Sunday, March 28, 2021

Rhythm Masters Quartet--More About Jesus (Scripture Records 106)


DOWNLOAD: More About Jesus--Rhythm Masters Quartet

Recorded in Newark NJ, but the group hails from Birmingham, Alabama.  That would explain the accents!  Expertly presented Southern Gospel, with a good number of standards--Leaning on the Everlasting Arms (or "Arm," according to the record label and jacket), At the Cross, Unclouded Day, Love Lifted Me, and other numbers which, even though they age, never grow old.  And I just have to mention what used to be a standard parody of At the Cross--namely, At the Bar.  "At the bar, At the bar, Where I had my first cigar."  Can't remember the rest.

So, these guys are at the top of their game, and the group portrait is professionally done, and... I wish I had the year for this, but Discogs isn't telling.  For some reason, the front jacket came out all wonky when I did my four-part scan, so I had to fix the white border.  The front cover art is ever so slightly off-center, but my scan had everything off by about 20 degrees.  Sometimes, the stitching function gets confused or something.  My photo software is quite old, and it hasn't been supported for quite some time, but its a great program, so I still use it.  At one point, I bought a new photo-shopping program, and it wasn't half as versatile as what I have, which was bundled in with my (now antique) Epson scanner.

Feeling like I have a fever--I'm still reacting to my second Covid shot, which happened on Friday.  I thought I was on easy street, since my initial reaction was quite mild.  Then, driving home, I felt a little woozy.  That evening, I needed aspirin and Benadryl to help me sleep.  Woke up today with the shot site hurting like (does anyone use this term anymore?) the dickens.  But nothing "concerning" so far, and I'll probably be up to playing the ol' solid state Thomas organ at church tomorrow.  I hope so.

Meanwhile, some very fine quartet singing--and I almost forgot to mention that it's a thrift gift from Diane.  Thanks, Diane!

Now to discover whether I actually have a fever or whether I simply feel like I have one.  I suspect the latter.


Saturday, March 27, 2021

#1 Pop Hits (Nashville Sound 1011; 1971?); or, Lee talks down "classic" rock

DOWNLOAD: #1 Pop Hits (Nashville Sound 1011; 1971?)

This is a first.  Never before have I posted a fake-hits LP that I can barely stand.  Boy, do I hate these selections.  I know I'm a rogue Boomer, given that I'm supposed to be in love with CCR and stuff like The Night They Drove Ole Dixie Down, but I frankly don't think most of these numbers even qualify as songs.  Rock was moving into its cellular phase about this time (probably 1971), with mind-numbing repetition of the needle-stuck-in-the-grooves type.  For instance, Never Ending Song of Love does the genius, Beethoven-level bit of going from C, down to G, then back up to C, then down to G, then back up to C, then down to G, etc.  Inane lyrics atop a single chord change are about as exciting as Bubbles in the Wine played backwards, if that much.  But the song that earns bottom-of-the-list honors would have to be the stupid Do You Know What I Mean.

Naturally, this LP had all kinds of little nicks that required file-splicing--even VinylStudio's incredible declicker feature didn't catch them all (it leaves clicks and pops alone if removing them would affect the music).  And so I was having to replay short sections of songs which are already milestones of monotony, and only my devotion to bringing you the history of fake hits--only my dedication to this proud mission could have compelled me to clean up this entire LP.  That, plus I was already about halfway done, so I figured why not suffer through the rest.  There are about four songs I like here, but Nashville Sound (Spar) sure managed to find most of my least favorite Top 40 stuff from this period.  It's almost as if... as if they planned it.  As if they looked ahead 50 years into the future and said, "Lee's going to HATE this!  Buwa-ha-haaaa!"

Memory tells me that 1971 was about the time I tuned out the Top 40 and focused on my piano lessons--rock was going places I didn't want to follow it to.  Yet, there are songs from this period that I like.  That Now Generation LP I put up (Spar, again) has a number of things I dislike, but that playlist was balanced out by stuff I didn't mind (and probably even liked, in a few instances).   So, posting that was a more positive experience.  But... these are all merely my opinions, and feel free to totally disagree.  There's no right or wrong when it comes to taste.  It's just that I've been on boards where people break out in sunspots if they discover you don't like, say, Pink Floyd or Cream (and I don't).  "But, that... that's not allowed!"  None of us signed a contract promising we would like what everyone else likes.  I never did, anyway.

My favorite thing is, "How can you not like (name of group/singer)?"  These are people who don't realize that they are not the prototype for every other human in our species.

