Saturday, November 06, 2021

Pops for America (aka, 18 Top Hits)--Enoch Light, Vincent Lopez, Artie Malvin, and the rest (1956 or 1957)


Pops for America--isn't that a snazzy jacket?  (Seriously--it rocks.)  Another used-vinyl gift from Diane, this Grand Award fake-hits comp is kind of an upscale 18 Top Hits.  In fact, 18 Top Hits is (by no coincidence) this LP's subtitle.  In addition, this fancy-looking package uses a stock Waldorf image (the girl and jukebox), but here the pic is better lit and more detailed than usual.  And the border (with its "World's Greatest Music/Art" brags) really adds something in the way of class.  However, this is basically a spruced-up regular release, the tracks all having appeared on 18 Top Hits EPs and various Waldorf Music Hall LPs.  None of which, far as I know, claimed to be the "world's greatest."  But you've got to love the extra care in packaging.

At first glance, I calculated that I'd already posted most of these, but it turns out I've pre-posted fewer than half--44.444... percent, to be exact.  The new-to-the-blog numbers include You Don't Know Me (Bob Eberly), Don't Be Cruel (Loren Becker), Happiness Street (The Brigadiers), and six more.  No individual artist credits, for some reason, but the names were easily tracked down using Discog's 18 Top Hits listings.  And, I should note, even if most of these had been repeats, I'd have posted this anyway, due to the incredibly attractive packaging.

I'm guessing (and it's purely a guess) that our LP hails from 1956 or 1957--it doesn't have a standard Grand Award catalog number, which might mean... mail order, perhaps?  As ever, we get to hear the teen pop hits of the 1950s in much slicker, more pop-conventional arrangements (though, to be fair, at this time the label was gradually moving toward truer-to-r-and-r fakes).  The previously posted Stranded in the Jungle is almost humorous in its contrast to the raw original, especially with the Lawrence Welk style vocals, but there's nothing inherently wrong with big band-style teen pop; and, in fact, Jungle manages to rock pretty effectively, despite the clean-cut sound.  And, again, we're about a year away from Waldorf finally fully giving in to the r&r sound.

The liner notes are the usual why-this-is-a-great-deal type of essay, but we do get priceless info about the top-flight musicians who backed the singers.  Best of all, we learn that the man responsible for those great guitar solos was George Barnes, who had a genuine feel for r&r guitar.  Read the notes (included in the zip) for info on the other big names, all of whom seemed to be having a good time.

And a note about my use of "Waldorf" (and/or "Waldorf labels") as a catchall for Enoch Light's early stuff: There is disagreement between two major discographical sources, Discogs and Both Sides Now, over the (what's the best term?) label order when it comes to Enoch Light.  For instance, Discogs doesn't even connect Grand Award with Waldorf (Correction: It states that GA started out as Waldorf Music Hall--my bad), whereas Both Sides Now lists Audition, Colortone, Command Performance and Waldorf Music Hall as subsidiary labels of Grand Award.  Maybe there simply wasn't any logic or order to this stuff.  It's very possible, since budget labels existed solely to move product by any means possible, which inevitably resulted in a confusing organizational scheme.

Fine, highly entertaining material here, and some of the less effective tracks are actually pretty charming in their less-effectiveness.  I refer, for example, to Jerry Duane's inadequate vocal on Rip It Up and Artie Malvin's spirited but missed-the-boat vocal for Hound Dog (though the cheery, squeaky-clean arrangement is probably the main issue--few songs lend themselves less to Dixieland treatment than this Leiber/Stoller classic, made famous, of course, by Big Mama Thornton and Elvis P.).  Not to knock Artie Malvin, by any means, who often did great work (for instance, When My Dreamboat...).

As for Somebody up There Likes Me (from the Paul Newman flick), it's nice to have the Waldorf knock-off, but it ranks with my least favorite Perry Como hits--and I'm a Como mega-fan.  Just saying.  This version is well done, as far as that goes.

A word on my Sunday posts--I'll be getting back in gear the next Sunday after tomorrow, but I've been feeling under the weather this week, which has me running behind.  That'll happen.

