Monday, May 31, 2021

Memorial Day 2021--Your blogger at the keyboard


Six Memorial Day pieces, all played by me on my trusty Casio WK-3800.  I know--Casio; ha, ha!  But this keyboard has some pretty amazing patches, I think the term is.  Some quick practicing on a few of these, with Praise for Peace redone just now at a slower tempo--I realized I had been speeding through it, and that just wasn't correct for a number called Praise for Peace.  We start with God Save America, which dates from 1942, and no political commentary intended--it's just a very nice patriotic number with some charming chromaticism in the harmony.  The only problem with altered chords, of course, is a higher chance of fumbling--but you won't be hearing any of the flubs, because they all went to the great delete folder in the sky.  Keller's American Hymn, aka American Hymn, aka Speed our Republic, O Father on high, is a terrific 1866 (?) tune by the German-American composer Matthias Keller (1813-1875), which was joined in 1869 to a text (Hymn of Peace) by Oliver Wendell Holmes.  Here's a wonderful YouTube performance of that version by Quire Cleveland.  That post deserves many more thumbs up.

William Billings' Revolutionary War classic Chester makes its return, and there are two "new" numbers, including Walter J. Goodell's America, My Country, which goes back at least to 1924.  The other is We Bless Thee for Thy Peace, O God, which is matched with Josiah Booth's 1887 tune, Northrepps.  Thanks to the priceless resource, The Cyber Hymnal, for that night-before-church find.

DOWNLOAD: Memorial Day 2021

God Save America (W. Otto Miessner, 1942)

America, My Country (Walter J. Goodell)

Chester (William Billings)

Praise for Peace (aka Praise Ye the Triune God) (Friedrich F. Flemming: Flemming, 1811)

We Bless Thee for Thy Peace, O God (Josiah Booth: Northrepps. 1887)

Keller's American Hymn (Matthias Keller, 1866?)

Played by Lee Hartsfeld, Casio WK-3800


Thursday, May 27, 2021

A belated Happy 100th Birthday to Hal David! (1946-1962)

Well, another birthday--this time, the late Hal David's--and it's his centenary, as Diane (who suggested this post) just reminded me.  And I'm putting this up late--Hal's day was May 25th--but I had to do a lot of digging to locate my Hal-without-Burt selections, so... that's my excuse.  And here are sixteen Hal David goodies, all with composers other than Burt (in particular, Leon Carr and Lee Pockriss) and spanning the years 1946-62.  The best of the images has to be the Top 30 Tunes label for Johnny Get Angry, with its amusing typo, Johnny Gets Angry (I retained it in the listing).  And I was surprised to discover that Hal had penned, not only the lyrics for that 1962 Joannie Sommers hit, but also the words for 1959's My Heart Is an Open Book.  That one also appears here in fake-hit form, courtesy of the Broadway label.

The most unusual (as opposed to the silliest) selection in our list has to be I've Got a Walkie Talkie, a 1946 George Olsen side crooned by Judith Blair;  It's in a Guy Lombardo big band style (George, what happened to you?), badly recorded for the Majestic label (I had to do some artful re-EQing), and the lyrics aren't Hal's best (even with such a promising title; not), but the notion of a walkie talkie functioning, in effect, as a modern cellphone is interesting and weird.  1949's I Wish I Had a Record (Of the Promises You Made) is one of my favorite Perry Como sides, and it's easy to imagine this number doubling as a country novelty.  Mitch Miller's Orchestra accompanies Kitty Kallen on Mother, Mother, Mother (Pin a Rose on Me), and so we know Miller produced the side, too.  I'm not crazy about the tune, but we can hear hints of Hal's brilliance with words--it's a light novelty number, but there are many clever turns, and we have an early example of Hal telling a story in lyrics.  So, Hal was a storyteller even before he met Burt--cool.  Little Crazy Quilt is highly competent but unexceptional (though the superbly versatile Page is always wonderful to hear), and Goo-Goo Doll is... extremely not serious.  And unfortunately (for camp's sake), it's neither technically bad nor in especially bad taste--it's  merely harmless.  As a novelty, a letdown, iow.  But Hal certainly did a good job tailoring the lyrics for Steve Allen's sense of humor, which was never what we could call evolved (or funny).  And did goo-goo dolls actually sound like that?  I recall that the peacocks who used to roam my yard sounded exactly like the sound effects at the close.

