Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Grofe and Gershwin on Allegro Royale (1952)

I want everyone to appreciate the work I put into this.  The LP is fairly hammered--its condition can be described as very used--plus it's a product of the junkiest of the junk labels, the Eli Oberstein group.  And it's from 1952, so the recording curve is not compatible with the RIAA curve.  As in, way not compatible.  I ripped it first with the RIAA curve, in case this was a later pressing with an adjusted curve--not.  So I re-ripped with an improvised curve, freeing up the high end and toning down the grossly inflated bass.  Result: infinitely better sound.  Then I reintroduced some bass.  Had to do some tricky manual de-clicking, plus I did a second run-through with the MAGIX de-clicker for the smaller clicks and pops.  The result is acceptable fidelity.  From sonic mush to not-bad sound.

I was going to feature the three Grofe tracks only, but then I figured someone would say, "What about the rest of the album?"  So... I did the whole thing.  And I'm glad, because the music is fun throughout.  Imagine dance band versions of Grofe's Mardi Gras and On the Trail and Gershwin's Prelude No. 2.  Actually, you don't have to imagine them--they're right here.  Jaunty, Freddy Martin-esque renditions for the Grofes.  And how often do we encounter the line "jaunty, Freddy Martin-esque" on line?  I'm betting I'll get zero results.  Let's see.

Yup. "No results found."  I'm original, if nothing else.  The jazzy/corny Mardi Gras arrangement sort of threw me.  Then, once I'd gotten used to the idea of the Mississippi Suite in dance tempo, it was back to the original Mississippi Suite score for Huckleberry Finn.  Then, a dance band-style On the Trail.  Allegro Royale was messing with me.

As for the Gershwin numbers, Prelude No. 2 is orchestrated in a Larry Clinton/Duke Ellington fashion, while I Got Plenty of Nuttin is done in a style true to the opera.  An American in Paris is straight from the original score, and it's very well performed (was there a for-real Louis Shankson") but badly compressed and the victim of third-rate vinyl.  I'm betting the master disc or tape sounded terrific.  Such a shame.  Very enjoyable rendition, however, and more than bearable, sound-wise.  And a quick Google search, which took me to Discogs, suggests Louis Shankson was a made-up-for-the-occasion type of name.  A cheap-label artist who never was.  Yet another one.  I wonder if these guys had a union?

The tracks were ripped Grofe-first, then Gershwin, so the label listing doesn't match my track listing, and vice versa.  At the end of the tracklist, I've put a portion of I Got Plenty of Nuttin as it sounded before I applied the fixes--a "before" glimpse of this fun but ultra-cheap album.

DOWNLOAD: Grofe and Gershwin (Allegro Royale 1609; 1952)

Mississippi Suite--Mardi Gras (Grofe)
Mississippi Suite--Huckleberry Finn (Grofe)
Grand Canyon Suite--On the Trail (Grofe)
An American in Paris (Gershwin)
Prelude No. 2 (Gershwin)
I Got Plenty O' Nuttin

Royale Concert Orch., Dir. Louis Shankson (Allegro Royale 1609; 1952)


Monday, January 27, 2020

Do-It-Yourself--Peter Barclay and His Orch. (Columbia EP B-546; 1955)

Today's offering is a three-EP set from Columbia's "Music for Gracious Living" series.  It also exists in LP form, as do all the titles in this series.  This site has great scans of the LP covers, though I'm a bit confused by the text.  Quote: "The technicolour cover photographs encapsulate the ideal American family in a wonderfully cheesy/creepy way."  In a creepy way?  How so?  The photos look like ordinary catalog ads of the time.  They show ordinary looking people doing everyday things.  They're obviously posed, but obviously posed doesn't equal creepy.  And their goal is to encapsulate the ideal American family?  Really?  Maybe the cover photos are simply illustrating the theme of each LP.  Personally, I try to avoid reading too much into these things.  I try to do my sociological analysis with some discretion.

Great scans, though.  So, to the important question about today's set--is the music any good?  Absolutely.  It's terrific.  Gorgeous.  And I had a number of excellent puns ready for this write-up--I had them in my head Sunday morning before church, and I was sure I'd remember them, but... they fled.   But I'm sure they would have been memorable.  (They'll come back to me, I'm sure, sometime after I've posted this.)

Yes, this is the kind of mood/easy listening that I love, and the cover is certainly classic.  Maybe an element of camp, but nothing creepy.  Just one thing--I would think that music for do-it-yourself background (did I just type "do-it-yourself background"?) should be lively, and the majority of these tracks aren't.  But that's just me.  A poll of do-it-yourself enthusiasts might reveal that relaxing sounds work best as background for doing it yourself.  I'm not much of a DIYer, so I'm not an authority.  And I doubt the topic comes up for on-line debate very often. "So, fellow DIYers, what kind of background music do you prefer?  From the 1950s, I mean.  No Black Sabbath or Aerosmith."

Some of the songs here go back a ways, even for 1955.  1902's Because, 1910's I'm Falling in Love with Someone, and my favorite of all, 1935's Alone, which made its first appearance in the Marx Brothers' A Night at the Opera.  It's my current earworm.  Nacio Herb Brown doesn't get enough respect, in my view.

If only I could remember those puns.  I had a dynamite intro all worked out in my head, and it's gone.  In my head, then it fled.  But... great easy listening material, and if anyone knows who Peter Barclay was (Ernie suspects that wasn't the leader's real name) or where he came from, please leave a comment.  Otherwise, enjoy the sounds.  Or do both!  To use my one feeble pun, these track really work for me.  (Get it?  Work?)  Sorry.  Guess that doesn't cut it.

The liner notes, which I almost forgot to scan (they're hidden in the fold-out sections), are admirable in their lack of brand promotion.  Well, except maybe for this one little part: "In every modern home there should be a music room, devoted to the enjoyment of Columbia's superb radio, phonograph, and television equipment--to say nothing of Columbia's fabulous library of classical and popular records."  A hint of self-promotion there, I reckon.

Anyway... Enjoy!

