Thursday, March 30, 2023

"Faust" or "8 full length hits a' poppin'"? Only the turntable knows...


Why would Parade stick the back cover of Gounod's Faust on a Hits A' Poppin' LP?  Why would it rehyphenate the title as "Hits-A-Poppin" on the label?  At what point did Synthetic Plastics Co. start making Parade Record Co. LPs?  (There's an SPC credit on the back jacket.)  Why does this version of Dim, Dim the Lights show also show up on the Music Masters and Gateway labels?  How can we look up a word in the dictionary if we don't know how to spell it?  Why can't central Ohio weather decide what season we're in??

The answers to these, and many more questions, at 11.

So, I had a "Déja Vu All Over Again" feeling about this LP--and, sure enough, I previously posted the six-selection 78 rpm version.  Whose cover art is less cool.  And we know that Yogi Berra never said "It's like déjà vu all over again," because the quip is meant for humor--it's deliberately redundant.  And it was apparently in regular use during the 1960s, presumably minus the Berra attribution.  So...  But it seemed properly Berra-esque, and so the association continues.

Glad we cleared that up.  So, here's my previous, 78-rpm-version post: Bobby Powers and His "Hits-a-Poppin" Orchestra. This time, we also get Dim, Dim the Lights and No More, both very well done.

All the titles came out as Prom singles, and I've given the original credits (and label info) for each.  If my memory is working correctly, Enoch Light had just left Prom at this point, having started the Waldorf Record Corp., which included Waldorf Music Hall and 18 Top Hits.  And somehow I'm only now noticing that Enoch was born in Canton OH.

As for the early rock and roll numbers in this list, Tweedle Dee, Earth Angel, and Ko Ko Mo are copies of cover versions--Georgia Gibbs (covering LaVern Baker), the Crew-Cuts (covering the Penguins), and The Crew-Cuts, again (covering Gene and Eunice).  Perry Como also had a big hit with his cover of Ko Ko Mo, which sounds like a hilarious prospect but which actually came off fairly well.  Dim, Dim the Lights, meanwhile, copies the Bill Haley and His Comets hit.  It's a direct fake, so to speak.

And this is another fine thrift gift from Diane.  (Thanks, Diane!)

DOWNLOAD: Eight Full Length Hits A' Poppin' (Parade Records 5010)

Dim, Dim the Lights--Tommy Scott and the Rockets (Prom 1103; 1955?)

Earth Angel--Rockets, The Prom Orchestra (Prom 1104; 1955)

Tweedle Dee--Wanda Storm and the Argyles (Prom 1106; 1955)

Unsuspecting Heart--Mona Grey, The Prom Orchestra (Prom 1105; 1955)

Ko Ko Mo--The Rockets, The Prom Orchestra (Prom 1104; 1955)

How Important Can It Be--Midge Manners, The Prom Orchestra (Prom 1105; 1955)

No More--The Mullen Sisters, The Prom Orchestra (Prom 1103; 1955?)

Darlin--The Argyles, The Prom Orchestra (Prom 1106; 1955)


Saturday, March 25, 2023

All-Time Favorites--Tops All-Star Orchestra (Tops L1514; 1957)


Given my copy's slightly rough condition, I wasn't sure if my remastering job would succeed--but it did.  (The miracles of channel-summing.)  The worst part was having to remove eight or nine clicks which escaped the VinylStudio filter (owing to its bass-protection feature, no doubt), but otherwise it was just the occasional click.  And is that a flattering "cheesecake" cover, or what?  Perhaps I darkened it too much, but I didn't tweak it any more than usual--I think the photo was doomed from the start.

And the label sports an "RL1514" number, meaning a reissue?  Very possible, since the original issue contains a misprint on both jacket and label--Jealousy instead of How High the Moon. Given Top's usual "Who cares?" attitude, I'm a little surprised that it took the trouble to correct this.  Had buyers complained?

And sorry for the posting gap--I think the recent lost DST hour is still slowing me down.  So, what we have here (save for one track with iffy fidelity) are expertly remastered singles, along with four borrowed LP tracks by Jay Gordon.  The early-50s hits Charmaine, Blue Tango, and April in Portugal make this an especially interesting rack-jobber special.

Needless to say, there was never a "Tops All-Star Orchestra," and so we have the usual budget ploy of getting double the $$ for the same material.  But, since Tops' LP mastering was better than its single mastering, nothing lost.