Seven Pretty Dreams is Hal back in storytelling mode, with a lovely melody to match, and the text is simply beautiful.  Betty Johnson's elegant vocal and Hugo Winterhalter's accompaniment make this Grade-A 1950s pop.  Eydie Gorme's A Girl Can't Say has tune writer Leon Carr playing Bacharach-style tricks with the phrases, and the result is fascinating.  I didn't know anyone was fiddling with form to quite that extent in pre-Burt days.  Hal's words are expertly clever.  I Came Back to Say I'm Sorry is like an R&B shuffle slowed down to 16 rpm, but after my initial reaction ("Ugh!"), I've come to like this performance.  Phoned-in lyrics, but that'll happen whenever someone's output is as huge as Hal's. The Boy on Page Thirty-Five is clever enough, though it sounds like something Hal could have dashed off while taking a snooze--too ordinary an effort, in this blogger's opinion.  My Heart Is an Open Book, luckily, is a big step up, and here we have a melody as memorable as the lyrics--even this fake hit version scores well.  Also from 1959, maybe my all-time favorite Frankie Laine side, The Valley of a Hundred Hills--a pop masterpiece on all levels, and the perfect marriage of melody and lyrics.  Again, Hal is telling a story, and a memorable one.  This could easily have been throwaway fluff; instead, along with Geisha Girl, it's the best offering in the list, imo.  And the stereo sound is wonderful.  There's nothing quite like a 7" stereo single.

Unloved and Maybe Tomorrow (But Not Today) are not examples of Hal-quality Hal--the latter is especially annoying.  But the closing number, 1962's My Geisha, with its lovely melody by Franz Waxman, mostly atones for the two clunkers--Hal's lyrics can't be called inspired, but they're expertly done and possess a David-Bacharach kind of elegance.  Meanwhile, Jerry Vale's vocal is superb.  The side is too beautifully done to write off as fluff, and I suppose the lack of lyrical depth is inevitable, since it's a title song for a movie. 

A belated Happy Birthday to a superbly gifted wordsmith, whose best work will hopefully be remembered for decades to come. 

DOWNLOAD: Hal David Without Burt, 1946-1962


I've Got a Walkie Talkie (David-Rodney-Block)--Geroge Olsen and His Orch., vocal: Judith Blair, 1946 
I Wish I Had a Record (Goodhart-Altman-David)--Perry Como w. Mitch Ayres and His Orch., 1949 
Mother, Mother, Mother, Pin a Rose on Me (H. David--A. Altman)--Kitty Kallen w. Mitch Miller's Orch., 1950 
Little Crazy Quilt (Hal David-Leon Carr)--Patti Page w. Jack Rael and His Orch., 1955 
Goo-Goo Doll (Jack Wolf-Hal David-Leon Carr)--Steve Allen w. Dick Jacobs Chorus and Orch., 1955 
Don't Throw My Love Away (David-Carr)--Joan Weber, 1955 
A Girl Can't Say (Leon Carr-Hal David)--Eydie Gorme w. Dick Jacobs Cho. and Orchestra, 1955
Seven Pretty Dreams (Leon Carr-Hal David)--Betty Johnson w. Hugo Winterhalter's Orch. and Cho., 1955 
I Came Back to Say I'm Sorry (David-Carr)--The Lancers w. Dick Jacobs Cho. and Orchestra, 1956 
The Boy on Page Thirty-Five (David-Carr)--Cathy Carr w. Dan Belloc Orch. and Chorus, 1956 
My Heart Is an Open Book (H. David-L.Pockriss)--Vocals and Orch. by Popular Radio & TV Artists (Broadway label, 1959?) 
The Valley of a Hundred Hills (H. David--S. Edwards)--Frankie Laine, Orch. c. by Richard Hyman, 1959 
Unloved (H. David, L. Pockriss)--Tommy Edwards, 1960
Maybe Tomorrow (But Not Today) (David-Hampton)--Danny Peppermint w. Orchestra and Cho., 1962 
Johnny Gets (sic) Angry (H. David-S. Edwards)--Unknown (Top 30 Tunes 10; 1962?) 
My Geisha (You Are Sympathy to Me) (David-Waxman)--Jerry Vale, Arr. and Cond. by Glenn Osser, 1962 


Saturday, May 22, 2021

A fake-hits birthday!


I usually don't make a point of my birthday at the blog, but I've reached the age after 63, and I thought I'd celebrate with two fab forgeries: Birthday and When I'm 64.  Brought to you by The Candy-Rock Generation and Unknown.