DOWNLOAD: Do-It-Yourself--Peter Barclay and His Orch. (1955)

See scans for track listing (I had to do six of them!):


Sunday, January 26, 2020

Sunday posts will resume next week

Apologies--I didn't get a Sunday post ready for this morning.  Too much stuff happening.  And the LP that was going to be my gospel post for last week turned out to be defective.  Mint, still in the plastic wrap, but filled with noise.  A rogue pressing. 

I'm eager to get the series going again, and I have a number of recently thrifted LPs to sample.

The series shall return....


Saturday, January 25, 2020

Film-Tone, Part 2

Last post, I mentioned coming across some copyright dispute (at the Internet Archive) and concluding there wasn't much info of use.  Bob gave it a closer look and pulled out vital info, though I can't picture anyone reading the entire 150-plus-page nightmare.  For instance, he informed me that the musical director--the one who looks like "Vincent Poll" on the label--was Vincent Poli.  And, meanwhile, the actual director was Elmer Schmidt.  The on-line document doesn't come out and actually name Poli as an alias for Schmidt--there could have been a real Poli, though not on the record--but Poli was an alias by default, so that's what I've dubbed him.  More info at the actual document.  I was revising my update even as people were reading my post--I had mistaken a leaflet for the Madhatters Trio (the group credited as "vocal trio" on the Film-Tone EP) for the magazine ad used to reel in the gullible marks for this outrageous scam.  Some of my details might be a little off, but I think I got the gist.  Film-Tone was a standard "song-poem" operation, only at such an epic level of flat-out lying that the consters had no chance of getting away with their scheme for long.  Common sense should tell a con artist that, if you're going to pull a standard scam, stay within the normal, conventional limits of that scam.  That lowers the probability of being sued, and it makes serious legal trouble unlikely, especially if a lot of other people are doing the same thing.  When you blow up the scam, you're just making yourself a target.  I have good dishonesty instincts--too bad I'm such a straight sort.

So, check out my last post for the update, which I revised about, oh, twenty times in the space of an hour.  Legal documents never, ever start with an "Okay, here's the basic situation...." statement.  Intellectual people know to start big--to generalize, THEN cut things into smaller pieces.  From general to specific.  You're supposed to learn that in college.


Thursday, January 23, 2020

Weirdest 45 ever?--updated 1/24/20

No, probably not, but I couldn't resist that subject line.  Pure click-bait, and I should be ashamed, but I'm not.  I'm not, do you hear me?  (Maniacal laughter.)  Ha, ha, ha, haaaaa!!!

Sorry--too much caffeine.  Anyway, this IS one of the stranger 45s I've ever found in my history of 45-finding.  Normally, I don't look through the 45s at the local St. Vincent de Paul thrift, since there's rarely anything "new," but there appeared to be an extra box this time, so I looked.  And I found some pretty cool stuff, including the pièce de résistance to come--a three-EP set whose cover is a classic in the so-uncool-it's-cool category of covers.  For now, the topic is this Film-Tone EP, one which caught my eye immediately, because... Film-Tone??  If that doesn't say rare (and weird), what does?  And, sure enough, no mention of this disc on line--none I could find--and only one Film-Tone 45 listed anywhere.  Specifically, at 45cat, where they won't allow me to establish a password.  The site has a link that promises a second Film-Tone listing, but nothing happens when I click on it, so....

Film-Tone could well have been a "song poem" label, given the weird composer credits (there are no intermittent beeps, so we know it didn't go with film strips), or it could have simply been a tiny, failed indie.  I wish I could read the name of the musical director--"Vincent Poll"?  It would be possibly be a lot of help, but the letters are too worn to make out for sure.  And the lack of a label address is another road to nowhere.  The two "A" sides are easily explained--that was me, photo-shopping a portion of the A-side label onto the B side, which had a big tear on the left.  So, the second A is actually B.  I did a pretty snazzy substitution job, no?  Well, except for the two As, but who pays attention to that stuff?  Obsessed collectors, yes, but we're just a tiny burp in the U.S. census.

The record could well be from the late 1950s, as I Love Those Snowflakes has a copyright registration date of 1958.  (Thanks, cyberspace.)  That title sounds like the ideal late Christmas or winter song, but it doesn't really work as such, at least for me.  It's just... weird.  Like the rest of the tracks.  The most interesting number, by far, is Ti Ru Addle, a.k.a. Child Ballad 278, The Farmer's Curst Wife, a folk song with umpteen variations/variants, including The Devil and the Ploughman, as collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams.  If you don't know about Child Ballads, click on the link.  As far as I know, Francis James Child, who collected British and Scottish folks ballads, searched for them on site, whereas the possibly more famous Cecil Sharp traveled over here to collect American versions of same.  I inherited a book of Sharp ballads from my foster parents and found the melody used for the 1951 Merv Griffin hit Twenty Three Starlets (And Me), credited to Tom (On Top of Spaghetti) Glazer.  And I'll need to take a break, as I'm suffering weirdness overload.

Okay--I'm back.  Anyway, this super-rare single is performed by "Vocal Trio," who, I'm just guessing, probably partnered with the equally famous "Vocal Stars of Radio and Television with Famous Orchestras."  They sound related. As for the Musical Director credit, I tried "Vincent Poll" (my best guess) in a search, and with no luck.  I did find some kind of litigation that lists a "Vincent Poll Orchestra," but I didn't feel like reading the entire thing.  The "Vincent Poll Orchestra" is used as a hypothetical orchestra name in the ruling, so I saw no point in struggling through a bunch of legal "English," likely for nothing.

I used the line "He carried her to Hell's back door" as my Google search.  Try it--it'll take you to the sources I used.  Put quotes around the phrase, or you'll get fragmented results, as I call them.  Dang, I love weird finds like this!  They make the hunt worth the time and the grimy fingertips.