Even Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves and Take Me Home Country Roads were like sweet relief from the fake CCR and fake Rod Stewart--they both function as songs, at least.  They're professionally written.  I realize that most rock tends toward simplicity, and that much early rock and roll (my favorite) is just three or four chords.  But the early stuff moves.  It has energy, with one chord going to another--like chords should.  CCR-style songs, during the early rock and roll era, would have had teens wondering what on earth they were listening to.  Part of the problem is the awful country-rock period which arrived in the late 1960s.  I never, ever understood the country-rock fetish that happened with rock journalists--I mean, if you love country, then listen to country.  That's always an option!  I know of no corresponding weirdness from that period--say, Downbeat critics demanding polka sets from Chick Corea or Herbie Hancock.  It would be like me saying, "This Irish group is fine, and jigs are okay, but I like the big-city blues sound of 1952. Can these folks totally switch gears for me?  Thanks."  The birth of jig-blues.

Anyway, disagree with me at will, if you wish, and give these mostly competently done fakes a chance--you may be amused, surprised, or both.  Brown Sugar (a song I like) gets a pretty good counterfeit treatment here--and, really, since I don't like most of the originals, I can't complain about any of the fakes which fall short.  I'm certain that Nashville Sound knew that I'd find this LP and that I'd feel a duty to rip it for my blog.  Somehow, all those years ago, it knew...  I don't know how, but it did.

UPDATE: I had meant to add a few points, but they got lost in the post revisions.  Never My Love is from 1967, and Spar was clearly using it as filler, probably having run out of 1971 material.  It's one of the four or so tracks that I like here, though it's not my favorite Association song.  And this LP's version of the excellent Goffin-King hit Go Away Little Girl (Spar didn't bother with a comma) is Spar's 1962 version by Fred York, originally released as a 45 on Hit Records No. 43, which (going by the YouTube posting) was pitched slightly lower.  York does a decent job, but he's no Steve Lawrence.


Friday, March 26, 2021

The Castles return to Europe (1914)


The Castles were loaded--they could have afforded weekly trips, had they wanted.  I decided to redo my 1914 James Reese Europe file from the last post--I really liked the sound of my first try, but I decided the lower end needed just a little more body.  I think I've succeeded, though it took precise EQing to prevent distortion.  This is The Castles in Europe, which was an incorrect title that, for some reason, Victor gave to Europe's Castle House Rag, at least on some copies.  So, this is The Castles in Europe, but it's really Castle House Rag.  By either name, the percussion is just as amazing.

Despite the woodwinds and brass, Europe's orchestra has (to my ears) a string band sound.  It's the harmonic texture as much as anything else--a texture that I'd describe as "busy," though polyphonic or heterophonic would be the more formal term(s).  It's the texture that happens when a large group of stringed instruments are playing en masse.  Much of the earliest jazz has that busy sound, and it was precisely that cluttered sound (which to some ears sounded like cacophony) that Paul Whiteman and Ferde Grofe smoothed out so superbly in Paul's jazzy dance sides--the "symphonic jazz" which journalists of the day hailed as a step up from the "crude" music of blacks.  Whiteman had "tamed" the music.

And I love Whiteman and Grofe, anyway, because their polite jazz is brilliant.  When it comes to the arts, I like to refrain from politicizing things.

But we're talking about James Reese Europe and his amazing ragtime/jazz band, and I think it's one of the all-time toss-ups as to whether this side, and other Reese recordings like it, were jazz or ragtime (or both).  Since ragtime seems to have been the form that carried over into jazz--the style which somehow, almost invisibly, mutated into the ODJB, King Oliver, and the New Orleans Rhythm Kings, I think the "Is it jazz?" question might be irrelevant here, if only because ragtime and jazz, at this point in the evolution of black music, were at times so close in style and feel as to be... the same thing, essentially.  And if anyone knows what on earth I just typed, please send me a polite email and explain it.  Thanks in advance.

The Castles in Europe (Castle House Rag)--Europe's Society Orchestra, 1914  (with extra bass)

Ripped by me from my eBay copy.  Flat curve--i,e., 0.0 Hz bass turnover, O.O dB treble rolloff, with 300 Hz bass turnover added, along with 60 Hz LF shelf.  Then a lot of EQing.