When I'm 64, yes.  Wait--that's now.  Whoa.  At this rate, I'll be 65 next year.

DOWNLOAD: Birthday fakes

Birthday--The Candy-Rock Generation, 1969

When I'm 64--Unknown (Arc AS 796)


Friday, May 21, 2021

The Revelers: Gems from "Oh, Kay!" (1927), plus more shellac classics (1909-1928)


Not too long ago, David asked me to post any Revelers sides I own, and Gems from "Oh, Kay!" is my sole Revelers side.  So... here it are.

Someone took less than ideal care of the disc, as you can tell by the damaged label (top image--gramophone needles played heck with paper labels), and this is after photo-shopping.  Two serious gouges in the grooves, so you'll hear some sonic "turbulence" halfway through, but nothing drastic.  I had to creatively work around the missing groove portions with my MAGIX program.  And, did I say "my sole Revelers side"?  Well, it's my sole all-Revelers side, but I'm betting the farm that it's the Revelers at the start of the Eveready Hour Group's Down South--and the group members' names are part of the long track roster, so I can't see how it couldn't be them doing the opening quartet chores.  (Opening quartet chores?)

Down South was a very popular number (maybe it still is) by British composer William H. Myddleton, whose real name was George Arnold Haynes Safroni-Middleton.  Kind of funny (if that's the word) that a famous minstrel-style "I long to be back in the South" ditty was written by an Englishman.  What was next?  God Bless America by a songwriter born in Siberia?

And we get a repeat (hopefully, in better, more up-front fidelity this time) of the 1926 Chicago Symphony Orch.'s recording of Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance, followed by the song version of the "walking song" section--Land of Hope and Glory, superbly sung by the Victor Male Chorus, 1925.  Continuing the theme of  American-style works from European composers, we have Giuseppe Creatore's arrangement of French composer Adolphe Sellenick's Indian March (that's Adolphe on the left), and I guess that completes the imported-Americana titles.  Bandmaster Creatore's fame rivaled that of John Philip Sousa's, I read on line (Wikipedia, probably), and I had no idea.  Imagine the days when light concert music ruled--the past is hardly all sunshine and roses, but there are some portions we wish we could have back.  For me, it would be the days of light music everywhere.  And I suppose Gems from "No, No Nanette" would fall into the light music category, given the operetta sound to the side.  Gorgeous and classic Vincent Youmans numbers, and I used to have a No, No Nanette revival LP.  Used to.  It grew legs and walked away, I guess.  Tea for Two (the highlight of the medley, for me) is one of my all-time favorite songs, and the song has been done a disservice by having its verse (introductory section) eliminated in so many performances--that verse is essential to the song's beauty.  The song also lends itself to sing-songy and monotonous interpretations, but when sung with feeling at a medium tempo, it's pure gold.  The modulation to the key of the major third (in the chorus) never grows old for me.

And I also promised David the flip side of Homer Rodeheaver's Victor recording of Jesus, Rose of Sharon (a Charles Gabriel masterpiece), and so here it is (along with Sharon): an A.H. and B.D. Ackley gem, Where They Never Say Goodbye.  I personally regard Rodeheaver's baritone as quite solid, and I much prefer his electrical sides, because they give us an idea of his vocal power.  "Rodeheaver" is pronounced Rode-ah-Haiv-er, and no one was more surprised than me to learn that.  Homer's two 1925 78s boast superb sound quality, especially given that 1925 was the year microphone recordings became a thing--commercially, that is.

I didn't have time to look up Victor Herbert's marvelous Algeria, but the chorus to The Rose of Algeria is one of the loveliest numbers I've ever heard.  1909 is the recording date for the Victor Light Opera Chorus' Gems from "Algeria," and frankly I think the whole delightful medley has an ahead-of-its-time sound.  Which is to say, though Herbert is typically sort of tucked away as a pre-showtune or strictly operetta composer, I hear the a prototype for the Broadway musicals to come.  I'm no authority on showtunes, but I think Herbert does not get his due as one of the songwriters who laid down the law for Broadway shows.  For instance, his 1919 I Might Be Your Once-in-a-While was profoundly sophisticated for the time--Herbert was working ahead of the Gerswin/Porter/Kern/et al. curve with that one.  The song isn't in our playlist, but I did feature it a while back on a hill-and-dale Pathe 78.