UPDATE: Bob gave the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit document (the appellee's brief, plus the appeal brief, put up in the Internet Archives) a closer look than I did (I had skimmed a bit, then booked), and it contains much (understatement of the year) information about the criminal song poem-style operation associated with the Film-Tone label.  It was a three-stage operation.  With stages within the stages.  You're welcome to read the more than 150 pages in question--why not print them out for more convenient perusing?   Busy blogger than I am, I chose to grab pertinent data and call it a day.  The appeal was not won, though there's an appeal brief by/of the appellant, Mortimer Singer, which splits hairs on a subatomic level--I got a migraine just skimming that portion.  Basically, it was the song-poem scheme of promising naive amateur songwriters a lead sheet, x-number of singles, and a chance to have a hit, though this outfit (which worked through three sub-outfits) seems to have taken the scam to the outer limits, more or less promising a hit, and with publishing royalties, and eager DJs ready to push the record, and the possibility--maybe even probability--that the song or songs would appear in a motion picture (!).  It's the old, old story--the more outrageous the claims, the more likely some folks are going to swallow them whole.  The songwriters were apparently promised a disc (in a set of 100) devoted wholly to their song or songs.  Instead, their creation ended up in EP form, as on this disc.  That was just one of the cheats involved.

The weirdest part of all this was the Madhatters Trio scam--these were the folks credited as "vocal trio" the Film-Tone labels.  Though they were an actual trio, none of the hype in the leaflet below was true.  The MH Trio had not appeared in any movies listed--at least not in the form of the Madhatters Trio--and none of the celebrity endorsements could be confirmed as anything but fake.  I don't know what role this leaflet played in the con job--maybe it was mailed out when people answered the "We will record your songs"-type magazine ads .  Apparently, song submitters were promised a recording of their song by the Madhatters Trio--a record devoted to their song or songs only--and they instead received a non-exclusive two- or four-song EP, with the closest thing to a Madhatters Trio credit being the (I'm not kidding) "MH" prefix in the catalog number.

There are other Madhatters Trio credit discrepancies which relate to the ever-evolving personnel.  Sort of like the average R&B vocal group of the 1950s, the group went through editions.  But it was never anything close to famous.  Not that the marks needed to know that....

This is my page capture of Madhatters Trio leaflet, the exact function of which I'm not sure, though, again, I'm guessing it was mailed to those who took the ad bait.  It's easier to read at the Archives, and I just know you'll be rushing over there....

And what looks like "Vincent Poll" on the label is actually Vincent Poli, someone who apparently did not exist.  The orchestra leader was one Elmer Schmidt.  There are more musician details at the Archives, if you simply must know who played behind the "vocal trio," aka MH, aka The Madhatters Ttrio.

Anyway, thanks to Bob for giving this mind-numbing document a closer look.  The brief doesn't actually come out and state that "Vincent Poli" was an alias for Elmer Schmidt; just that Schmidt was the person doing the directing.  There may have been a Vincent Poli, but he wasn't involved in these sessions.  I'm splitting hairs, but I can't help it after skimming this nightmare!  Poli was sort of an alias by default.  These folks just wanted to steal the money of decent but hyper-credulous souls, and they would have credited Adolf Hitler as music director if they could've gotten away with it.

DOWNLOAD:  Film-Tone 100--Vocal Trio

Now That I've Found You (Mrs. Orville Smits)
Paradise of Love (Marguerite E. Mitchell)
Ti Ru Addle (James Richmond Wright)--Actually the folk ballad, The Farmer's Curst Wife
I Love Those Snowflakes (George Kaercher)

The Madhatters Trio (as "vocal trio"/MH-); Musical Director: Elmer Schmidt (as "Vincent Poli").  (Film-Tone MH 100)


Wednesday, January 22, 2020

The Fake Sixties, Part 1--Good Vibrations, Surfin' Bird, This Diamond Ring, more!

As everyone knows, there were two Sixties--the real and the fake.  Today's hits were chosen from the  reverse-reality realm that we call the Fake Sixties--that strange and mysterious but rather fun zone in which cheap meant extra value, in which extra value meant, "Hey, use your head and get these for way less--three to a side.  Can't beat that.  Sure, they suck, but you saved money."  The land of sound-alikes which didn't always sound alike.  A dimension in which less dough meant better, not worse, product.  A sphere in which the mediocre, sometimes crappy, productions of junk labels brought pleasure to the listener, not a desire to toss the second-rate vinyl into a solid surface just to see if it would shatter.  It is from this alternate zone that our post's "hits" have been culled.

Exactly how these records managed to find their way into our dimension, I have no idea--I wasn't the original owner of any of these.  There must have been periodic cracks in the wall that separated the fake from the real Sixties--cracks large enough to slip these through, anyway.  Maybe people were exchanging real hits for fake.  (Talking through the divide): "I'll give you twenty fakes for one real Beatles single."  "Make it twenty-five, and you're on."  By all the basic laws of the universe--ones I just made up--any items from the fake Sixties should have imploded, or at least vanished, upon contact with the real decade, but I guess my made-up laws are incorrect.

Most of the fakes in this playlist are the fault of the Song Hits and Hit Parader labels--labels advertised in the magazines of the same names and in Charlton Comics. The Capital Distributing Co. of Deby, Connecticut was the guilty distributor, and I suspect Pickwick was the guilty supplier of the masters.  These were the 79-hits-for-$4.99 type of mail-order fakes, though they must have been sold at stores, too, since display boxes have survived.  I recently got a display box for my own collection--it showed up on eBay cheap enough that I went for it.  There are absolutely no artist credits for any of these (which must have been a relief to the artists), and though it's no big deal, I goofed in my track labeling and gave the source for All Day and All of the Night as Song Hits 30 when it's actually Hit Parader 30.  The other version of that song in our playlist is a British version, from the Top Six label.

A.R.C., by the way, is Allied Record Company.  Now you know, if you didn't before.

I assembled this playlist some time back--maybe even as far back as a year--but somehow the tracks ended up stranded, waiting to be combined into a file, but with me having forgotten about them or having started another project, or off searching for gold in Alaska.  I don't remember.  I just know that, looking through my MAGIX projects two days ago, I found a semi-completed one called "Fake Sixties, Part 2."  Using Holmesian-level deduction, I figured there must have been a Part 1.  Looking in the music folders from my previous PC, I found a folder titled "Fake Sixties."  I eagerly opened it and beheld... nothing.  A totally blank page.  But there was another folder within the folder, so I opened it, and... the rest was fake history.  And these are... the Fake Sixties, Part 1!

Don't say I didn't warn you.  I mean, I didn't, but I just don't want you to say it.  Thanks.