We start with a Jay Gordon track migrated from a 1957 Gordon LP (and sounding very pre-1957), then move on to an excellent Lew Raymond treatment of Lisbon Antigua, a Nelson Riddle hit which, for some reason, I associate with Lawrence Welk.  Hal Lomen delivers a slightly odd, and fidelity-challenged sound-alike of Charmaine, which adds a mostly-in-tune chorus; a straight copy of the Mantovani hit might have been preferable, but this version is certainly interesting.  Then, a Melody of Love sound-alike which, I assume, follows from the Four Aces hit.  The Rhythmaires do a more than competent job.  Plus, Skokiaan (misspelled as "Skokian"), which this time around reminded me a great deal of Wimoweh, with the Toppers and Lew Raymond in top (ha-yuk, yuk!) form.  Bud Lomen's 1952 Blue Tango (Leroy Anderson) sound-alike is the most successful Lomen side I've heard to date, and The Poor People of Paris is a very respectable copy of the Les Baxter version--and we have that "Les Anthony" credit once again.  

Skipping forward to April in Portugal, we have a Les Baxter hit credited to "Ray Baxter," and there can be no question of motive this time.  A lawsuit might have been justified, but maybe there was little point in going after Tops.  Good sound-alike, at least.

Time on My Hands, Penthouse Serenade, and Siboney are three more Jay Gordon migrations from two 1957 Gordon LPs whose material surely originated earlier (probably during Tops' 10-inch days).  Bewitched, which of course is better known as Bewitched (Bothered and Bewildered), is from an unknown source and badly recorded.  The performance is adequate, but the slightly out-of-tune piano somehow bothers me more than had it been seriously so.  Not sure I know why.  Maybe it's a "If you're going to be out of tune, don't settle for slightly" reaction.  Only my analyst knows for certain.

UPDATE: The "Toppers" credit for "Skokiaan" was my error.  Sorry!

DOWNLOAD: All-Time Favorites--Tops All-Star Orchestra (Tops L1514; 1957)

How High the Moon--The Jay Gordon String Orchestra, 1957

Lisbon Antigua--Lew Raymond and His Orchestra, 1956

Charmaine--Hal Lomen Orchestra, 1952

Melody of Love--The Rhythmaires, Nat Charles and His Orch., 1955

Skokiaan (misspelled "Skokian")--Lew Raymond Orch., 1954

Blue Tango--Bud Lomen Orchestra (1952)

The Poor People of Paris--Les Anthony and His Orch., 1956

Time on My Hands--The Jay Gordon String Orchestra, 1957


Penthouse Serenade--Jay Gordon Concert Orchestra, 1957


April in Portugal--Ray Baxter and His Orchestra, 1953


Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Themes From the Movies--Featuring Great Hollywood Vocalists and Orchestras (Not really.) (Tops L1519; 1957)

So... we have the usual budget-label Jabberwocky of artist credits--on the cover, "Featuring Great Hollywood Vocalists and Orchestras," which is definitely not the case.  Then we have "Lew Raymond Orchestra" on the labels, as if to suggest that Lew is on every track (he isn't).  And we have the name of a singer or singing group for each number.  So... what to make of this?

Not to worry.  I looked up the original singles and retrieved the orchestra credits and the recording years, and I put this information on the mp3 tags--the recording date after each credit, and the LP's release year of 1957 in the Year field.  Bottom line (inept artist-crediting aside), we have Tops sound-alike singles from 1953 to 1956 in outstanding fidelity, with all but one track (Ruby) quite well performed.

I guess I was expecting less than sterling audio, given the so-so transfer quality of this label's 12 Top Hits LPs.  Of course, those are rock'n'roll-era tracks which, often as not, were "gimmicked" up, perhaps to give them an AM-radio or jukebox sound.  These tracks sound natural and  undoctored.

Lew Raymond's orchestra rocks on his three instrumentals: 1954's The High and the Mighty, 1956's  Moonglow and Theme from "Picnic," and 1954's Dragnet (from the 1954 film based on the show), and the Les Anthony Orchestra does a fine The Man With the Golden Arm (1956).  The Les Morgan Orchestra's 1953 Ruby is... not quite so good.  In fact, it's almost bad enough to qualify as an Eli Oberstein misfire of the "Who cares if anyone's in tune?" variety.  I suspect the musicians were under-rehearsed, as they sure sound it.