We close with an incredible live recording (from 1927!) of the 2500-strong, all-male Associated Glee Clubs of America, as they peak the 1927 mixing board meter with their excellent performance of British composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor's Viking Song.  (The mixed-race Coleridge-Taylor referred to himself as "an Anglo-African,")  This famous choral number is the obvious source for the Monty Python Spam sketch, and it's all about the British shipbuilding industry.  I read someplace (but where, I know not) that this outdoor concert was piped into a radio station via phoneline.  The engineer clearly had mixing capability, because we can hear the volume cut back whenever it peaks.  I doubt any auto-limiters were being manufactured back then, so I'm picturing a guy at a vintage mixing board, monitoring things with old-fashioned headphones and manually reducing the input signal when necessary--likely, with a knob and not a slider.  That, or someone yanked the microphone away at peak-volume moments (not likely).

DOWNLOAD: Revelers, and more (1909-1928)


Sunday, May 16, 2021

Strange LP of 1967-1969 fake hits--Or, Is it possible to make The 1910 Fruitgum Company sound worse?


Answer: Yes, it's possible not to do justice to The 1910 Fruitgum Company.  Who would have guessed?  But not a bad group of fakes, overall, the worst aspect being the sound, which I improved considerably, I think.  Naturally, I would think so.  This coverless LP came stuffed into a thrift copy of 25 Hit Tunes, which was distributed by Hit Tunes, Inc., a subsidiary of R.T.V. Sales, Inc., and produced by (of all people) Starday Recording & Publishing Co. in conjunction with Keel Mfg. Corp.  Did you get all that?  There'll be a quiz.

That particular LP contains Tequila by The Champs, Sheila by Tommy Roe, I Wonder Why by Dion and the Belmonts, and I Got Rhythm by the Carlocks, and Groovin' by the Spads.  Yup, I remember those two Top 40 hits by... wait a minute.  The Carlocks and the Spads?  Meanwhile, the track listing on my copy doesn't exactly match the one at Discogs, and one of the companies--R.T.V. Sales, Inc., maybe?--put title-revision stickers on the back cover.  But we won't be hearing that LP.

Rather, we will be hearing the simply titled Hit Tunes, which also has 25 hits, but none of them credited to anyone (in the purest fake-hit fashion), and with matrix numbers rather than a regular catalog number, and a label which appears to be called Jaro.  And the Jaro labels that come up on Discogs--none of them seem to be this one.  I can't believe this came as a mail-order extra with the Starday/R.T.V. Sales LP, but then who knows?  "And you get a totally confusing bonus group of fakes with every order!"

I remember maybe 2/3 of these from their first time on the airwaves, while other titles--all hits--aren't familiar at all.  These include Elenore, Too Weak to Fight (orig. Clarence Carter, 1968), Cloud Nine, Time Has Come Today (Chambers Brothers, re-released 1967), and Master Jack (Four Jacks and a Jill, 1968).  Now, Time Has Come Today seems like the sort of song I'd remember, so I guess I just forgot Time with time.  Maybe I found it too annoying to remember.  A good number of songs that I would never have rushed out to buy, along with some very nice memories mixed into the mix.  And I guess I recall The 1910 Fruitgum Company with affection.  My sister had their singles, and certainly worse rock/pop has been made.  Maybe.  As noted earlier, the two 1910 covers (Yummy Yummy Yummy and Chewy Chewy) are a bit amateurishly done, but they're not the kind of hits we'd expect to receive loving covers ("All right, Take 20!").  And, for anyone who wasn't, um, lucky enough to hear these two numbers back in the day (maybe you weren't born yet), they were not followed by Tummy Tummy Tummy Ache or Belching Belching, though those would probably have hit the charts, too.  I just remember that The 1910 Fruitgum Company was one of several groups made up of studio pros, as part of the genre labeled "bubblegum."  I could quickly look up "bubblegum" (and the responsible producers), but I don't feel motivated.  I just remember folks complaining about the stuff being too immature for rock, but then rock, by that point, was officially anti-anyone-over-25, so this pretty much put rock in a hard place.  I mean, on what logical grounds can music for the young be dissed for its youth appeal?  Or whatever I just typed?