DOWNLOAD: The Fake Sixties, Part 1

Surfin' Safari (Wilson-Love) (From LP This Month's 16 Top Hits; Allied TM-2)
Good Vibrations (Wilson-Love)--Hit Parader 43
Surfin' Bird (Wahrer)--Hit Parader 27
The Little Old Lady (From Pasadena) (Altfeld-Christian)--Song Hits 30
The Name Game (Charles Calello)--Hit Parader 33
Rain on the Roof (Sebastian)--Hit Parader 43
Tell Her No (Rod Argent)--Hit Parader 33
Satisfaction (Jagger-Richard)--Song Hits 36
Leader of the Pack (Barry-Greenwich)--Hit Parader 31
Tobacco Road--A.R.C. M 102
She's Not There--A.R.C. M 102
Bang Bang (Sonny Bono)--Song Hits 40
Good Lovin' (Clark-Resnick)--Song Hits 40
Romeo and Juliet (Hamilton-Gorman)--Hit Parader 29
All Day and All of the Night (Ray Davies)--Hit Parader 33
All Day and All of the Night (Davies)--Top Six 11
Dang Me (R. Miller)--Song Hits 30
Paint It, Black (Jagger-Richard)--Hit Parader 41
You Really Got Me (R. Davies)--Hit Parader 31
This Diamond Ring (A. Cooper-B. Brass-I. Levind)--Hit Parader 33


Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Grofe: Trylon and Perisphere (1938)--Paul Whiteman, Dec. 25, 1938 Carnegie Hall Concert

From the out of print CD, Paul Whiteman--Carnegie Hall Concert, December 25, 1938, a gem of a Ferde Grofe composition--the three-part Trylon and Perisphere, written for the 1939-40 New York's World Fair (with all three parts contained in the single file).  I have a copy of the original score from friend of the blog Kevin Tam, except under its second title, Black Gold.  It's fun to study, though I don't have an orchestra handy to play it--luckily, this marvelous recording exists.  I'm not sure why Grofe gave it its later name, but under any title it's one heck of a delightful and entertaining work, and not quite like anything else I've heard by Ferde (and by now I've probably heard about 4/5 of everything he penned.  After spending more than half my life convinced I'd never have that honor).

As narrator Deems Taylor humorously notes, Grofe reverses the order of the structures in question, first describing the Perisphere (after a superbly scored mysterioso start which establishes the main themes), then going on to the Trylon, which is where the work gets very rousing.  Not just rousing, but hang-on-to-your-seat rousing.  Oh, and in the third movement (which almost imperceptibly flows from the second) we hear the ascending chromatic note patterns that later appeared in Grofe's 1950 Rocketship X-M score--and then, two years later, in his Valley of the Sun Suite.

The CD liner notes describe the Trylon and Perisphere as the "two structural symbols of the (1939-40) fair; the Trylon was a 7-foot-high obelisk, and the Perisphere a 200-foot-wide ball-like structure."  Like so:

Yup, those things.  The structures no longer exist, though the Unisphere from the 1964 Fair still stands, and I saw it during my one trip to New York, back around 1985.  I was on a bus, and, suddenly, there it was, and it didn't look as epic as I would have thought.  But this was before it was restored, and I do recall it definitely seemed in need of repair and a good shine job.  Restored to its original glory and all lit up at night, it must be something to see....

And we can only imagine what an awesome sight the Trylon and Perisphere were.  But, thanks to Grofe, we know what they sounded like.

DOWNLOAD: Trylon and Perisphere (Grofe)

Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra. Performed live at Paul Whiteman's eighth (and last) Experiment in Modern Music, Carnegie Hall, Dec. 24, 1938. (Edited) comments by Deems Taylor.


Monday, January 20, 2020

Grofe: Mississippi Suite (1927), Three Shades of Blue (1928)--Paul Whiteman and His Concert Orch.

DOWNLOAD: Mississippi Suite (Grofe)--Three Shades of Blue (Grofe)--Paul Whiteman and His Concert Orch., 1927 and 1928.

My own restorations, from my own copies, of Paul Whiteman's Concert Orchestra performing Ferde Grofe's Mississippi Suite (composed in 1926 and recorded in 1927) and Three Shades of Blue (1928).

Due to the low response on the Grofes, this will be the end of the series.

The gospel posts will be discontinued, too--the downloads on those have been next to nonexistent.  Am I doing anything right here?  Just asking.

UPDATE: I will continue both series.  I was having a bad evening.  Being my usual moody self. Thanks for the nice comments, and I will try to keep my moods balanced....


Sunday, January 19, 2020

Stuart Hamblen--Columbia Hall of Fame EP (B 2827)

This morning's post was going to be the very down-home duo of Arthur Moore and Judie Woods, who recorded as Art and Judie, and who at some point became Mr. and Mrs. Moore.  The circa-1974 LP was sealed, so my needle was the first one to touch it.  Heard a lot of clunks, thunks, and pops, so I washed the record thoroughly.  It did no good.  Even after going through VinylStudio's de-clicker, the LP had loud thumps, bumps, and the rest.  I gave up trying to remove the noise, as my wrist was starting to fall off around track five, with all the splicing and overlapping I was doing.  I need my wrist for typing, playing the organ, operating the TV remote, and the like, so I quit.  A bad pressing, which isn't a surprise, since it's a tiny label (Rose Records of Vandalia, Ohio), but it was manufactured by Rite Records, and this is the first defective Rite pressing I've encountered.  I just hope, for Art and Julie's sake, the entire batch wasn't like this.

But that is what could have been today's offering, not what is.  What is are four superb Stuart Hamblen tracks from a Columbia Hall of Fame Series EP, put out in 1958.  The tracks themselves come from 1950, 1951, and 1952, and I wonder why it took me so many tries to get the date for the I Believe single?  I had to turn to the Online 78 rpm Discography to get that info, since Discogs and other sources seemed to have no record of the record.  Anyway, Hamblen has done the impossible with that track--he's done a version that I not only like, but which I like a lot.  Lovely sides, and I wish I had more than four to offer this morning.  This guy was terrific.  And passing up that Sacred label Hamblen LP in Goodwill is one of the dumber things I've done lately.  Oh, well.