Sunday, March 21, 2021

Gustav Holst, Carl Michael Ziehrer, Julius Fucik, Victor Herbert, Coleridge-Taylor--Shellac City, U.S.A. (1900-1938)


DOWNLOAD: Holst, Ziehrer, Fucik, Herbert, Coleridge-Taylor, more

(Left: Europe's Society Orch.--image swiped from Red Hot Jazz Archive)

Today, the fourth movement of Gustav (The Planets) Holst's St. Paul Suite in a 1938 recording by The Jacques String Orchestra; James Reese Europe's Castle House Rag recorded in 1914 by Europe's Society Orchestra, mistakenly released by Victor as The Castles in Europe; Samuel Coleridge-Taylor's famous Viking Song, (almost definitely the source for the Monty Python "Spam song") in the 1918 Vicrola label version by baritone Emilio de Gogorza; Julius Fucik's Entry of the Gladiators (as Einzug der Gladiatoren) and Austrian composer Carl Michael Ziehrer's Kinderlieden Marsch (a famous piece I'd never before heard) in amazingly high-fidelity ca. 1926 German recordings from a 12-inch Brunswick 78; and such old, old "pop" titles as Hot Time in the Old Town, Rag Time Skedaddle, Swanee (Gershwin), Cocoanut Dance, Sand Dance, and Dardanella Blues, the last title a cash-in on the smash hit Dardanella, and by two of the same writers, which was handy, since I imagine this closed the door to any charges of theft.  I was expecting something far more clever, though--maybe a song about someone who's got the blues from hearing Dardanella all the time--a cool kind of satirical self-reference.  Instead, the lyrics have something to do with the songwriter's sweetheart not being willing to marry the songwriter until he, um... does something.  Until he changes the bass figure to the song, maybe?  Someone dashed off those words in a hurry, and too bad--this could have been a memorable parody, or least a meaningful one.  By the way, the Dardanella bass figure was appropriated by Jerome Kern for his song Ka-Lu-A (1921), which resulted in a lawsuit and a small fee.  It's always possible that Kern simply came up with a similar figure, and by accident, though I doubt it.  That's in the same probability zone as Buddy Holly having just happened to sound like Bo Diddley on Not Fade Away.  Not buying it.  When you have a big hit, and it's followed by something which sounds like a copy-cat version, either in whole or part, coincidence is the least probable explanation.

So, you might wonder, is the 1900 Sand Dance an example of early exotica (as in early, early exotica)?  The answer, unfortunately, is no--and, even if there was even the slightest trace of exotica, the arrangement's use of Arkansas Traveler would kill the mood.  Cocoanut Dance--which, despite the title, sounds more minstrel than island--was ripped from a considerably less than mint copy, and the ca. 1903-1908 date range likely means that it sold a ton of copies, requiring virtuoso banjoist Vess Ossman to return to the studio and do new waxings over a five-year period (as the masters wore out, due to demand).  That's my best guess, unless the recording date stretched out to half a decade, with endless retakes until the Columbia Disc Record folks felt things were just right.  That seems far less likely.  Spending five years on a single is something invented by the rock era.

Rag Time Skedaddle is a piccolo solo (with piano accompaniment), and nowadays no one, as far as I know, associates rags or cakewalks with the piccolo, but things were different in the early 1900s--I know of at least several other piccolo-solo ragtime recordings.  Maybe, once upon a time, aspiring ragtime performers were advised to take up the piccolo. The big, bassy 1927 dance band sides (Art Landry and Johnny Hamp) may be a little jarring to the ears after the ten acoustical sides that precede them--they're apt to sound quite lifelike at first, if only because they're electric, and also because Victor liked its dance sides loud

A lovely 1920 side by John McCormack, possibly my all-time favorite singer, may be a bit out of place in this collection of light music, showtunes, piccolo rags, and 1927 dance numbers, but it sort of fits in with the general lack of scheme, I think.  A few repeats in the playlist: The Red Lantern, one of my all-time favorite dance sides (1919, when big bands consisted of nine or so players), Lanciers Figure 5 from Victor Herbert's Dolly Dollars (Prince's Orchestra, 1906--a "lancier" or "lancer" being very much like an American square dance), and Hello, My Dearie, by Prince's Band (as opposed to his orchestra), which was a number from Ziegfield Follies of 1917.  The Follies were inspired by the Folies Bergère, which was an actual music hall in Paris, whereas the Ziegfield Follies were performed in multiple locations.  And I hate phrases like "multiple locations," because "locations" is already plural.  It's like, on the nightly news, when an announcer talks about an accident involving "multiple cars."  Um, as opposed to a single cars?

If you don't know Hearts and Flowers by name, you'll recognize it a few bars into it.  I think most of us first heard it in a Looney Toons cartoon or as background music in a silent-film compilation.  You'll quickly discover you that know it by flower.  I mean, by heart.  Well, except for the dramatic bridge.  As used in the media, Hearts and Flowers is only a fraction of the whole.  Like the love theme from Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet.  How many people know that past the first eight bars?