Anyone with any info on the Jaro label, please comment.  In fact, there's been a near-radio silence around here, even though my files have been moving.  Feel free to comment, so at least I know that people are out there.  I mean, maybe my stuff is being downloaded by spies from one of Pluto's moons.  (You never know.)  My thanks to the four guys who have commented, and it's not like I'm counting or anything.  Even "This album sucks" would be fine (but only so long as that's your actual opinion).  I never take such feedback personally--unless you call whimpering and beating on a pillow in frustration and moaning "Why?  Why??" an example of taking something personally.  Cultures vary in that regard.  Somewhere, there's a society in which that constitutes a normal reaction.

So, competent studio musicians, despite some bad lead singing at times (Both Sides Now, for instance), but I'm a little surprised that the label gives zero indication as to where this was made, or what label group it was connected to.  Not even a regular catalog number.  Sheesh.  Well, actually, I have some fake-hit 7" EPs that are similarly lacking in that regard, but they're probably mail-order items that, at one point, had sleeves.  If only this hadn't been stuffed into the wrong jacket--a jacket that was weird enough to begin with.  I... I've been doing these too long.  They're driving me rational.

I was 10, 11, and 12 (one of those three) when these came out (the originals, that is), so I wonder why each and every one isn't familiar.  Was 1967/1968 when I started to tune out rock?  Hm.  That's possible, though it seems a little early.  Of the groups I didn't like at the time but which I like now, The 5th Dimension probably tops the list.  Everyone, I think, has a personal list of groups he or she didn't like at the time but likes now.  I could picture an entire Facebook page devoted to that topic.  ("Tell us why you want to join this page.")

And I don't even remember Bang-Shang-A-Lang, but I certainly remember the Archies.  I'm still astonished that comic characters could cut records.  At any rate, Bang-Shang-A-Lang certainly sounds like an Archies title.  It also sounds like something The Marcels might have put out.  The title, I mean.

Oh, and I was going to add that no one could sound less like Donovan than whoever did Hurdy Gurdy Man here.  And I guess I'm just now realizing the song is the same two bars over and over.  That's pushing it, even for rock.  It all has an "I'll get this song started eventually..." feel.  (I like Donovan, regardless.)  And Naturally Stoned reminds me so very much of this era--there was constant talk of reaching a natural (as opposed to the other) kind of high.  Actually, nature abounds with substances that'll do the trick, so "natural high" always struck me as kind of... redundant?

They should have called this Yummy Hits, except maybe that would have had an R-rated sound...  ("No, son, you're not getting Yummy Hits!")  And were there any contemporary pop music critics who literally said, "Phooey Phooey to Chewy Chewy"?  I'll bet there were.  To the fakes!!

DOWNLOAD: Hit Tunes (Jaro 105/106; year unknown)

Time Has Come Today
Little Green Apples
Take Me for a Little While
The House That Jack Built
Master Jack
With Pen in Hand
Yummy Yummy Yummy
Hurdy Gurdy Man
Six Man Band
Naturally Stoned
Sealed With a Kiss
Hi-Heeled Sneakers
Bang Shang-A-Lang
Chewy Chewy
Both Sides Now
Too Weak to Fight
For Once in My Life
Hold Me Tight
Abraham Martin and John
Cloud Nine
Sweet Blindness
I Love How You Love Me (revived by Bobby Vinton in the late 1960s)
Kentucky Woman

Hit Tunes (Jaro 105/106)


Wednesday, May 12, 2021

The return of Bobby Krane--Tops in Pops (Bravo PEP-201-4)

DOWNLOAD: Tops in Pops--Bobby Krane (Bravo PEP-201-4; two-EP 7" set)

And here we are--Tops in Pops, "as tabulated by the nation's top radio stations."  The nation's top radio stations--really?

"Get me the hotline to the nation's top radio stations.  Hello?  Hi, this is the Bravo! label..."--Bobby Krane, 1959.  "Special guest vocalists" is a sneaky sort of phrase for "moonlighting studio singers," but "Singers who don't want to get busted by the union" doesn't have quite the same ring.  And, of course, with the budget operations, everything was special, somehow, and because "special" sounds better than "cheap" or "cut-rate" or "We fooled you, nyah nyah!"

Now, I don't know for a fact that any of these vocalists were breaking union rules, but that's my best guess.  It's also possible that these singers had ambitions in the industry and didn't want to be associated with the six-tracks-on-one-side market.  Not good for a beginner's resume.

