your Fields on Fire--The Country Gentlemen, 1971
He Will Set Your Fields on Fire--The Chuck Wagon Gang, 1986
He Will Set Your Fields on Fire--Kitty Wells, 1959
He Will Set Your Fields on Fire--The Boone Family, 1973
Pictures from Life's Other Side (Vaughn)--Smith's Sacred Singers, 1926
A Picture from Life's Other Side--Bradley Kincaid, 1932
A Picture from Life's Other Side--Carl Story
A Picture from Life's Other Side--G.M. Farley and the Foggy River Boys, 1963


Thursday, December 27, 2018

A Family Christ Mass (Dane Gordon-Milford Fargo)--Third Presbyterian Church, Rochester NY (1973)

From a local Goodwill, a two-LP set housed in a single jacket with a booklet enclosed--a Christmas Mass with music by the late Milford Fargo, who was an associate professor of Music Education at the Eastman School of Music.  Fargo was a close friend of Alec Wilder and conducted Wilder's Children's Plea for Peace on the Turnabout label.  Fargo's Mass was recorded at the the Third Presbyterian Church in Rochester NY on Dec. 24, 1972

, and the  booklet has a 1973 copyright date, so I'm going with that.

The text is by Dane Gordon, who apparently is still with us, and who a Google check identifies as an emeritus professor of philosophy from Rochester Institute of Technology and a retired Presbyterian minister.  Gordon was born in London and served in the Royal Navy during WWII.

This was the most complicated ripping and labeling task I can recall.  To get the track info and artist credits as close to correct as possible, I had to consult the booklet provided, the labels, and the back cover for any inconsistencies or omissions.  In the final band on Side 4 (the Agnus Dei), five titles flow together without a break, so track-marking was tricky.

The Kyrie ("Lord Have Mercy Upon Us") is probably my favorite part--simple but moving.  Don't be thrown off by the brass when it enters in another key--that's intended as a modern touch.  I think.

As Gordon points out in the booklet, "The mass is traditionally divided into Five parts: Kyrie Eleison, Gloria in Excelsis, Credo, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei."  So the booklet lists all five in all-caps, with no subtitles.  The labels, deciding not to cooperate, use all-caps and subtitles, except for the Credo, which isn't all-caps and has no subtitle.  A small deviation, but enough to throw things off.

The texts are... interesting.  They contain lines like "When Adam was a soldier, he went to war one night.  He launched a guided missile and said, 'Let there be light.'"  And "So Joseph took the little babe, and off they rode to Egypt.  And Mary mixed some lemonade, Because she thought they'd need it.  Tra la, tra la, tra la la la, tra la.  And Mary mixed some lemonade, Because she thought they'd need it."

From Wake Up Early: "Take a photograph.  Leave yourself out of it.  Take a photograph when nobody is there.  Jump down an oil well.  Wait for tomorrow.  The glory of God is the bite in the air."

In the notes, the author explains, "A Family Christ Mass is an attempt to present this ancient form of worship with contemporary ideas and music of many styles.

"Christ was interested in the details of his everyday life.  This Mass touches upon details of today's life using words and music that are intended to relate to all members of a family."

I'm too tired to argue.  Because there are two LPs and a slew of scans, I broke things down into three zips.

A Family Christ Mass (Gordon-Fargo), recorded 1972 (PCI Recording Services USR 5164, 1973

ZIP FILE 1: Sides 1 and 2  

ZIP FILE 2: Sides 3 and 4
ZIP FILE 3: Jacket, labels, booklet

No way I'm listing all the titles!  Please consult scans....


Friday, December 21, 2018

It was the cat. I'm almost sure.

A weird night tonight.  I'm sort of winding down from stress, but I just went into an obsess-athon over true mono vs. the "summed" type.  What would a pure lateral signal sound like when processed properly by a mono cartridge?  Well, my father had a mono cartridge on the family hi-fi set, so if I can think back far enough, I can get my answer.  Buster feels the differences between combined R+L channels and pure mono are too slight to worry about.  Probability favors his view.  I can't see how the differences would be big enough to worry about.

I'm not supposed to go into over-thinking mode when I'm coming down from stress.  And now I can report that I wasn't coming down from stress.  I was going into it.  I should realize by now that my obsess-athons are signs that anxiety is building up. Sometimes, it's hard to tell the difference between moving away and moving toward when it comes to emotions.  At least when your emotions are all over the place like mine.

I don't believe in psychic things, but tonight....  Well, I placed my coffee cup on the stairway landing, went back to the kitchen, then returned.  Btw, Bev once told me that the narrow stairway, which lines up with the front door, was designed for carrying coffins downstairs.  Nothing to do with tonight's experience (far as I know), but I have no reason to doubt her, especially given that the first two rooms of this house were built before Abe became president.

So, I had put my coffee cup down.  Just I was about to grab the cup and start up, the door to the little side studio slammed shut right in front of me.  BAM!  Scared the .... out of me.  I don't believe in ghosts, but apparently my brain possesses one or more modules that do.  Modules have been described to me as "areas" of functioning in the brain.  They're not specific regions--they're stages of cognitive evolution.  My explanation makes perfect sense, right?  Anyway, we humans have at least one module (I doubt there's just one of this type) that just reacts.  It can't be reasoned with.  It's purely reactive.  It can react with fear to the idea of a witch or ghost or whatever, even if we know those things aren't real.

So I opened the shut door slowly, knowing that ghosts don't exist but still fearful I'll be greeted by one.  No ghost.  Just Calvin sitting on the bed looking innocent.  Which, for a cat, means "I just did something naughty."  (The human version is a shrug and a "Who, me?")  Right after the door slammed, Mingo had strolled away like he'd shut it himself, which is impossible for a cat to do from the outside.  Inside, no problem.  So I figure Mingo and Calvin were playing or sparring, and the roly-poly Calvin, who tends to awkwardly slide into things, plowed into the door, knocking it shut.  It's also possible there was enough air pressure difference between the two rooms to have done it, even though no windows were open.  This is an old, old house and not perfectly insulated.  And the necessary gust could easily have come from the area above the Styrofoam ceiling tiles.  That makes the most sense.  We have critters running around up there--probably squirrels, as raccoons would come crashing through.  Where there are unwanted critters, there's an opening for them to get in.

I prefer to think I don't have a poltergeist.  On the other hand, I'm fine with one so long as it doesn't eat my food, wake me up, or break anything valuable.  If it would answer the phone when I'm out, that would be a big help.