Don't forget--these were all acclaimed by music critics, approved by music educators, and treasured by music lovers.  Just Grand Award's subtle and very humble brand of self-praise.

DOWNLOAD: Pops for America (aka, 18 Top Hits) (Grand Award G.A. 33-POP 5; 1956/1957)

Canadian Sunset--Enoch Light and His Orch.
You Don't Know Me--Bob Eberly
Rip It Up--Jerry Duane and the Rhythm Rockets
Friendly Persuasion--Mike Stewart
Song for a Summer Night--Enoch Light and His Orch.
Don't Be Cruel--Loren Becker
Happiness Street--The Brigadiers
After the Lights Go Down Low--Artie Malvin
Hound Dog--Artie Malvin
Somebody up There Likes Me--Loren Becker With Enoch Light and His Orch.
Love, Love, Love--Rhythm Rockets
Soft Summer Breeze--Vincent Lopez and His Orch.
Stranded in the Jungle--The Rhythm Rockets
Tonight You Belong to Me--Dottie and Lois
Honky Tonk--Vincent Lopez and His Orch.
When My Dreamboat Comes Home--Artie Malvin
The Fool--Loren Becker With Vincent Lopez and His Orch.
When the White Lilacs Bloom Again--Vincent Lopez and His Orch.

Pops for America (aka, 18 Top Hits)--Various (Grand Award G.A. 33-POP 5; prob. 1956/1957)



Buster said...

Actually, you are the one who should be acclaimed by music critics, approved by music educators, and treasured by music lovers, including me!

I was hoping that Bob Eberly would be the one who was assigned Rip It Up.

Lee Hartsfeld said...


Thank you! And that would really be something, hearing Bob Eberly sing "Rip It Up."

Anonymous said...

Thanks Lee- I am always drawn to the Grand Award records with this border: They just look like they should be great, even if the music doesn't always deliver. I also like that a lot of these Grand Award covers feature artwork by Tracy Sugarman, who later went on to fame for his sketches and photos of the Civil rights movement.
Thanks again for all your work, and I'm happy to hear your Sunday gospel selections are returning.
-Steve in PA

Eliane said...

Congrats, excellent publication. Fantastic sound and artists. Many thanks!

Ernie said...

Yeah, that's an odd one. Not sure how this got released on Grand Award, they were usually a little bit above these sort of shenanigans. Not far above, but above.

Anonymous said...

George Barnes was fantastic across genres.....recorded with Patsy Cline ("Too Many Secrets"), Connie Francis ("Lipstick On Your Collar"), Jazz Gillum ("Reefer Head Woman") as well as with his own groups.

brian said...

I especially loved Light's work because I was from Newark, NJ where he did the early soundalikes for Promenade. His own records, meanwhile, were based in the budget record capital of the world, Harrison, New Jersey. But you put your finger on the real problem, Lee. He used mostly big band artist, so when rock came along, if he covered something like Tutti Frutti it had to be the Pat Boone version!

Buster said...

"Lipstick on Your Collar" is a big favorite of mine, despite its Brill Building origins, teen lyrics and annoying backing vocals. The solo by George Barnes is superb - as is Connie Francis' vocal.

This also proves that big band people could produce great rock records - in this case, Ray Ellis. There were others, I'm sure.

Diane said...

So happy this one worked out for you, Lee. When I found it, it had your name/blog written all over it. Guess even Enoch Light wasn't above stooping for a buck. (Who is?)

Bryan said...

Hi Lee,
And thank you Diane for another winner from Enoch Light. His output is a favorite collection of mine. I am always looking out to add to my mp3 collection. This one is a welcome addition.
I have a 16 track collection I put together from several 8 track EP's that Enoch Light put out. This was to represent a "Pops for America" LP. I have a note in my mp3 file folder for that collection that "Pops for America" LPs were sold in various overseas markets. I am not sure where I found and read this bit of information. I seem to recall I was trying to locate if these 8 track EP's were part of a longer LP release. Then I found out they were many such releases.
Anyway, thanks again Lee and to you Diane.