What I do know is that these are pretty decent covers.  And I'm also nearly, mostly certain that I've already featured a number of them in their Top Hit Tunes (Waldrof/Ampar) incarnations, with four or five almost definitely on their second go-round.  For instance, I'm sure that this anonymous version of Apache is the same version credited to "The City Boys" on THT.  And you have to give credit to whoever came up with "The City Boys," though I'm not sure why.  I mean, "The City Boys" sounds like a pure let's-wrap-up-this meeting-so-I-can-get-home-and-haul-the-trash-to-the-curb bit of last-minute desperation.  "Hell, just call them the City Boys.  That's it.  Goodnight."  And today's Think Twice is probably the version credited on THT to "Brother Ray"--who, whatever his real name was, is no Brook Benton.  And if Think Twice has you thinking about a famous Bob Dylan song, it's all right.  (Chortle, guffaw.)  

Meanwhile, here's the "card" that came inside the sleeve shown above--the hole in the "title strip" is a jobber-rack hole, though the "Send 3 different strips with 15¢ and get one 'BONUS' EP (6 songs) FREE!" tells us that these cheaply packaged offerings were sold both by mail and in-store.  And, to be fair, that cover photo is kind of cool, which may explain why Pickwick kept using it.  And I'm repeating myself, I know.  But that's inevitable, since this market was all about getting the maximum bang for the buck with duplicate sales.  The maximum bang for the sellers, not the buyers, of course.

And I should mention Brian McFadden's wonderful Rock Rarities for a Song, a book about the budget labels (well, more specifically, about the rare, highly collectible tracks that happened to turn up on the budgets) which answers a lot of the questions I've had for some time.  It's written by a record-biz insider, which makes sense, because who else would have access to such data?  First off, it seems it was common practice for the different label groups to swap fake hits--to literally trade tapes.  ("I'll give you five of our fakes for five of yours.")  I already knew that much label-hopping was occurring, but somehow I figured it was a more organized thing.  Nope.  It was done casually, like everything else with the cheapies.  So, the big mystery regarding Waldorf/Ampar and Pickwick connection is, in fact, no mystery at all--it was just the standard get-less-for-your-money marketing strategy.  We can forgive the budgets, to some extent, for being sneaky, since obviously these operations had to keep moving product if they didn't want to go bankrupt.  Unlike the legit labels, there was no room for error.

As a bonus track, I offer the complete, uncut-for-EP version of the abbreviated Top Hit Tunes Tallahassee Lassie track that I featured in this post, where it was credited to "Ted Colt," whose real name was Ted Malt Liquor.  At the time, I wrote, "Oddly enough, I can find no LP appearance of the Waldorf Tallahassee Lassie, and I'd love to hear the full cut. It may even have had a guitar solo."  And, all this time, it was sitting, minding its own business, on a Bravo Bobby Krane Tops in Pops LP.  And, indeed, there's a guitar solo.  Fun fake, though it epically lacks the energy of the original.

On the label scans, you can observe how Pickwick tried to generate excitement by making the "o" in "Bravo" look like an exclamation mark.  Problem is, frumpy white font on black, ultra-generic labels hardly spells "excitement."  Then again, any visual glitz was saved for the "envelopes," not the cheaply pressed EPs.  And as much as I enjoy insulting these things, you know I love them to death.  Enjoy!


Saturday, May 08, 2021

Shellac-athon for a rain-soaked spring. Or, vintage polka time! (1915-1931)


DOWNLOAD: Shellac-athon for 5/8/21

Well, to be fair, this isn't an all-polka playlist--we have some 1919 and 1925 dance music, a terrific Spanish number (led by Amapola composer Joseph Lacalle), Bizet's Carmen March, Dixieland by the Original Memphis Five, and 1917 death metal.  No--just kidding about Carmen March.

Anyway, I started from scratch (no pun intended), using 78s from my collection and imposing the correct response curves and the necessary noise reduction, and it was just another day at the farm.  Well, actually, more like three or four evenings. 

1915's Der Rote Domino (the red domino?) was released in two different editions--one for Polish-American customers and the other for German-Americans.  Same band, same music.  The flip is a terrific German march I can find nothing about online (and my copy has a manufacturing error--the same label on both sides!).  Anyway, the first two bars of Der Rote Domino tell us that we're listening to that famous number commonly known as The Clarinet Polka.  If a 1915 polka 78 surprises you, keep in mind that polka melodies have been traced to the late 1700s--George Washington and Thomas Jefferson may have danced to them.  My own love of polka music started in high school--my best friend's parents had a cool collection of polka music.  Rick and I would get drunk and put on Who Stole the Keeshka, and I grew to love the music--still do (obviously).  And I have to watch myself when it comes to the word "Polack," since technically it's an ethnic slur.  Except, that's what my friend's family called themselves!  I regard myself as an honorary Polack, and I mean that with much affection and respect.  But I still have to be careful.  "Polack" jokes are a rite of reversal, really, since Poles are smart people, and everyone knows it.  (Chopin, anyone?)  And so the jokes reverse the reality.