Narcissus is one of my favorite light instrumentals of all time, and I first heard it in a bitonal (in two different keys) version as part of the background music for the 1962 Thriller episode "Cousin Tundifer." A terrific episode, though the special effects (a room gradually changing from the present to the past) seemed less impressive after I'd figured out how they'd been done (by creative matte work).  It was years before I heard the piece as written, and it may have been from a sheet music copy.  This Arthur Pryor recording is quite nice, and, as far as the 1908 and 1913 dates go (see playlist), Arthur must have re-recorded it in the latter year, using the same catalog number.  I probably have the 1913 version, as the Online 78 rpm Disco graphical Project says, "5=6/17/13."  And, sure enough, there's a tiny "5" in the dead wax.  Can we assume 1913?  Yeah, I'll go with that.

To the shellac...


St. Paul's Suite (Holst)--The Jacques String Orchestra, c. Reginald Jacques, 1938
The Castles in Europe (Castle House Rag) (Jas. Europe)--Europe's Society Orchestra, 1914
Viking Song (Wright/Coleridge-Taylor)--Emilio de Gogorza, 1918
Einzug der Gladiatoren (Fucik)--Georg Scharf's Brass Orchestra (Prob. 1926)
Kinderliedermarsch (Ziehrer)--Same
Hot Time in the Old Town--Medley March--Victor Military Band, 1917
Rag Time Skedaddle (George Rosey)--Frank Mazziotta, Piccolo Solo w. Piano (Victor 4033; ca. 1903-1910)
Swanee (I. Caesar-George Gershwin)--Peerless Quartet, 1918
Why Did I Kiss That Girl (King-Henderson)--Jos. Samuels' Music Masters, 1924
A Smile Will Go a Long Long Way (Davis-Akst)--Lanin's Arcadians, 1924
Cocoanut Dance (Andrew Herrmann)--Vess L. Ossman, Banjo Solo w. Orch. (Columbia Disc Record No. 1705; ca. 1903-1908)
Sand Dance (L. Childers)--George Schweinfest, Piccolo Solo (Lakeside Disc Record 70207; re. Columbia 195, 1900)
Hearts and Flowers (Tobani)--Victor Orchestra, 1908
The Red Lantern--Medley (Fischer, Cowan, Monaco)--Waldorf-Astoria Orchestra, Dri. Joseph Knecht, 1919
Narcissus (Ethelbert Nevin)--Arthur Pryor's Band (Victor 16029, 1908 or 1913)
The Whisper Song (Cliff Friend)--Art Landry and His Orchestra, w. vocal chorus, 1927
One O'clock Baby (De Sylva-Brown-Jolson)--Johnny Hamp's Kentucky Serenaders, V: Franklyn Baur, 1927
Dardanella Blues (Fisher-Black)--Billy Murray-Ed. Smalle (1920)
Wonderful World of Romance (Simpson-Wood)--John McCormack, Tenor with orchestra, 1920
Miss Dolly Dollars--Lanciers Figure 5 (Victor Herbert)--Prince's Orchestra, 1906
Golden Sunset Waltz (Hall)--Same
Hello, My Dearie--One-step--Prince's Band, 1917
Ching-chong--One-Step (Roberts-Strictland)--Same


Saturday, March 13, 2021

Tops Top Hit Tunes (Tops 45-S61/62; 1960, and Tops S-67/68; 1961)--Hal Sherman, Ace Checker, The Toppers, Chubby Davis


DOWNLOAD: Tops S-67-68; Tops S-61-62 (1961; 1960) 

(Note: The track marker between Dream Baby and Norman was in the wrong place; I've corrected this as of 5:12 pm.)

We're back to the "modern" world of vinyl, and so today's offerings are only seven decades old.  Someday, I might risk getting even closer to the present--say, 30 or 40 years.

1960 was the year that Bob Blythe took over Tops, and you definitely want to follow the link to the Wikipedia entry on Bob, which reads like a comedy short.  About three years later, Tops was sold to Pickwick.  So it goes, sometimes.  There was obviously quite an art to succeeding in the junk-label market, so no shame in bombing out. I didn't have time to do track comparison on these, but I'm almost sure Baby Sittin' Boogie and Blue Moon are the same masters used by Promenade (SPC) and the Hit Parader and Song Hits labels (Charlton Publications).  Also, probably, the Canadian Arc label.  In fact, all twenty of today's tracks may have shown up in the catalogs of these three or four outfits, as there was a lot of crossover happening between them.  Somehow, though, I don't feel like spending two hours testing my hunch.  Maybe later, when I'm in a properly obsessed mode.

