Sunday, February 28, 2021

Don Richardson and others, 1905-1931



 

I should win the Creative Blog Title of the Year award for "Don Richardson and others."  Sorry for my long absence--the weather has had me demotivated.  Something about snow (over ice) that just sits there and sits there (and sits there), with the temps refusing to climb above 32--it lowers one's blogging enthusiasm.  However, major meltage is occurring now that we're finally at seasonal temps, and I might even be able to get to the top of my drive, say, today.  I don't intend to attempt this until all (or nearly all) of the snow/ice is gone.  The drive is 2/3 cleared, as we speak.  A long, steep, curved rural drive can be a cool thing, but for the past two weeks and more, it's been anything but.

But we're here to talk early country music.  In my previous post, I did a reading-too-fast error and listed Philip Hauser as the pianist behind fiddler Don Richardson's 1916 sides--in fact, it was Samuel Jospe on the 1916 discs (I corrected the post and mp3 tags).  Hauser tickles the ivories on Don's 1921 sides, and, while making these posts, I discovered I wasn't as up on Don's discography as I imagined--he recorded six sides (three 78s) in 1916, and just as many in 1921, all for Columbia.  Somehow, I wasn't aware of that, and maybe it's because the online 78 discography--the one I couldn't operate without--splits off at both 1917 and 1921 in the way it's sectioned.  Sure, blame the online discography.  Of course, that resource is wonderful and I'm epically thankful for it.

So, there are two 1921 Richardson sides I don't own, but I prefer ripping my own copies, as opposed to borrowing from the Internet Archive, so I hope to acquire these sides sometime.  Nothing against using IA rips--I just like to start with my own, using no response curve for the acousticals, and then working from there.  So... today, we have Don's two remaining 1916 gems--Mrs. McLeod's Reel and The Devil's Dream.  Richardson is as amazing as ever on these two, and I wish my copy was in better shape, though The Devils Dream comes through loud and clear--it's a robust number.  I'm sure there's much boring, er, much fascinating background on these tune titles, but don't look at me.  And the 1921 Richardson titles are gems, and either Columbia was doing quieter pressings by then, or else the shellac mixture from that period has aged better--dunno.  


Then we have the Victor Military Band with Virginia Reels, including one we just heard--only as "Miss McCloud's Reel"--plus "Pop Goes the Weasel," the music to which seems to have originated as a dance in the 19th century, though I don't know about the reel part.  Money Musk, the flip, was a type of country dance--and before "country" meant, well, country--and was named after a village in Aberdeenshire, Scotland.  Now you know.  Fine sides.  Then we have the Tennessee Ramblers, from 1931, doing a "banjo, fiddle and dialogue" version of Arkansas Traveler, which of course means cornball humor, and plenty of it--and at the lightning pace of the old Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In series.  At the time, Laugh-In was treated like a new era in comedy, with the cast breaking the punchline sound barrier on a weekly basis, but it seems they were treading old ground.  For a horrifying time, watch some reruns of that show and try to imagine that it was once regarded as hip.

Then we have Harry Yerkes' Jazarimba Orchestra, from 1918, hammering out Turkey in the Straw, which "introduces" (i.e., includes) Arkansas Traveler and The Preacher and the Bear, though the results don't sound remotely country.  (Big surprise.)  Next, from Maine, we have got Mellie Dunham playing contra dance music--contra dances being related to square dances (that's all I know).  The "calls" are by Mr. N.A. Noble, because you were wondering.  1926 county, and I'm fascinated by any and all New England "roots" of a musical form we regard as southern.  For example, there's that other early country fiddler, Charles Ross Taggart, "The Man from Vermont" (and who, sure enough, grew up there).  He's not in this playlist, but he'd fit right in.

Back to 1905 for Charles D'Almaine's Medley of Old Time Reels, and as country as Charles may sound, we just know he isn't "authentic," if only because he was an accomplished musician--and from England.  Sure, he was born close to the fiddle-tune source (the UK) and he sounds like the real deal, but of what value is "sounds like..." when we're talking about music?  It's not as if music is an aural artform.  (Wait--you mean, it is?)

So... eleven terrific tracks, and I didn't once give my opinion of modern country.  You don't necessarily want to hear it.

On that cheery note...