To me, vintage polkas are some of the coolest and interesting recordings around, which only goes to show how deeply runs my lack of concern for "correct" tastes.  People can make fun of polkas all they like, but it hasn't stopped the music from passing the two-century mark.  Now, I didn't even try to find out what "Goraca" means (Goraca Krew), and... wow, it means "hot."  Anyway, the band on this 1926 Columbia side sounds a tad unusual, what with the abundance of treble range in the band makeup, and I don't know if that extremely high-pitched sound is simply a xylophone tuned way, way, up, or what.  Cool effect, and the low-volume beginning raises the intriguing possibility that engineers of the early electrical-recording period had audio faders (I'm picturing a primitive box-with-knobs type of device), meaning that everything wasn't strictly a matter of microphone placement.  Given that radio broadcasting preceded microphone recordings and that there must have at least been manual limiters, vintage mixing boards are a very probable thing.

Anyway, we're hearing Czech, Polish, and German polkas, and the ragtime-before-ragtime Patrol Comique, from 1888, even has a polka sound to it--a cakewalk polka!  I don't know why folks like Wikipedia hang on to outdated narratives when it comes to pop music forms.  I mean, we're always hearing that ragtime started in the mid-1890s, despite the fact that it's widely known to have shown up earlier than that.  What's the problem with revising a claim once it's been proven false?  Is there some rule against that?  "No, you were born in 1960.  Period."  "My birth certificate says 1957."  "No, it was 1960.  It is written in our holy book--the Tumbling Rock History of Pop Music."

Oh, and two circus marches, both blog repeats but in better audio than ever.  Our sole Dixieland offering is the oddly titled Snakes Hips, and this recording was the first version I heard way back when, and so it has stuck in my mind as the "correct" version.  Why do our brains do that?

The weird descending-pitch whistling in the 1927 polka The Wedding in the House of Witos (I'm glad the Victor label translated it) has had me confused ever since I first thrifted the 78 back in 1996 or so, but I finally figured out that it's meant to be a celebration/celebratory sound effect--possibly, the noise made before a firework pops.  And it should go without mentioning that novelty polkas were a huge influence on the greatest musical parodist of all time--Spike Jones.  Polka and blues have a lot in common, thematically, to the extent that both devote half of their songs to the subject of getting drunk.  I have an Arhoolie collection which features a number that's virtually a getting-drunk saga--every possible aspect of getting drunk, all condensed into one tune.  A mini-epic. In vernacular music forms, getting drunk is a metaphor for... getting wasted, basically.

Get Lucky is a "symphonic jazz"-style number by the famous Roy Bargy, whom we associate with Paul Whiteman and George Gershwin, and the flip is the masterful novelty, Prince of Wails by the king of then-unusual-to-pop chord progressions, Elmer Schoebel, once a member of the New Orleans Rhythm Kings, or NORK.  Get Lucky, by the way, covers all the bases: it's a "Chicago Stomp or Shimmy--Fox Trot."  (Whew.)

Goraca Krew--Hot crew.  That's like something out of the Disco era.  And I'm sure there have been Disco polka LPs, which is a scary thought.

To Der Rote Domino:


Carmen March (Bizet)--Black Diamonds Band (U.K., 1931)
Der Rote Domino--Columbia Orchester, 1915
Goraca Krew, Polka--Polska Orkiestra, Dir. Wm. Tesmera, 1926
Plus Ultra (Lacall)--Lacalle's Spanish Band, 1926
Sokolska Koracnica--Hoyer Trio, 1927
The Golden Prague--Clevelandska sokolska kapela
Patrol Comique (Thomas Hindley-M.L. Lake)--Victor Orchestra, c. Rosario Bourdon, 1929
Circus Clowns--Gallop--John Fischer's Band, 1918.
Get Lucky--Chicago Stomp or Shimmy (Bargy)--Ralph Williams and His Rainbo Orch., 1924
Marsz--Polka--J. Cressel (Jan Kreselski), Accordion Solo, 1917
Dance It Again with Me--One-step (Wallace)--Art Hickman's Orchestra, 1919.
Hold Me (Hickman and Black)--Art Hickmans Orch., Piano Duet by Hickman and Frank Ellis, 1919
In the Green Grove--Polka--Louis Solar's Concertina Orchestra, 1915
Barnum and Bailey's Favorite--March (K.L. King)--American Legion Official Band, Dir. James A. Melichar, 1926
Freshie (Jesse Greer-Harold Berg)--Waring's Pennsylvanians, vocal by orchestra, 1925
The Wedding in the House of Witos--Orkiestra Witkowskiego, 1927
Oberek Wesoly--Same
Prince of Wails (Elmer Schoebel)--Ralph Williams and His Rainbo Orchestra, 1924
Snakes Hips (Spencer Williams)--The Original Memphis Five, 1923


Sunday, May 02, 2021

The North High School Mixed Ensemble, Spring 1971--Seven superb tracks!


A better label scan, this time--I remembered that I can adjust the scanner brightness by using a preview scan.  Duhh.  Now, I should mention that North High School was close to where I now reside (about an hour away)--in fact, the building is still there, but under a different name.  It's in Columbus, and I'm in Metro Columbus, so this is a truly "local" recording.  And the singing on these tracks is superb--by high school standards, I think it rates as masterful.  The three contemporary numbers were hits by the Association, a group whose songs I've always liked better than its shaky harmonizing.  Thus, I enjoy (cherish?) this choral version of Cherish more than the original single, which aims too high, production-wise.  The Mixed Ensemble does beautifully, and Cherish and Requiem for the Masses are exactly the type of Top 40 numbers that lend themselves to choral presentation.

At the North High FB page, a member agreed with me that it's too bad scared music has been suppressed ("censored" is such an ugly word) from public school concerts, but regard for the arts, unfortunately, isn't part of PC.  That's as far as I'll go, soapbox-wise, but it does seem to be the case with political correctness that, even though the intentions are usually honorable, things are often carried out in a thoughtless and bureaucratic way which reduces works of art to matters of ideology, something which I think should be done only in extreme instances.  But that's just my take, which, combined with 79 cents, will get me a cup of Joe at McDonald's--but only if it's open.

My late foster mother, Bev, told me about a Jewish chorister who was asked why he sings Handel's Messiah, given the anti-Semitic moments in its text.  His reply: Because it's great music.  I'd say "Right on," but I think that slang bit the dust decades ago.  (Hard to keep up with these things.)

In my track labeling, I stayed true to the label typos, such as Bouree' for Bach, which should at least have been BourrĂ©e by (not for) Bach,, and with the accent over the first e.  In fact, it's BourrĂ©e II from Bach's English Suite No. 2--I just found and downloaded a P.D. piano arrangement (in A-major) and I played it on my Casio without too many flubs for my first time since, oh, 20 years.  And the North High ensemble is singing this in either C-sharp or D-flat major!  I would hope D-flat, because it only has five flats, compared to C#-major's seven sharps.  I've played things in C-sharp, but I typically "reference" the notes to D-flat.  I just pretend I'm in the other key--on the piano, at least, one sounds exactly like the other.

Voi che sepate from Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro is drop-dead lovely, as sung by Kay Wheat, and there's lots of skillful bass playing on the pop sides.  Stand up or electric?  Could be a double bass, close-miked--that would make it sound nice and fat.  Remember that the Coronet Recording Company was responsible for the sound--a North High School alumnus described microphone stands everywhere during the school's recordings.  Like the A side, the B side is simply way above the high school norm.  We're hearing a great deal of talent and dedication--and a lot of love for music.  Being pushed to do your finest is a great experience--with the right teachers, at least.  And the North High graduates have nothing but great words for their teachers, and only a tight, mutually respectful partnership in that regard could have produced sounds of such a high caliber.  Enjoy!

DOWNLOAD: The North High School Mixed Ensemble--Spring 1971--Director: Mr. James McDonald.

Come Again, Sweet Love
Allelujah (from Motet VI "Praise the Lord"   
Bouree' for Bach
Everything That Touches You
Requiem for the Masses
Voi che sapete ("The Marriage of Figaro")--Kay Wheat, solo

North High Spring Concerts 1971 (Coronet Recording Company 850C-2071; 1971)