DOWNLOAD: Stuart Hamblen (Columbia Hall of Fame B 2827)

It's No Secret (Hamblen; 1950)
Blood on Your Hands (Hamblen; 1950)
I Believe (Drake-Graham-Shirl-Stillman; 1951)
Is He Satisfied (Hamblen; 1952)

(Hall of Fame Series B 2827; 1958)


Saturday, January 18, 2020

Christmas Chorale--The Edward Carrington Chorale (1958)--in stereo!

I didn't expect to be doing a late Christmas post, but here I am, making a late Christmas post.  It's kind of fun!  Ernie put up the mono version of this LP ("A Reshared Rarity"), describing it as uncommon--and I have no reason to doubt Ernie's word, given all the Xmas vinyl he has seen and posted.  I post a decent amount of holiday stuff myself, and it's new to me, too.  At any rate, since Ernie had posted his copy, I didn't post mine during the holiday(s).  Ahhh, but then I realized I have the stereo version of the LP.  That was the game changer, as they say.  Whoever they are.

I told Ernie about my stereo copy, and he asked me to put it up.  So here it is.  The LP's condition could be better, but it's in mostly decent shape.  Acceptably decent, reasonably not bad shape.  I suspect someone played this with an expired needle at one point--it has that kind of wear.  Nothing that hurts the ear to hear, anyway, and the stereo sound is very, very nice.  Specifically, nice and full.  A number of the tracks sounded familiar, and I discovered there's a good deal of crossover with my Crystal Studio Choir post of this year.  My Crystal Choir LP (isn't that one of the most false-sounding group names in vinyl history?) is on the Audition label, which is part of the Grand Award family. so... that explains the cheat.  The tip-off track was Sleigh Ride.  Then I compared some others.  My LP is an abbreviated version of this, with thinner stereo.  As junk labels go, the G.A. stable of labels was more in the semi-junk category--beautifully produced, with good, often excellent, sound.  But the group had all the usual junk-label attributes, too--second-rate vinyl, re-namings of groups and issues (to get multiple sales for the same material, of course), and a line of "fake" hits ("18 Top Hits," anyone?). And this label group is probably responsible for the annoyingly persistent popular misconception that the junk labels had trouble capturing the sound of rock and roll, the idea being that, because the labels were using professional/traditional/establishment/old-timer musicians, these studio pros were confounded by the "new" rhythms.  An ancient meme by now.  That notion is absurd on a number of counts--for one thing, big band-era musicians had been playing rock-style rhythms for years as part of big band (where do people think the rhythms came from?), AND r&r, as I'm always pointing out, hardly started with Elvis--there are records from the 1940s that rock Elvis off the stand--and the needle out of his grooves.  (Nothing against Elvis, who I love!)  Most of these '40s discs were black, but they were derived from jazz, so....  But the Grand Award label stable, maybe because Enoch Light wasn't fond of rock and roll (or, like many folks, thought it was a soon-to-be-finished fad), at first (1955-56) produced "fakes" that sounded much more like the traditional pop of the day (or even earlier) than real rock and roll.  And so this feeds into a popular myth, and... there we are.  I don't think Enoch Light knew he was contributing in advance to a rock-culture misconception.  However, we're here to talk about Sleigh Ride and God Rest Ye Merry, not At the Hop, though I don't think anyone was resting at the hop, though they were making merry.  By the way, Snopes reports that "rest" had a meaning of "remain" or "stay."  As in, keep on being merry, gentlemen.  It was addressed to gentlemen.  Non-gentlemen had no requirements along that line.  Ladies, as usual, aren't mentioned.  Maybe merry-making was a guy-only thing, once upon a time.

Nice stereo sound.  You'll hear the needle-damaged portions, but nothing hideously bad in the audio department (third floor, next to the legit labels).  If this is rare in mono, it's likely moreso in stereo.  I think this turned up for me in Columbus, Ohio, but I don't keep a log of where and when I find things (I often wish I did), so it could have been the Goodwill off Dry Creek Road.  The story has been consumed by time.  For all I know, it showed up in the shed, one day, as if out of nowhere.  "Hey, cool--a Christmas LP.  Wonder where it came from.  Doesn't matter, I guess."

No year for this at Discogs or Both Sides Now, so I'm giving it the year of the mono release--1958.  It very possibly came out in stereo the same year, as G.A. was doing stereo by 1958.  So....

DOWNLOAD: Christmas Chorale--The Edward Carrington Chorale (Grand Award 223 S.D.; 1958)


Hudson River Suite (Grofe)--Andre Kostelanetz and His Orch. (1955)

This time, it's Ferde Grofe's Hudson River Suite, plus a treat courtesy of fellow Grofe-phile/arranger Kevin Tam--a 1955 or 1956 interview with Andre Kostelanetz, in which Andre discusses the inspiration behind the suite and shares some Grofe details.  Andre had a charming Russian accent--a little thicker than I might have guessed, but of course I had no evidence to go by.

The voice behind the baton.  Thanks, Kevin!  I've put the interview in a separate file.

The suite itself is gorgeous, and I'll have to confess that this was not my initial reaction.  The year was 1981, and I think it was the third Grofe work I'd ever heard--after Grand Canyon and Mississippi--and it seemed too... light.  Too lacking in mass (despite the superb 1955, RIAA-curve fidelity).  I was expecting something more lively, I suppose.  Something more in line with what I'd come to regard as Grofe.  Nearly 40 years later, I find much to love in this suite, a piece which establishes its moods and describes its subjects in a subtle, restrained, and masterful fashion.  New York, the closing portion, was going to be longer--much longer--but for some reason Kostelanetz had Grofe shorten it to the blink-and-you'll-miss-it track we get here.  I'd have loved to hear the full movement, but it certainly makes for a memorable finish, even in its greatly abbreviated form (all 59 seconds of it!).

Rip Van Winkle was apparently written in 1932, though it didn't have a suite in which to function until Hudson River was commissioned in 1954.  I'd forgotten that the suite was the conductor's idea and not Ferde's--the Kosty interview reminded me of this fact--but Grofe's genuine enthusiasm for his assignment is evident throughout.  Unlike Aviation Suite, which has some inspired moments but suffers from too much repetition (even within its short playing time), Hudson River gives us perfectly and superbly maintained moods, with Rip (which also came out as a Kosty 45!) providing a bouncy, upbeat center.  Albany Night Boat, which, on first hearing (about 1981) struck me as pretty pointless, now impresses me as a masterful musical portrait, with the ingenious Dixieland section an amazing example of scored jazz that doesn't sound premeditated.  A neat piece of musical time-travel, similar to many moments in Grofe's 1960 San Francisco Suite, which you probably didn't know is available in a live performance (arranged by Kevin Tam, mentioned above) at YouTube.