DOWNLOAD: Don Richardson and others, 1905-1931



Irish Washerwoman/Wearing of the Green/Rakes of Mallow--Don Richardson, violin, Philip Hauser, Piano (Columbia A3424; 1921)
Dance Wid' a Gal, Hole in Her Stocking--SameMrs. McLeod's Reel--Don Richardson, violin, Samuel Jospe, piano (Columbia A2575; 1916)
The Devil's Dream--Reel--Same
Virginia Reels (Intro. Arkansas T., Preacher and the Bear)--Victor Military Band (Victor 18552; 1918)
Money Musk Nos. 1 and 2--Same
Arkansas Traveler (Banjo, Fiddle and Dialogue)--The Tennessee Ramblers, 1931 (Brunswick)
Turkey in the Straw (Inttro. Arkansas T., Preachers and the Bear)--Jazarimba Orch. (Columbia A2537; 1918)
Lady of the Lake (Contra Dance)--Mellie Dunham and His Orch., Speaker: Mr. N.A. Noble (Victor 19940; 1926)
Medley of Old Time Reels--Charles D'Almaine, Violin solo with orchestra (Victor 16393, 1905)
Mountain Rangers (Contra Dance)--Mellie Dunham and His Orch., Speaker: Mr. N.A. Noble (Victor 19940; 1926)


Lee

Saturday, February 20, 2021

The return of Don Richardson--1916 country fiddle!



From my collection, four 1916 selections by Don Richardson, the marvelous violinist/fiddler from North Carolina who, though he wasn't the first fiddler to record jigs, reels, and the like for a major label, may have been the first to record entire selections which are so unmistakably in a country/barn dance style.  It's a complicated situation, as country-style fiddle can be heard on discs and cylinders at least as far back as 1900.  Now, rather than try to write a blurb myself, let me refer you to some terrific passages about Don from Play Me Something Quick and Devilish: Old-Time Fiddlers in Missouri, by Howard Wight Marshall: Richardson.

And, also, to this excellent blog piece by historian and country music expert Patrick Huber, who's associated with Archeophone Records' upcoming Before the Big Bang project.

My previous all-Don post was in 2016, before I had my curve-adjusting software, so these rips should sound a lot better.  Since I have multiple copies for several of these, I was able to replace some noisy starting grooves with better-sounding sections--I did this for Mississippi Sawyer and Arkansas Traveler.  A "sawyer," of course, is one who saws.  The word makes for easy dialect-style humor: "Hey, I sawyer sister at the market yesterday!"  Noisy starting grooves on 78s--and they're a fairly common thing--were (as far as I know) caused by tonearm/sound box tracking error.  The farther the gramophone's arm from the center, the greater potential for mistracking, since those arms ran on friction (no anti-skate back then).

With these restorations, my goal was to bring the violin front and center--with the piano nice and clear, too.  That goal took precedence over hiss reduction, though these turned out to be reasonably quiet rips.  In addition to the four 1916 fiddle solos, you'll be hearing Don Richardson's dance orchestra on a 1914 Columbia disc--this starts out the short set.  There's nothing country about the 1914 side (sorry, Wikipedia)--it's early, early dance music.  The versatile Richardson led a dance orchestra and wrote popular songs on top of playing a mean country fiddle.  I imagine that simply his ability to actually read music has the "purists" breaking out in sunspots, and never mind that millions of children start reading music as early as the age of six.  The audacity of a country musician, to have the ability to read music and perform in more than one style!  That's... that's cheating.  Actually, it's called being a performing musician.

Richardson was an amazing player, and the notion of Don as someone who simply performed standard fiddle tunes "as written" is absurd in the light of all the flourishes and moments of improvisation (which typically involve rapid arpeggiating of the melodies) that we hear on these sides.  

Next post: Don's 1921 Columbia fiddle sides.  These were a lot of work, and I think it's mostly because this extreme winter has me pretty sluggish (yet, loveable as always). Thanks to Patrick Huber for the i.d. on Richardson's excellent piano accompanist, Philip Hauser Samuel Jospe. Somehow, I was thinking Nat Shilkret, but he's on Victor, not Columbia,  Hello.



DOWNLOAD: Don Richardson 1914 and 1916  

(Note: The pianist on the 1916 country sides is Samuel, Jospe, not Philip Hauser (information from Patrick Huber's piece).  Just a little misreading on my part.  The mp3 files have been corrected.  My apologies.)