The rest of the tracks are fine, with good singers: Ronnie Deauville, Mimi Martel, Bud Roman, and Gayle Larson.  Very nice to hear them on finely-mastered LP tracks.  I've had this LP for a while, with no idea what a treasure trove it is.  I'll have to check out Tops L1514, All-Time Favorites (1957), to hear if the engineering is as fine as here.

(And a spot-listen reveals that the reissued singles on that LP--Charmaine, Blue Tango, Poor People of Paris--are indeed beautifully transferred, though there are filler tracks that aren't so hot.  To post or not to post?)

DOWNLOAD: Themes From the Movies (Tops L1519; 1957)

Love Is a Many Splendored Thing--The Toppers With Bill Cornell and Orch., 1955

The High and the Mighty--Lew Raymond and His Orch., 1954

Stranger in Paradise--Bud Roman With Lew Raymond Orch., 1954

Moonglow and Theme From "Picnic"--Lew Raymond Orch., 1956

3 Coins in the Fountain--Ronnie Deauville, Lew Raymond Orch., 1954

Secret Love--Gayle Larson With Lew Raymond Orch., 1954

The Man With the Golden Arm--Les Anthony Orch., 1956

Song From "Moulin Rouge"--Mimi Martel, The Ray Baxter Orch., 1953

It's a Woman's World--The Rhythmaires, Lew Raymond and Orch., 1954

Young at Heart--Ronnie Deauville, Lew Raymond Orch., 1956

Ruby--The Les Morgan Orch., 1953

Dragnet--Lew Raymond Orch., 1954


Friday, March 10, 2023

Sing the Top-40 Hits! "The Top-40 Song Book" (Capitol T-2126; 1964)


Sing along with 1964!  I had meant to have this up two days ago, but things don't always happen as planned. (Ever notice that in your life?)  And, off topic, I'm not going to believe the reports of a "mothership" in our solar system until a mainstream news outlet confirms such an unlikely event.  People predisposed to believe that we're being "visited" will jump on the news without questioning it.  I strongly suspect that some genuine astronomical observation has been considerably "tweaked" to fit a popular narrative/trope.  By now, we have a public convinced that any unidentified light in the sky somehow satisfies the burden of proof for ET visitation.

Anyway, as musicman1979 aptly predicted, this 1964 Capitol LP is indeed a "1960's version of Karaoke."  In fact, Wikipedia has Karaoke (technically) beginning in Japan in 1967, though in the sense of pre-taped band backings.  In that sense, it goes back to the early days of rock and roll and lip-synching!  As always, the question is, How broadly do we wish do define a piece of technology?

And I haven't fully decided what I think of this album.  It's certainly interesting, but it's also odd.  Sort of like it's missing something.  Wait, I know!  Lead vocals!  That's it.

And we have to wonder how many purchasers actually sang along with this.  For sing-along purposes, Capitol inserted a lyrics sheet, and my copy actually has it, and it's pretty amusing.  But scanning the four-sheet insert would require sixteen scanning angles for "stitching," and I just wasn't in the mood.

However, if there's a popular demand for a scan (demand for a scan?), I might relent.  Might.

Interestingly, these tracks are sometimes purely instrumental, while others have backing vocals.  The reason is fairly obvious: the Beatles numbers (including the Lennon/McCartney Bad to Me) feature unison (same note) lead vocals, along with duets.  No way to reduce those schemes to a lead vocal/backing vocal presentation.  And I feel the need to define "unison" in music, because the word is so frequently misused: Unison means the same note, typically in the interval of a prime (e.g., Middle C and Middle C) or octave (e.g., C4 and C5).  It does not refer to harmony singing which happens on the same beats or syllables, but a person might not know this, given the widespread misuse of the concept.  When in doubt, think Gregorian Chant.

So, it's natural that those numbers would be purely instrumental.  For tracks which have vocal-harmony backing (Surf City, Bits and Pieces, It's All RightHeat Wave, It's My Party), we hear those backings.  And we are to sing the melody on top of them.  Which, with a voice whose resting point lies between baritone and bass, is a chore for me.  But I expect the rest of you to sing along.  To get the full experience, if for no other reason.