Night Boat, which initially had me thinking, "This is a suite movement?" is now one of my favorite suite movements.

A contemporary assessment of this LP, written either for High Fidelity or Stereo Review, sarcastically described it as useful for testing one's hi-fi speakers (a knock on the sound effects used in Rip Van Winkle and the closing movement).  Grofe wasn't too popular with the critics by the 1950s.  Or maybe even before the '50s--I think there was much resentment that the Grand Canyon Suite was highly regarded by Toscanini when, in the minds of many critics, more worthy American composers had been passed over.  I think the bottom line is that light music often gets no respect. I know of two other commercial recordings of Hudson River--a Dutch recording in 1984 (which I'll be posting), and the 2002 NAXOS recording, conducted by William Stromberg.

Grab your paddle and sail down (and/or up) the Hudson River Suite--and don't forget to download Kosty's comments about it.

DOWNLOAD: Hudson River Suite (Grofe)--Andre Kostelanetz and His Orch. (1955)
                   Andre Kostelanetz, interviewed about the suite (1955?)

The River
Hendrik Hudson
Rip Van Winkle
Albany Night Boat
New York

Hudson River Suite (Grofe)--Andre Kostelanetz and His Orch. (Columbia CL 763; 1955)


Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Aviation Suite (Grofe, 1944)--Ferde Grofe and Hollywood Studio Symph. Orch. (1946)

So... yeah.  Along with Valley of the Sun, this is probably the most rare Grofe I'll be offering, ever, and I had wanted it forever--for decades--and I was certain I would never have it.  Never.  No chance.  And then, a few years back, I got it on eBay for $9.99.  No other bidders--just me.  Still in semi-shock.  Half of me is fine, but the other half is dribbling his lips, going, "A-bibbbliibblliibliblb...."  Ten bucks.  Plus postage.  Grofe's Aviation Suite, conducted by the composer.

There was no way I could get the jacket lettering to stand out without grossly distorting the scan.  It barely even shows in real life, even at the correct angle of lighting.  "Guild Records," it says, and your guess is as good as mine.  The following information is to the best of my knowledge, and any corrections are welcome.  1) Aviation Suite was written in 1944, and it contained more movements than the four contained here.  2) This recording was done by Grofe in 1946 for the ARA label, with whom he had just signed a contract to record his own works, and then (aieee!!!!) the label folded.  So much for the follow-up works.  A 78 set came out, but I don't recall the label, and then--in 1950, I believe--this 10" LP came out on the REM Hollywood label, with "Guild Records" written on the front cover (the back is blank), and I still don't know what "Guild Records" is all about.  3) Given some of the problem areas, sound-wise, I'm guessing this was dubbed from the 78s, though the sound isn't all that bad--the pressing, yes; the sound, no.

The one other Aviation Suite recording is this one, from 1984, which thrilled me to death at the time. Ferde Grofe, Jr. was involved in having that LP come out, and for some reason I have four copies of it.  So, if you're in the market for one....  Anyway, the 1984 version has five movements instead of the four on this disc, with Glamour Girl the title of movement 2, instead of Hostess (Hostess seems to make more sense).  On this disc, Take Off uses the beginning portion of Plane Loco, a movement otherwise missing from this, probably to keep the work within its allotted time.  I'm not sure why the entire suite wouldn't have fit, especially since it's not very long, but then I don't know ARA's recording scheme--10-inch, 12-inch, three discs, four discs?  So I can't make a good guess.

With my regular .7 mil LP needle, things sounded dreadful in the quiet spots, but my 1.2 stylus took the fidelity to the skies (the best I can do, pun-wise, at the moment), improving the sound so much, you would knot believe how much.  The sound is good beyond anything I expected.  All it took was finding the right response curve (two tries, working from scratch), VinylStudio's amazing de-clicking filter, some manual de-clicking, and slight EQ adjustment.  The sound was a little bottom-heavy, so I did some careful cutting, gave the highs a slight boost, and... that sent things soaring.  Okay, that was terrible.

I looked up some flight terminology for pun purposes, but, as you see, I didn't get far off the ground.  Many of the terms were over my head, anyway.

This was a Grofe rush job, I'm pretty sure, with a killer start, but a weak middle, and a finale that brings everything soaring back to life... only to sort of stall out by groove's end, with a turgid, by-the-numbers theme-and-variation close.  The suite is ingeniously structured, as usual, like everything Grofe did (his sense of form was superb), but there's ultimately too much technique over feeling, in my view.  With the busy and unpredictable (but overly derivative of Gershwin) Plane Loco removed, there's too much repetition of material, since Hostess, while lovely and a beautiful piece of string scoring, is simply a sixteen-bar section that repeats, and Clouds--though it beautifully paints a musical picture of same--is too, well, thinly spread.  Pianissimo three-chord phrases can only be repeated so many times, especially when the variations are so subtle.  The movement needs something besides the fairly breathtaking full-orchestra crescendos (not far from the start) to propel the movement.  (Get it?  Propel?)

I'm fond of Clouds, and for the reasons stated, but if only it could have been shortened or graced with some extra... suspended liquid droplets?  No--it's too suspended as it is.  Anyway, a suite this short shouldn't have two slow, repetitive movements as part of its cargo. Still, a flawed Grofe suite is way better than none.  Hear this for its inspired moments.  And, boy, is this thing uncommon.  Thank goodness that eBay listing didn't fly past my radar....

DOWNLOAD: Aviation Suite (Grofe)--Grofe/Hollywood Studio Symphony O., 1946?

Take Off

Motor City

Ferde Grofe and Hollywood Studio Symphony Orch.  (REM Hollywood 2, 1950.  Re. 1946?)