Lee

Sunday, February 14, 2021

The Yoder Family: Pure Appalachian-style bluegrass gospel from Indiana

 


Bluegrass gospel at its best, with a pure Appalachian sound--fiddle and banjo and everything.  Just what we'd expect from northern Indiana, no?  This is another thrift gift from Diane, and it was still sealed!  Mint condition is always nice.  And the audio quality is outstanding, especially for a small label, though I have no idea on the year.  Only one Yoder Family LP shows up at Discogs, and it's not this one.  Anyway, these folks are good, with a sound very much like the Lewis Family's, and the songs are bluegrass standards--River of Death (credited all over the internet to Bill Monroe, though I doubt it), Wayfaring Stranger, Where the Soul of Man Never Dies (aka, To Canaan's Land I'm on My Way), Uncloudy Day, and the cream of the bluegrass crop, 1925's Shoutin' on the Hills (aka, There'll Be Shouting).  I'm pretty sure the voice of the youngest member (Ideanna?) is the light, airy one, and she has a quiet type of projection consistent with her young age and size--the contrast with the more mature voices is pretty charming.

Not much else I can say, except that this is about as good as bluegrass gospel comes.  This would fall into the "roots music" category nowadays, a term I find kind of silly in its vagueness.  The roots of what?  This isn't the roots of anything--it is what it is.  (And you can quote me.)  And the Yoder family doesn't appear to be tethered to the soil, so there are no roots in evidence.  If you've visited this blog often enough, you know I don't approve of treating "traditional" music as a prelude to modern sounds.  I remember my father telling me, "You only like music that's old."  I was maybe 12.  And it was true, but it was my parents who had me take piano lessons and study Bach, Bartok, Chopin, and Scarlatti.  So, yeah, I was into old music.

To the sounds.  Thank you, northern Indiana (and Diane), for the Yoder Family's wonderful offerings.  Oh, and on the mp3 tags I corrected some of the credits.  Gospel labels are amazingly adept at screwing them up.



DOWNLOAD: The Yoder Family--Happy on Our Way




Lee

Friday, February 12, 2021

Treasured Favorites--Fontanna and Viennese Symphonic Orchestra(s)

 



This is one cover that didn't scan well--the actual cover has a lighter effect, and a kind of glow.  But I did my best to capture its look.

Of course, no one bought this for the cover.  (Cue laugh track)  Rather, buyers were studying the back cover and its track listing, not to mention savoring the cut-rate liner notes.  The music on this LP consists of very familiar (but fine) concert works.  They include two by Tchaikovsky--Theme From Piano Concerto and Flower Waltz.  The former is one of my favorite works.  "The pieces I love best?  Oh, Theme From Piano Concerto.  That's got to be near the top of the list."--Me, discussing music.

You know, this thing is almost like a forerunner of all those Greatest Music of All Time-type offers on TV.  The ones with badly edited Bizet, Beethoven, and Mozart moments in questionable stereo.

The photo must be stock--it says, "5050 Printed in U.S.A."  That's one clue.  I personally find the flowers in the upper r.h. corner to be obtrusive, though they blend in more naturally in person, so to speak. On the actual cover, that is.   It's certainly a superior photo for a junk label, though Columbia would probably have said no.  As opposed to the pretty model, who's clearly saying yes.  Or so Palace would have wanted us guys to think.  After all, they're using her to sell this thing.  You don't go for subtle tactics when you're selling your LPs in supermarkets.

And, to my surprise, both the performances and recording quality are very good.  I didn't realize Palace put out anything that sounded good, so this is kind of a shock, almost.  And the European orchestra (or orchestras) performing these treasured favorites could be forgiven for phoning in their performances--they had no royalties coming--but the musicians turn in fine work.

So, this LP is definitely not the terrible and/or hokey experience I was anticipating, and I'm almost disappointed.  It's almost (but not quite) like, "Darn!  I expected this to suck!"  

However, there's some junk-budget hilarity to be found on the jacket and labels.  For instance, are you, like me, a huge fan of Chopin's Clair de Lune?  And were you, like me, under the impression that Debussy wrote it?  Well, not according to the label.  And why on earth did Palace use such substandard white ink on its labels?  We're talking a brittle, almost chalky kind of ink (some failed experiment that Palace bought up, cheap), and I don't think the vintage of the LP is the cause, given that the lettering is bright and clear and the white perfectly Downy-white.  No obvious signs of aging here:


I'm almost afraid some of the label's almost-ink might chip off in cyberspace.  Better not touch the screen, just to be on the safe side.