I was surprised by how fun and catchy most of these numbers are (I'm sure they're even moreso in their original versions), since I guess that, at some point in my life, I digested the standard narrative that the period between Elvis and the Beatles was a kind of Top 40 Dark Age.  It's true that 1960 and 1961 was a time of same-sounding clinking-triplets ballads and twist numbers, not to mention some especially dumb novelty sides (Pop-Eye, anybody?), but these are fun, lively sides, and anyone who denounces Pony Time or Duke of Earl as too dumb for rock--that person has apparently forgotten about such classic-era gems as Hang On Sloopy, Mony Mony, The Jolly Green Giant, and Bread and Butter.  I mean, can something like Pop-Eye possibly out-dumb those numbers?  A great subject for a serious (and intense) debate.

Anyway, I had looked at the tracklists (most of the titles being "before my time"), and I thought, "Uh-oh.  Too many twist numbers."  An exact quote.  So I'm very pleased by the variety and energy.  Some of these are especially well done (well-faked?), while others miss the mark with weak lead vocals, but then you're getting ten songs for a buck (a dime a track), so stop complaining.  In fact, this was part of a set for which I paid $9.99, so for once I got these for something lower than the original cost (if we consider the disc-by-disc cost of the group).  And I love that ridiculous pose at the top--it has a "Look happy, or else" quality to it.

The before-the-Beatles period was packed with great stuff, of course--I'd hate to be without Duke of Earl and the Marcels' Blue Moon (Richard Rodgers' opinion aside).   Interesting numbers, in that nearly everything hinges on bass-voice riffs.  These two are part of a genre regarded by some as a second doo-wop wave--as something not authentic.  "Authentic" is too relative a concept to bother with, imo, but I can understand the purists' concern in regard to this brand of R&B vocal singing, insomuch as it has formed the public impression of the form--as opposed to, say, the early-1950s work of The Clovers, The Dominoes, or the Harptones.

Anyhow, today's stand-out tracks, to me, are The Watusi, Duke of Earl, Break It to Me Gently (great job!), Blue Moon (uncannily good cover), I Don't Want to Cry (which I first heard in the excellent 1970 version by Illustration), and What's Your Name.  (There was actually a hit called Dear Lady Twist??)  These are from a very interesting transitional period in pop, and one that still operates in the shadow of the Brit Invasion, which is too bad.  I mean, the Beatles followed, in part, from Carole King (in their songwriting), the girl groups (in many of their vocal harmonies), the basic "Ringo" beat (which is present in much pre-1963 rock), and so on.  The Fab Four obviously liked Burt Bacharach, too, or they wouldn't have recorded Baby It's You, but you had to be Brian Wilson to even halfway succeed at going the Burt route (as with Brian's I Guess I'm Dumb, a magnificent song which went nowhere).  Brits loved Burt many years before the U.S. caught on.

The 1960 tracks (set S61/62) all feature "The Toppers," who are at the top of their game.  At least, no one got goofy and dubbed them the "Cake Toppers" or something.  They were strictly a play on the label name.  Who were The Toppers?  Whoever they could get for a given session, I'm sure.

By the way, I loved the chance to type "Tops Top Hit Tunes."  It looks like a typing error, which is cool.  Er, well, typing errors aren't cool, but it's cool when something looks like a mistake but isn't.  And, the more I think about it, I'm not sure why.

These are all "Vocals & Orch.," in case someone was expecting a string quartet.

You'll be a new person after listening to this.  In terms of cell regeneration, I mean.


Tops S-67/68 (1961)

Duke of Earl--Hal Sherman
The Wanderer--Ace Checker
Dear Lady Twist--Timmy Bonds
What's Your Name--Sandy Mitchell
Pop-Eye--Huey Drake
Break It to Me Gently-Brenda Scott
Love Letters--Patsy Williams
Slow Twistin'--Mary Marlowe
Dream Baby--Roy Smith
Norman--Barbara Parker

Tops S-61/62 (1960)

The Watusi--Paul Wilson and The Toppers
Blue Moon--Bill Burnette and The Toppers
Good Time Baby--Bobby Warwick and The Toppers
Once Upon a Time--Dick Thomas and The Toppers
Apache--The Toppers
I Don't Want to Cry--Chuck Wallace
Baby Sittin' Boogie--Buzz Crawford and The Toppers
Please Love Me Forever--Sunny James and The Toppers
Pony Time--Chubby Davis and The Toppers
Where the Boys Are--Connie Samuels and The Toppers