Monday, January 13, 2020

Valley of the Sun Suite (Ferde Grofe; 1952)--Arizona State College (Tempe) Symphonic Orch., c. Ferde Grofe

The story of the Salt River Project, the Valley of the Sun Suite, was composed by Ferde Grofe on request, the notes inform us, "of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the Honorable Howard Pyle, former Governor of Arizona, for the celebration of Reclaimation's Golden Jubilee in 1952."  No recording date is given, so this could be the premiere performance or a later one.  At any rate, this LP is not a common item, and this certainly isn't one of Ferde's better-known works, though I regard it as a joy from start to finish.  From the mysterioso first movement to the joyous, Johann Strauss-esque (am I allowed to type that?) conclusion, this is mood music of the highest class.  Making things more interesting are Grofe's reuse of cues from his 1950 movie score for Rocketship X-M  (in The Dam Builders) and the insertion of a chord sequence from his very first work, Broadway at Night (1924), at the beginning of the last movement.  Grofe was not shy about reusing material, and why not?  X-M itself reuses a portion of his Symphony in Steel (1935), and his score for The Return of Jesse James (1950) uses the opening section of his Tabloid Suite (for a telegraph office scene).

Anyway, I figured it was time I re-posted this.  Though the original post is long gone, I notice that my file is still up.  It appears someone was linking to it--which is great!  That means I was continuing to share it and not realizing it!  This recording is very uncommon, I should note.

Many folks, understandably spoiled by Grand Canyon, dismiss Grofe's other works with "I was hoping for the Grand Canyon Suite," but not every piece can be a composer's masterpiece, to be fair.  And it's foolish to expect as much.  It's to Ferde's credit he didn't keep rewriting the same hit.  A credit to his virtuosity, and to his genuine love for each and every locale he chose for his suites.  Anything I can do to help keep his music alive in cyberspace, I will do, and gladly.

Give this one a chance.  I've grown to love every last bar, and I've even forgiven Ferde for the awkward franken-segue toward the end of Jubilee, which he must have penciled in at the last moment.  No biggie--the movement is so superbly alive and tuneful, it's as if that rough cut never happened.  Enjoy!  And check YouTube to see if Kevin R. Tam's arrangement (and revival) of this piece is still up.  I forgot to do so before writing this....  (Update: Yes, it is, and in a single post.)

DOWNLOAD: Valley of the Sun Suite (Grofe)--Arizona State College (Tempe) Symphonic O., c. Grofe

Valley of Ditches
The Dam Builders
Masque of the Yellow Moon
Reclamation's Golden Jubilee

Valley of the Sun Suite (Grofe)--Arizona State College (Tempe) Symphonic Orch., cond. by Ferde Grofe (Canyon ARP 249)

Recording year probably 1957--see comments.  Thanks, Ernie.


Sunday, January 12, 2020

The Earls and Whitehead Gospel Singers--The Master Shepherd (Jalyn 105; 1966)

I don't know if Jalyn Records of Dayton, Ohio gave groups a choice when it came to the stock-art covers--maybe the groups just had to wait for the LP to come out.  Anyway, Edward and Millie Grills Earls (say that 30 times) and the Whiteheads are back at the blog this morning (or whenever you happen to be reading this).  I previously featured their 1967 LP on this label, They'll Never Change the Way, and this preceded it by a year, and with a different group photo on the back.  Though I was only familiar with two of the songs--They've Torn the Old Country Church Down and I Can Almost See the Lights of Home--I enjoyed every note of this.  A total pleasure, and some of the smoothest bluegrass gospel you're going to hear anywhere.  You can catch the personnel info from the slightly confusing liner notes, in which the writer doesn't always inform us as to the role of a given performer.  For example, we learn that Millie Grills Earls "was born in Izard County, Arkansas.  She has been married to Edward Earls since 1952, one year after Edward received his call to the ministry."  That's fine, but what does she do on the LP?  I assume she sings, but all I can do is assume.  Patty Mayo Whitehead's function also goes unmentioned.  She was born in Selma, Indiana and is married to Leamon Whitehead.  Ohhh-kay.  But I assume she adds to the music in some way.  Not the best notes ever....

The group was based in Muncie, Indiana at the time, and besides Arkansas and Indiana, members also hailed from Kentucky.  Kentucky--3, Indiana-2, and Arkansas--1.  Three other folks are mentioned, but not their birthplaces.  Being in a hurry to get these notes written and the post scheduled, I could have used some more complete and straightforward information, but then the casual nature of the liner notes actually goes kind of well with the friendly, honest, down-home performances, so why should I complain.  This is take-off-your-shoes-and-relax-a-spell music, and I'm getting all uptight.  I'm missing the point.  I need to just flow with the go.  I mean....  Whatever.

I didn't have time to do my usual obsessive verifying of composer credits, except for discovering that Poor Pilgrim of Sorrow--aka, The Pilgrim's Song--is the work of the great African-American hymnist, Charles Albert Tindley.  I've always felt that Tindley arrived too early in the game to get the credit he's due, with black gospel somehow popularly assume to have started around the 1920s.  You'd think, in a day when fact-checking was never so easy, that popular misconceptions would die quick deaths.  If anything, received falsehoods are more likely to be maintained rather than corrected.  What would Marshall McLuhan conclude?

A great copy of this LP--perhaps previously unplayed, even.  A couple surface imperfections, but they were easily spliced out with MAGIX.  Luckily, Rite Records pressed this, so I was able to find the year--1966.  That would explain the mono.

The site for Rite Records had me convinced it was spelled RITE, since it insists on doing so, so if I typed "RITE" on the mp3 tags, now you know why.  RITE?  RITE.

To the great bluegrass gospel sounds.  And don't miss the bonus Stuart Hamblen single after the LP.  It has a separate download link.

DOWNLOAD: The Master Shepherd--The Earls and Whitehead Gospel Singers (1966)

The Master Shepherd (E, Earls)
Wash Your Brothers (sic) Feet (E. Wheeler)
Old Time Religion No. 2 (P.D.)
The Only Way Home (E. Chastin-G. Brooks)
Poor Pilgrim of Sorrow (Charles A. Tindley)
I Can Almost See the Lights of Home (P.D.)
That's Him (L. Presley)
There's Bound to Come a Change (P.D.)
It'll Matter but Little At Last (P.D.)
Father Hold My Hand (A. Gearhart)
They've Torn the Old Country Church Down (Fralix-Benson)
When He Blessed My Soul (C. Derricks)

The Master Shepherd--The Earls and Whitehead Gospel Singers (Jalyn Records 105; 1966)

And, as promised, a Stuart Hamblen single on the Columbia label--year: 1953.  For some reason, I never associated Hamblen with Columbia, but he did a lot on that label.  Earlier, he recorded for Victor.  I love Hamblen's stuff.  It's often corny and folksy, but it's so beautifully written and arranged, I can very easily forgive that fact.  Hamblen was a songwriting genius, and I love the talking portions of his tunes--a device I usually dislike in gospel music.  He just had a masterful touch.  This was a lucky thrift find.