Flower Waltz is an ink-saving alternative to Waltz of the Flowers, so I'll give that a pass.  But I can't give a pass to the classically confusing artist credits: Fontanna and Viennese Symphonic Orchestras.  Or, if you prefer the label credit, Fontanna and the Viennese Symphonic Orchestra.  Singular.  Now, is this Fontanna plus an unspecified number of Viennese symphonic orchestras?  Or is Fontanna doing all the conducting?  I realize it doesn't matter, but these credits are the essence of junk label carelessness.  A prime example of saving money on quality control by not having any.

I have this scene in my head of Fontanna rushing between studios to conduct four different Viennese symphonic orchestras.  He hops in a taxi, then he realizes he forgot his baton, so he rushes back, then he returns and says, "All this trouble for a lousy supermarket LP!"  To which the taxi driver replies, "Tschuldigung?" (Austrian German for "Pardon me?")

This LP is as relaxing and pleasing as can be, its only awkward moment happening at the end of Theme From Piano Concerto, with the engineer clearly unsure of exactly where to do the fade.  I wouldn't have been sure, either. 

IMPORTANT: This is a "Complete Audible Range" LP.  The high end is 25,000 Hz.  And the moon is a planet, and Madonna is any director's next pick if Meryl Streep is unavailable.

Sunday, February 07, 2021

Paul and Bob Present Gospel Harmonies (Singspiration LP 133, prob. 1955)



Fabulous old-fashioned gospel music from Indiana's Paul Levin (mandolin) and Bob Findlay (guitar).  This is another thrift gift from Diane (thanks, Diane!) and one I totally loved--plus, in my two hours or so of researching the song credits, I learned much about Hornet Song, the sixth track, a number copyrighted in 1925 by gospel music publisher Thoro Harris, but whose text dates at least as far back as 1913 (it appears in the Oct. 16, 1913 edition of the religious newspaper, Herald of Gospel Liberty).  No clue as to the author, but the tune is from 1903's This Is Like Heaven to Me, by L.E. French.  The link above takes you to scans of both words and music.  It seems that Singspiration (whose label this happens to be) combined the text with French's tune in 1965 and copyrighted it accordingly.  Seems like I just did a post about copyright shenanigans...

Hornet Song (with or without the The), is also known by its first line, When the Canaanites hardened their hearts against God, and the number is associated with Paul and Bob, and with Mr, and Mrs. Floyd F. Lacy, whose 1925 recording I featured here.

Anyway, because Paul and Bob sound so much like the McCravy Brothers of South Carolina, a duo which recorded for a number of labels in the 1920s, I figured they must be from the South.  Not so, but they could have fooled my northwest Ohio ears.  (I guess they did, at that.)  Like the McCravy duo, they seem like the template for modern bluegrass and bluegrass gospel, though by the time of this LP (1955, I'm almost sure) bluegrass--the 1940s type, anyway--was well established.  And the songs, several of which proved challenging to trace, are classic "good ol'" numbers--the usual mix of vintage (1902's The Old Account Was Settled...), folk (Just a Closer Walk...), and more recent than you might guess (1948's I Want to See My Savior First of All).  

I'm about to doze off, so I'd better call this an essay ("You're an essay") and leave you to the terrific offerings of Paul Levin and Bob Findley, who, like the Chuck Wagon Gang and the Lewis Family (among others), remind us that, in gospel at least, talent speaks louder than fancy productions.

A gem.


DOWNLOAD: Paul and Bob Present Gospel Harmonies (Singspiration LP 133; c. 1955)


Just a Closer Walk With Thee (Trad.)
Thirty Pieces of Silver (Stanphill)
Among the Lilies (Dora May Heltzel)
I Want to See My Savior First of All (John W. Peterson)
Peace, It's Wonderful (Thomas A. Dorsey)
Hornet Song (Tune: J.E. French, 1903)
It Took a Miracle (John W. Peterson)
Beyond the Sunset (Virgil and Blanche Brock)
Don't Forget to Pray (aka, Did You Think to Pray?) (Kidder-Perkins)
No Disappointment in Heaven (Lehman-Mays)
Meet Mother in the Skies (Unkown--Arr. W.S. Nickle)
The Old Account Was Settled Long Ago (Graham)



Lee

Friday, February 05, 2021

Carol of the Little Drummer Boy

A long-after-Christmas Christmas post.  I'd meant to write this at the correct time, but better late than not at all.  If nothing else, I'll be gifting cyberspace with a Carol of the Drum post that doesn't play Romper Room games with the truth (such as deliberately confusing authorship with a given arrangement of a piece--two very different things).