Thursday, March 11, 2021

The return of Reuben and Cynthia


DOWNLOAD: Reuben and Cynthia, more

So, for years, when EQing 78s, I've been using the same noise-sample type in the Denoiser section of my MAGIX program.  I never questioned why this setting is the default--I'll have to study the ol' Help screen.  (It's never too late to consult the instructions.)  Anyway, my program's Denoiser window is oddly set up, to an extent--the noise-sample type appears in two places: on top of the "Create Noise Sample" portion, and below the spectrum view.  Again, I never questioned the default noise-type setting-- "DeRumlber weak (Vinyl)"--and I always figured a little derumble filtering is good for a file.  Anyway, I finally changed the preset for this, and I saved the preset, hoping that this would make it the default preset, but... no.  So, to the Help screen I need to go.

Meanwhile, my new choice for the noise-sample type seems to be working a lot better, as far as noise reduction on noisier 78s.  So I'm happy.

And so I have some improved 78 EQs, including the racist-but-perfectly-accepted-for-its-time Alagazam (To the Music of the Band), which is a clever and catchy number, with the great Peerless Quartet in top form, no matter how embarrassing the, shall we say, flavor of the number.

Reuben and Cynthia, from the 1892 hit musical A Trip to Chinatown (Charles H. Hoyt-Percy Gaunt), is first on our playlist, and the number--kind of a proto-country banter song--seems to have become identified with "hillbillies" and hillbilly/country music.  The melody has a folk sound to it--or, at least, the sound of something mid-19th century rather than late 19th-century--and of course it might have a folk source, but so far I've found nothing to support this.  The same musical gave us After the Ball and The Bowery.  Last time, I mentioned the amazing piano work (which is still amazing), and the approximately four seconds of Corinne Morgan  singing in the background as the record starts, just before the announcer comes in. Both apparently missed their starting cues.  The male voice is Frank C. Stanley, who recorded a ton of solo and quartet sides (he was a member of the Peerless Quartet).  He died in 1910.

I'll repeat my account of The Royal Purple--Come Fill Your Glasses up: The 1914 Williams Mandolin Club 78 was a freebie included with an eBay order.  I was astonished by what I heard, because it is very much like the African-American string bands I'd heard on acoustical recordings from the same period, except, in this case, the Mandolin Club (along with being middle-class Caucasian) was evidently recorded as is.  It wasn't pared down, as we might expect, to four or five players, with the percussion close to the horn (that's why you have to really listen for the drumming on this side).  And, since I have no idea how a large string club/orchestra should sound with the acoustical process, I had to make my best guesses--about nine of them--before deciding my file was as good as I was going to get it.  And, in today's post, you hear a whole new restoration which is closer to the very dull fidelity of the raw file, which you can hear at the Library of Congress' National Jukebox.  You can hear what I had to work with, though of course I used my own copy (the LOC recordings are not downloadable).  The second part of this record, the one that picks up in tempo and charges ahead in near-ragtime fashion, is an 1896 text named "Come Fill Your Glasses Up", which was matched to a strain from Sousa's Corcoran Cadets march of 1890.  High school and college mandolin and banjo clubs, which were often augmented with drums, reeds, and brass (there seems to have been an anything-goes ethic), were a big thing from the 1880s to the early 1920s.  They represent nothing less than middle-class (or at least upper middle-class and upper-class) white kids imitating an African-American model, which sort of flies in the face of the "Whites never heard anything black" clichĂ© so essential to the false narratives that go with jazz and rock, in particular. These clubs didn't up and vanish, but they seemed to become less common after that initial boom.  And the Jazz Age of the 1920s seems to have completely changed the character of these outfits (though I'm generalizing from what little data I have). "Massed" string bands--clubs--existed all over the country--New England, the Midwest, Colorado, etc., and there were men's and women's groups.  Here's the not-tiny 1917 Oxford University (of Ohio) mandolin club.  Good grief.  And you'll notice a banjo and some other non-mandolin instruments... 

Our third 78 is the 1915 Peerless Quartet number mentioned above, and this rip is a significant improvement over the previous one, as is (to a greater extent) Reuben and Cynthia.

