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)