Above is the original manuscript of Katherine K. Davis' 1941 choral piece Carol of the Drum.  Davis' song was stolen by Harry Simeone in 1958 and retitled The Little Drummer Boy.  As you can see below, Simeone initially attempted to take sole credit for it:


Classy.  Then things got even classier when Henry Onorati, the 20th Century-Fox Records head, decided he wanted a piece of the song, too, and so his name was added to Simeone's.  Now, the various on-line Drum accounts that I've read (say that ten times in a row) tiptoe around the issue in a rather inane fashion, as if reluctant to accuse Simeone or Onorati of theft, maybe because--I don't know--maybe because it might upset people who grew up thinking that The Little Drummer Boy was a 1958 original.  And so they soft-pedal the history.  Not sure.  It could be a case of not wanting to shatter people's illusions.  Of bowing to common bias.  Something like that.

What I do know is that, if you take something you didn't create and treat it as your own creation, you have committed an act called plagiarism.  Period.  It doesn't matter if Wikipedia or some other source wants to pretend that Simeone's record is merely a different version of Katherine K. Davis' song (!!), because suppose you or I decide to take the Beatles' Hey Jude, retitle it Make It Bad, throw in a few original guitar licks, and claim it as our own?  What do you think would happen?  Do you think we'd get co-composer credit with John and Paul?  No, I very seriously doubt that would be the result.

But, I guess, when two musical powerhouses decide to help themselves to someone else's work, it's somehow a different matter.  At any rate, Katherine Davis sued, and she retained partial ownership of the song, though she clearly should have gotten back the entire thing (plus the title).  

To make things less rational, I guess, Wikipedia and other sources seem to be operating under a very weird notion that major changes have been made to Katherine's original work over the years (in the choral realm, that is), but that's utter nonsense, at least when we're talking Soprano/Alto/Tenor/Bass settings.  First of all, four-part harmony is four-part harmony, whether it's sung by four people or forty, and whether it's done in SATB or "close" harmony fashion.  It's true that the Trapp Family Singers' 1951 version utilizes three voices for the women, with the female leads moving in triads rather than in a duet fashion, but I regard the addition of a fifth voice to be an embellishment of four-part harmony, not a new type or texture.  Katherine's setting is the template for all the standard choral versions.  All of them.  Period.

The Trapp Family's 1951 recording is the earliest I (or apparently anyone else) is aware of, and it's clear that, come the late 1950s, the work was turning into a standard holiday choral item, given that it enjoyed at least three 1957 recordings--those of The Jack Halloran Singers, The Testor Chorus, and The Moody Chorale.  Compared to the quiet but lively Trapp version, Halloran's arrangement is something closer to a dirge, and I much prefer a faster tempo.  Both the Testor Chorus and the identified singers on the lone "fake hit" version I've located (which was released by at least three different budget label groups) speed things up like they should, but Halloran's treatment, which was swiped by Simeone along with Davis' tune, is the standard, draggy one.  Maybe that's why so many people pan this Christmas standard--it seems to take forever to get to the "smiled at me" part.  I've included two recordings of the lone "fake" version, one in stereo, and the other in mono, and both mastered at different pitches.  (Not by me, I should note.)

The Trapp Family, of course, was the super-talented group whose story was fictionalized in The Sound of Music.  The true vs. invented details make for some hilarious reading.  By the way, the family's 1951 recording was reissued as a single by Decca in 1959 (left--image swiped from Discogs).  1959 was the year The Sound of Music opened on Broadway, and I'm pretty sure that explains the release.

Anyway, Davis, a profoundly gifted composer whose specialty was choral pieces for children--girls, especially--certainly didn't deserve to be treated like this.  I mean, it must be nice to have one of your works become hugely popular, but not so nice to have to share it with two thieves.