DOWNLOAD: Stuart Hamblen (Columbia Sacred Series 4-21158; 1953)

Partners with the Lord (Hamblen)

You Must Be Born Again (Hamblen)

Stuart Hamblen and the Cowboy Church Prairie Choir, 1953


Saturday, January 11, 2020

Pop culture artifacts (1908, 1887)

Be sure to give my last post a listen--the file portion, that is.  Andre Kostelanetz' 1941 rendition of Grofe's Grand Canyon Suite is up there with the very best versions, and, while it's the expanded score (the one that followed Grofe's arrangement for Paul Whiteman), it has vestiges of the Whiteman.  I know enough about Grofe to know that he did constant revisions--he was an improviser at heart, as his amazing piano roll performances of the 1920s demonstrate.  Years ago, someone who was an orchestra member for the premiere of Grofe's Valley of the Sun suite told me Grofe was doing revisions right up to the wire.  (Not a fun thing for the musicians, though....)  The unbelievably vivid sound of the Kostelanetz Canyon is an example of what could be achieved as early as 1941. 

Below: I'd forgotten about this 1908 ad that I put up years ago.  Sometimes, going right to the pop-culture source--old magazines, records, etc.--not only cuts through time but also through a lot of accumulated propaganda.  Lies, in short.  The tobacco industry has waged a long, and tragically successful campaign to convince Americans that smoking may or may not to be harmful to human health.  There remain people convinced that the jury is still out.  Amazing, then, that 112 years ago, it was apparently common knowledge that, as the ad says, tobacco kills.  I don't recall the name of the magazine I clipped this from, but the paper was so fragile, it couldn't be laid onto my scanner without damaging it--so I resorted to clipping.  Typically, I would have avoided marring the magazine, but it was pretty much done for, anyway.

Another old ad--this time from 1887--for a polygraph.  I actually saw one on eBay, and for way too much money (for my wallet, that is).  You'll note that the "polygraph" had a slightly different function than the invention to come.  Without precedent as a Scientific Toy and "invaluable to ladies doing Fancy Work."  Apparently, ads have always bent the rules of capitalization and when to use bold font.


Friday, January 10, 2020

Grand Canyon Suite (Ferde Grofe)--Andre Kostelanetz and His Orch. (1941)

I'd hate to commit myself to a favorite work of music, but Ferde Grofe's superb Grand Canyon Suite is a major contender.  Once upon a time, and thanks to Toscanini taking on the work and making it an American concert staple, GCS was performed all the time.  I don't think that's the case any more, and it's American music's loss.  I love this piece beyond words, and I had the great fortune to hear it played on the family hi-fi growing up--my brother and I would request it, and we would actually shiver our way through Cloudburst, which can be scary when you're young and it's coming out of a big speaker with lots of boom.  It was the fabulous 1958 Eugene Ormandy version I came to know down to the last pause, and it was the perfectly engineered mono version, not the thin-sounding stereo atrocity.  Ormandy did a blah later version which sounded phoned-in while he was half asleep.  Hard to believe the same person led both recordings.

Ormandy's is probably my choice for all-time best, Grand Canyon-wise, and this despite the inexcusable lack of a second take on Sunrise--someone in the brass section hits one of the wrongest notes ever blown before the concluding contrary-motion chords.  My father always winced at that point, wondering why they didn't redo it (or edit the tape--that was an option in 1958).  But one epic stray note can't destroy an otherwise marvelous rendition.  That version's equal, or very close second, is this splendid, stupendous, and nearly flawless 1941 Andre Kostelanetz version (it has a heck of a great cover, too), which of course originally came out on shellac--and, if my faulty memory is correct (probably not) this may be the first-ever recording of the expanded score.  Grofe originally wrote GCS for Paul Whiteman's 30-piece (or so) concert orchestra in 1931, actually starting the piece in 1929 (Whiteman recorded it in 1932), and while Canyon was quite effective in its smaller setting, a larger treatment simply had to happen.  What's cool is that this version has some vestiges of the earlier, smaller setting.  My two beefs about this version are 1) the cornball downward violin slide (portamento,whatever) toward the end of the otherwise indescribably gorgeous Sunset, making it sound like silent film music or something, and 2) the way the strings just kind of disappear for a moment during the closing reprise (in which Grofe combines all the main strains, Grofe-style).  Otherwise, this version is so spot-on, it's as if the Russian-born Kostelanetz knew how to present American music far more skillfully than anyone born here.  In fact, it's not "as if"--he did, period.  Why Arthur Fiedler is so famous, when Kostelanetz was so very much better at this kind of thing, I'll never know.

The sound is scary-good for 1941--you're almost right there in the studio at times.  Studio noises can be heard.  Pages turning.  Vocal sounds that are somewhere between throat-clearing and someone catching his breath.  The only thing wrong with the otherwise superbly vivid sound is the inflated bass.  I had to bring it down to protect headphone listeners and/or woofer cones.  Why this flaw in such otherwise magnificent sound, I do not know.  And here's the weird thing--I have three copies of this green label edition, and only this one features the vivid, wide-open sound it's my privilege to share here.  The others are pinched, by comparison, with fidelity closer to the CL series reissue of this ML (Masterworks) edition.  This performance, by the way, was available at least at late as 1966 on the Harmony label, and in fake stereo.  I used to have a monaural edition of that, except it was a U.K. pressing, and I have no idea what happened to it.

To the genius of Grofe and Kostelanetz and the 1941 Columbia sound engineer:

DOWNLOAD: Grand Canyon Suite (Grofe)--Andre Kostelanetz and His Orchestra, 1941