Interestingly, this late-1957 Waldorf LP beat the first Sing Along With Mitch LP to the racks by at least a month, though I suspect Mitch Miller's LP got a lot more exposure. (Something just tells me...) Had Waldrof used larger male choruses and tons of echo, it may have achieved a sound just like Mitch's--as it stands, though, these can't compete with Mitch in the fullness-of-fidelity department. The spirit is there, however, and I really love the banjo choruses where they appear. Of course, as Mitch himself admitted, the sing-along idea was anything but new in the late 1950s--Milton Berle had done it on radio, and Art Mooney's postwar faux-1920s records (including the big-selling 1947 I'm Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover) were pure sing-along, and folks like Frankie Carle and Beatrice Kay (and a lot more people I can't think of at the moment) were doing ragtime-era revival material about the same time, with Joe "Fingers" Carr (Lou Busch), Del Wood, and Pee Wee Hunt soon to follow. The whole "old songs" concept goes to the late 19th century, at least as far as song collections are concerned, which only goes to show that that "old" is a concept subject to constant revision.
This jacket, with its Daisy Bell (Bicycle Built for Two)-inspired cover, suggests the "Gay 90s," but in fact only two of the numbers fit that bill--The Band Played On (1895) and Tell Me Pretty Maiden (1899). The rest span the years 1900 (She's Only a Bird in a Gilded Cage) to 1929 (Happy Days Are Here Again). This sort of time-period mixing is standard procedure: I have at least two song folios, both allegedly devoted to songs of the 1890s, which feature numbers dating as far back as 1840 (Kathleen Mavourneen), 1871 (Reuben and Rachel), and 1884 (While Strolling Through the Park One Day), and as far forward as 1921's California, Here I Come. But what's an 80-plus-year window or two? I mean, who's keeping track?
Anyway, this LP sticks to a 34-year span, so maybe that helps in the authenticity department, though none of these performances sound like the vintage disc or cylinder renditions of these tunes. Well, not that we'd expect them to, but... I do think it helps that Waldorf lacked the budget for a Mitch Miller-level production--minus the ultra-reverb and somewhat robotic Männerchor sound of Mitch's sing-alongs, these renditions have a more natural and "live" effect. Sometimes cheaper is better.
So, get ready for "songs of smiles and of happy days...of tender whispers and tight embraces...of pretty maidens and breathtaking waltzes." Prepare yourself for "melodies of a bright and buoyant age, of a time when ladies and gentlemen bared and shared their feelings together in song and in dance...when a feeling of real togetherness permeated their music and their very lives." And here we have the real definition of "nostalgia" as it pertains to era: namely, no period in particular. A time when... something. That great era of... whatever. Right now, I'm picturing someone in the 15th century complaining, "Whatever happened to the good old street songs?"
Perfect for parties.
DOWNLOAD: That Old Gang of Mine--V.A. (Waldorf Music Hall, 1957)
1. Smile, Smile, Smile (Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit-Bag And)--The Brigadiers Quartet
2. Peg O' My Heart--The Pilot Quartet
3. Happy Days Are Here Again--The Cruisers Quartet
4. She's Only a Bird in a Gilded Cage--The Cruisers Quartet
5. Waltz Me Around Again, Willie--Suzy Lockwood and the Cruisers
6. The Band Played On--Suzy Lockwood
7. Whispering--The Pilot Quartet
8. Smiles--The Cruisers Quartet with Suzy Lockwood
9. Put Your Arms Around Me Honey--The Brigadiers Quartet
10. Tell Me Pretty Maiden--Suzy Lockwood and the Pilot Quartet
11. I Love My Wife, But Oh You Kid--The Cruisers Quartet
Happy Days Are Here Again--V.A. (Waldrof Music Hall MHK 33-1240; 1957)
1-1915; 2-1913; 3-1929; 4-1900; 5-1906; 6-1895; 7-1920; 8-1917; 9-1910; 10-1899; 11-1909