A question that always comes up is how to classify Drum/Drummer--as in, what specific Christmas song tradition does it conform to?  That's easy. Generally speaking, it belongs to the longtime Christmas carol tradition of treating the Nativity as a current event, in a "You Are There" fashion (e.g., Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella).  More specifically, it belongs to the popular "What gift can I give?" tradition--as in, what gift do I have to give the baby Jesus?  The all-time great example of same has to be the 1872 masterpiece, In the Bleak Midwinter

What can I give Him

Poor as I am? — 

If I were a Shepherd 

I would bring a lamb

If I were a Wise Man 

I would do my part, — 

Yet what I can I give Him, — 

Give my heart.

The same sentiment is expressed, in a slightly different way, in Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne, in which the no-room-at-the-inn situation is ingeniously answered:

O come to my heart, Lord Jesus 

There is room in my heart for Thee

And so the drummer boy, who is poor like the Baby Jesus, wonders what gift he can give.  Answer: the drum.  So, the drummer boy gives the baby his drum, and the baby smiles at him.  A lovely touch, and one that appeals to children.  My late foster mother Bev, the English prof, felt that it takes a special genius to speak to children in art.  In this case, that genius belonged to Katherine K. Davis, and not to the two guys who shoved their way into the song credit.

A big thanks to Ernie, who ripped his Jack Halloran track for me from the hard to find Christmas Is A-Comin' LP of 1957, on which Davis is listed as the arranger, kind of ironically.  (The "Arr." part could be a typo--dunno.)  Halloran was the honest guy out of the three.  So, naturally, he ends up as a footnote.


DOWNLOAD: Carol of the Little Drummer Boy


Carol of the Drum (Czech Carol, Katherine K. Davis)--The Trapp Family Singers, 1952
Carol of the Drum (Katherine K. Davis)--The Testor Chorus, C. Dr. Harry T. Carlson, 1957
Carol of the Drum (Katherine K. Davis)--The Moody Chorale, Dir. by Don Hustad, 1957
Carol of the Drum (Arr. K.K. Davis)--The Jack Halloran Singers, 1957
The Little Drummer Boy (Same as SPC and other budgets)--The Broadway Pops Orch. With Featured Vocalists and Chorus (Tiara TST 105, Record 2)
Little Drummer Boy (Same as SPC, etc.)--Unknown choir, from Tops in Pops (Ultraphonic 5020L).


Lee

Monday, February 01, 2021

18 Top Hits, Part 2--Loren Becker, Jimmy Helms, Curtis Smith, The Woodchuckers, Hollis Harbison, The Zig Zags

 





I'm treating this post as a follow-up to this "18 Top Hits" post of last year, though I suppose it's logically more a follow-up to this post, except that one has already had two sequels.  But why worry about technicalities?  Plus, I've already titled the zip, so...  You know, at this rate, I'm going to run out of Waldorf fakes to post.  I will have reached a milestone never reached before by man.  Or woman.  Or child.  Or robot.

"To boldly go where where no buttinsky, platitude-spewing humans have gone before!"  Wasn't that the line?  (I like Star Trek, btw, but given my age, I could never get into any of the spin-offs past TNG.)

Back to topic, these Waldorf EP tracks--all ripped from 18 Top Hits and Top Hit Tunes EPs--date from 1956 and 1957, which places them around the late-1959 moment when Ampar (aka, Am-Par) acquired Enoch Light's labels.  It's an interesting period, because it marks the spot where Waldorf, after two years of failing to capture the sound of rock and roll, suddenly proved itself quite adept at the art.  Maybe Enoch Light realized, "Hey, this music isn't going anyplace.  Maybe we'd better do it justice."  I don't know.  Or maybe he was looking ahead to a post-Waldorf period of better labels and better pressings, and he had ceased caring about the fake-hit wing of his operation.  We'll never know.

In this 30-track playllist, we'll be hearing from the regular Waldrof gang--Artie Malvin, Dottie Evans, Loren Becker, Jerry Duane, and so on--and the quality of their vocalizing varies, as ever, depending on the material.  For instance, Artie, Jerry, Loren, and Dottie do very well on some rockers, and not so well on others. I strongly suspect that rushed arrangements were the cause, there--I imagine the ink had barely dried on most of the charts as the arrangers raced them to the music stands, and such matters as picking the ideal key for a given singer, or matching the right singer to the right number probably took second seat to getting these things out there.