Then we have quieter rips of Mellie Dunham's country outfit, from 1926--two contra dances (closely related to square dances) by this New England fiddler and his men.  New England country is a neat thing, given that we don't generally associate New England with hillbilly music.  Then, UK-born Charles D'Almaine, from 1905, with a Medley of Old Time Reels, and it's always cool to find the phrase "old time" being used in 1905.  D'Almaine was a very accomplished musician--as in, the type typically not regarded as "authentic"--and he was not even from here (my "here," that is).  So how can he be regarded as anything close to the real deal?  Well, he came from a spot close to the source of many, if not most, of the old time reels in question, so I'd say he passes the authenticity test--which, in real life, is set up so that it can never be passed.  Authenticity, as the concept is employed in real life, falls into the "necessarily true" category in logic--something is so because it is so.  More specifically, it's defined so narrowly as to ensure that only a few, favored individuals will fit the highly imprecise bill. 

Enjoy!  And I'm proud of the restraint I showed with the Williams College Mandolin Club.  You can only "add" so much audio detail to an acoustical recording before you've ruined the dynamic balance and increased the distortion.  But now we know why large groups of stringed instruments were so rarely recorded in full.

And I just figured out how to embed the Nation Jukebox file:


Saturday, March 06, 2021

An Hour of Popular Favorites: Royale Concert Orchestra (Royale 1326)


I love the 1930s-style art here, and this particular on-the-town image shows up on at least one other Royale LP.  So, An Hour of Popular Favorites.  Would you settle for 41 minutes?  Because that's what you get.  Of course, you could always put a few tracks on replay, which would get you closer to an hour.  So, I ripped this a week ago, and listening to it just now, the rumble was offending my ears.  So I used MAGIX's rumble filter, and things sound better.  But I mention this on account of the fact that typically, when I make a major change to the sound of a track, or a set thereof, I give it day to make sure I didn't make the change in error.  I'm really meticulous about this stuff.  That's why my Williams College Mandolin Club file (last post) took around ten tries.  During Christmas, when I'm rushing to deadline, I often put up restorations that have me wincing after the fact.  There was a group of 78s that didn't come out very well, but nothing I can do about that now.  Sometimes, you just gotta close your eyes and press the "Publish" tab.  This is not a job for the squeamish.

So, like all Record Corp. of America (not to be confused with RCA) releases--or like many of them, anyway--this has a copyright year of 1952, which I don't trust.  Besides, I'm pretty sure most, or all, of these tracks are reissues--for example, the four Percy Faith tracks--Begin the Beguine, Dancing in the Dark, That Old Black Magic, and The Touch of Your Hand--appeared on Majestic and/or Varsity 78s in 1947 (or at least were recorded in that year).  And the Ted Straeter side--The Most Beautiful Girl in the World--dates to about 1948.

I have no idea where the rest of the tracks come from, but feel free to investigate--and let me know what you discover.  And, unless the Varsity label had a wonky cataloging scheme (which is very possible), it appears that some of the Percy Faith material showed up on that label after Faith hit it big on Columbia.  The old artist-becomes-popular-and-the-previous-label-or-labels-rush-out-earlier-recordings routine.  Like RCA Camden, with Roger Miller.  I imagine Starday Records did the same thing with its Miller material.

Back to today's tracks, the original masters probably sounded good, but Royale did its usual crummy remastering job here, so what we get, audio-wise, is pretty good but nothing to phone home about.  Yet, we (or at least I) have heard far worse fidelity on LPs from this cheapest-of-the-cheap label group--I guess I would have to rate this audio (post-rumble filter) as surprisingly adequate.  It's possible I have a never-before-played copy, though it's hard to tell with junk labels, since "mint" is relative.  And so there were pressing defects and other things I had to contend with, but for late-1940s easy listening, these are all excellent and decently recorded examples.  I was honestly expecting D- fidelity along the lines of An Hour of Star Dust, a Royale classic which boasted terrific performances--and hold-the-mike-up-to-the-radio-speaker fidelity.  An audio embarrassment, though a truly fun LP.  Today's Royale collection is easily a C+, or even a B, sound-wise, and the content is top-notch mood music--in particular, the superb Percy Faith numbers.  I'm sure that Royale, if it was still in business, would send its apologies for the missing 19 minutes (from the "hour" of favorites).

DOWNLOAD: An Hour of Popular Favorites--Royale Concert Orch. (Royale 1326)


Friday, March 05, 2021

Reuben and Cynthia; Come Fill Your Glasses Up; Alagazam (To the Music of the Band); 1903-1915


DOWNLOAD: Reuben and Cynthia; Come Fill Your Glasses Up; Alagazam

I haven't posted in a while, though I have three entries nearly ready.  In the meantime, here are three 78s, two of which required four or five (or six) tries to get right.  Or someplace close to right.  The third--a typically-racist-for-its-time 1915 side called Alagazam (To the Music of the Band)--only required a couple tries, as I quickly realized that the lack of audio body in the quartet was a fault of the recording--maybe something to do with positioning the recording bell/horn to best capture the bass drum sound.  This could have precluded placing the quartet any closer.  And, oddly enough, my memory of this side is that Billy Murray can be heard on it, and prominently.  But there's no trace of him.  Maybe it's simply the kind of thing I can imagine him being a part of.