And, vocal-wise, the weakest showing in our playlist comes courtesy of Curtis Smith, the lead on the otherwise excellent Get a Job, while the least of the instrumentals (and the only one, come to think of it) is Raunchy, a performance so lackluster, you almost expect it to simply stop in the middle, with all the musicians getting up and leaving.  Loren Becker's best work can be heard on Blue Monday, the superb My Baby Left Me, and, in particular, Confidential, on which he's nothing less than terrific.  My Baby Left Me is interesting as a big band-ized Waldorf rock cover that genuinely rocks--it makes a great companion number for the Elvis original.  Becker is fine on Rock-A-Billy, but a weak setting brings things down.  Good ol' Artie Malvin almost gives us a classic Moonlight Gambler fake, but I can only guess that the arranger had never heard Laine's hit, because the lame setting totally misses the mark.  That'll Be the Day saves the day, however, with both Artie and the arrangement first-rate--I'd be tempted to call Day the best rocker of the bunch, if it weren't for the marvelous School Day, with Jerry Duane doing a perfectly decent Chuck Berry imitation, though the real star of the side is the guy playing the perfect Chuck Berry fills.

The Best Vocal award has to go to one Keith Textor for Chances Are, which is extremely well produced.  The track comes as a slight shock on the EP, with major label-level audio suddenly filling the headphones.

The expertly rocking At the Hop and Rock and Roll Music are blog repeats, but... this EP version of At the Hop is actually longer than the LP pressing (a reverse of the norm), and it's pitched higher, to boot.  Rock and Roll Music is also pitched higher than in its LP appearance.  Was this on purpose?  Who knows?

Other genuinely rocking fakes include The Woodchuckers' Wake up Little Susie and Hollis Harbison's Buzz, Buzz, Buzz.  My Stanton 500 cartridge, with its very high output, brings these cheap but lovingly made tracks to vivid life.



DOWNLOAD: 18 Top Hits, Pt. II


Lotta Lovin'--Jimmy Helms (Top Hit Tunes TH-15-1)
Treat Me Nice--Jimmy Helms With the Cotton Pickers (Same)
Wait and See--Jack Brown With Enoch Light Orch. (Same)
Get a Job--Curtis Smith (Top Hit Tunes TH-18-2)
A White Sport Coat--Loren Becker With Enoch Light and His Orch. (Top Hit Tunes TH-13-1)
Fabulous--Loren Becker and The Zig Zags (Same)
Moonlight Gambler--Artie Malvin With Enoch Light and His Orch. (18 Top Hits 206)
That'll Be the Day--Artie Malvin With the Zig Zags (18 Top Hits TH-14-3)
School Day--Jerry Duane With Enoch Light and Orch. (18 Top Hits TH-12-3)
Rock-A-Billy--Artie Malvin With Enoch Light and Orch. (Same)
Yes Tonight Josephine--Artie Malvin Enoch Light and Orch. (Same)
Melodie D'Amour--The Hi-Fi's (Top Hit Tunes TH-15-3)
Raunchy--Enoch Light and His Orch. (Same)
Singing the Blues--Loren Becker With Enoch Light and Orch. (18 Top Hits 204)
Miracle of Love-Sylvia Textor With Enoch Light Orch. (Same)
Blue Monday--Loren Becker (18 Top Hits TH-11-2)
Party Doll--Artie Malvin With Enoch Light and His Orch. (Same)
Round and Round--Loren Becker With Enoch Light His Orch. (Same)
Love Is Strange--The Ink Spots (Same)
Butterfly--Loren Becker and the Zig Zags (18 Top Hits TH-11-3)
I'm Walking--Jimmy Blaine and the Rhythm Rockets (Same)
My Baby Left Me--Loren Becker (18 Top Hits 193)
Confidential--Loren Becker (18 Top Hits 206)
At the Hop--Hal Willis and the Woodchuckers (Top Hit Tune TH-15-1)
Rock and Roll Music--Hollis Harbison (Same)
Chances Are--Keith Textor (Same)
Buzz, Buzz, Buzz--Hollis Harbison (Same)
Wake up Little Susie--The Woodchuckers (Same)
Jailhouse Rock--Jimmy Helms (Same)
Happy, Happy Birthday Baby--Dottie Evans With the Hi-Fi's (Same)


Lee