Reuben and Cynthia, from the 1892 hit musical A Trip to Chinatown (Charles H. Hoyt-Percy Gaunt), is first on our playlist, and it has all the characteristics of a comic country duet (with banter), albeit without country-sounding voices, save for Frank C. Stanley's New England-style old-guy accent (and there was a New England branch of country/hillbilly).  Or, should I say, it contains the seeds of comic country banter?  No, I'll stick with my first choice. 

I'm assuming that  "Reuben" means "rube," and while Stanley is somewhat in character, Corinne Morgan sounds more like a society lady than a simple country girl, or whatever she's supposed to be in this number (lyrics here). Corinne was born in central Ohio, where I live, though her accent is like nothing I've heard in these parts.  However, years of vocal training, the need to overenunciate for the recording horn, plus the fact that the acoustical process wasn't kind to the female range--these could all explain her seemingly odd accent.  That, plus the passage of  118 years.  That can do it.  Now, I was thinking this song might have a folk source, but I've been unable to establish anything like that.  It's probably one of those composed numbers that just happens to sound "traditional."  The same musical gave us After the Ball and The Bowery.  The coolest thing about this 1903 recording (which I ripped from my 1908 reissue) is not only the amazing piano work, but the approximately four seconds of Corinne singing in the background as the record starts, just before the announcer comes in--late.  It seems like both of them missed their cues.  I love caught-on-wax errors of that type.  In the starting grooves, it seems to be a different number Corrine is singing--possibly in preparation for her next session.

The 1914 Williams Mandolin Club 78 was a freebie included with an eBay order.  I was astonished by what I heard, because it is very much like the African-American string bands I'd heard on acoustical recordings from the same period, except, in this case, the Mandolin Club was evidently recorded as is.  It wasn't pared down to four or five players, with the percussion close to the horn (that's why you have to really listen for the drumming on this side).  And, since I have no idea how a large string club/orchestra should sound with the acoustical process, I had to make my best guesses--about nine of them--before deciding my file was as good as I was going to get it.  I really, really want to generalize like crazy from this single example of a college string band/club, given that mandolin and banjo clubs are African-American in origin and that what we likely have here are middle class white kids imitating black models (which meant the kids had heard the real deals).  The second part of this record, the one that picks up in tempo and charges ahead in near-ragtime fashion, is an 1896 text named "Come Fill Your Glasses Up" (gee, I wonder what that's about?) and matched to a strain from Sousa's Corcoran Cadets march of 1890.  But, as much as I want to generalize like crazy from a single example, I know the foolishness of trying.  At any rate, high school and college mandolin and banjo clubs, which were often augmented with drums, reeds, and brass (there seems to have been an anything-goes ethic), were a big thing from the 1880s to the early 1920s.  They didn't up and vanish, but they seemed to become less common after that initial boom.  I have seen a few college banjo club LPs, I believe, but I can't imagine a record store section devoted to same.  "Massed" string bands--clubs--existed all over the country--New England, the Midwest, Colorado, etc., and there were men's and women's groups.  Here's the not-tiny 1917 Oxford University (of Ohio) mandolin club.  Good grief.  And you'll notice a banjo and some other non-mandolin instruments... 

Our last 78--a 1915 Victor--features the superb Peerless Quartet--my favorite of all, from their time as the Columbia Quartette and forward--with Alagazam (To the Music of the Band), and I've heard too many jazz, rag, and rag-related sides from this period to be remotely surprised that the "darky patrol" tradition hadn't yet disappeared.  So much great music from the 1890s-1920s, and there's no way to pry it loose from the front-and-center racism--the words and images--that came with it.  I've been reading up on Alagazam in an attempt to figure out its meaning, and all I can tell you is that there was a 1902 ragtime piece by that title, with "Alagazam" allegedly a refrain marched to by a "colored regiment" in the South--so the composer of the piece claimed to have witnessed.  The word must be related to "Alakazam," which is a magical phrase of the "Abracadabra" type.  Maybe the idea is syncopated rhythms have a magical effect or quality.  Or maybe it's simply a nonsense word. 

A fuller playlist next time...