And Capitol pulled a budget label-style bit by promising "the original instrumental arrangements," because this is easily misinterpreted as "the original backing tracks."  As in, Capitol licensing and presenting same.  Sorry--not the case. Yes, Capitol specifies "arrangements," but a quick read can be deceptive.  Meanwhile, the back cover offers a second LP title: Sing the Top-40 Hits, which is a standard budget-label stunt.  And, instead of "original" backgrounds, suddenly were dealing with "famous" ones.  See?  Such behavior wasn't unique to SPC or Big 4 Hits.  It leaves us with a fascinating philosophical dilemma: Did the budgets copy "legit" label practices, or vice versa?

"Produced by Dave Axelrod" is all we get in the way of clues, performance-wise--we're hearing whatever studio pros he assembled for this project.  Axelrod, of course, was Capitol's A&R man, and Wikipedia tells us that his 1968 Song of Innocence led a contemporary critic to coin the term "jazz fusion."  Wow!

Notwithstanding the somewhat fuzzy jacket claims, the tracks are expertly done--arrangement, production, and performance are top-notch, even if I seem to be making fun of things.  As pre-Karaoke Karaoke backings, these are pretty amazing.  And, best of all, this record "cannot become obsolete."  The back jacket says so.  This is good, because I worry about vinyl becoming obsolete--I have nightmares about it.  Still, I handled this carefully and used the proper tracking force, etc.  No point in taking chances.

DOWNLOAD: The Top-40 Song Book (Capitol T-2126; 1964)

Love Me Do, in the style of The Beatles

It's My Party, in the style of Lesley Gore

Bad to Me, in the style of Billy J. Kramer

Bits and Pieces, in the style of The Dave Clark Five

It's in His Kiss (Shoop Shoop Song), in the style of Betty Everett

I Want to Hold Your Hand, in the style of The Beatles

Heat Wave, in the style of Martha and the Vandellas

Surf City, in the style of Jan and Dean

Louie, Louie, In the style of The Kingsmen

It's All Right, in the style of The Impressions


Thursday, March 02, 2023

Paul Mauriat doing the "Now" scene! "More Mauriat" (Philips PHS 600-226; 1967)


Despite the cover, no theme from MASH.  And let me apologize in advance for any typos caused by my reduced focusing abilities.  My eyes aren't producing enough tears, which means I need to take eye drops four times a day.  Ahh, the fun of getting older.

And I have yet to extend my MP3-tagging powers--sorry.  I've really been very busy with sound-editing, and so the tagging is a secondary concern right now.  Anyway, to our offering of the day: More Mauriat (Philips PHS 600-226; 1967), a fascinating take on the 1966 hit parade, including the massive French hit Love Me, Please Love Me.  Which I had never heard of.  Except for two movie-related tracks, the rest of the numbers are 1966 AM hits familiar to me, since I grew up with the things.  Kudos to Paul for getting me to like Black is Black, a tune I was never very fond of.  But Mauriat's arrangement brings out virtues that previously went undetected by me.  And, upon first listen, I wasn't crazy about Paul's treatment of Sunny, one of my all-time favorite hits.  But, come my third listen, I started to dig it.  And this is an album which (for me, at least) inspires multiple plays.

Overall, I enjoyed the heck out of this album, though it requires a tolerance of easy-listening-ized pop hits.  No problem for me, but for some, maybe.  Mauriat goes full easy-listening, and the result is superb, delightful, and just a model of its type.  Mauriat had a genius for this kind of thing.

My favorites are, of course, Black Is Black and Sunny, plus Guantanemera, whose title refers to a woman from Guantanamo.  The song's history is too complicated and weird to relate in words, but mostly, we need to know that it's a protest number.  Maybe even THE protest number of our time, and, in my estimation, an exceptionally distinguished choice.  The lyrics employ portions of Cuban poet José Martí's Simple Verses.  I prefer the epically moving translation used in the wonderful Sandpipers' version, which includes "My poems are like a wounded fawn seeking refuge in the forest," and "With the poor people of this earth I want to share my fate. The streams of the mountains please me more than the sea." Martí gave his life to the cause of Cuban independence, so pardon me while I choke up. 

Given the nature of the song, perhaps Mauriat's treatment is a little too up-tempo and joyous, but it sure brings out the beauty of the tune.  So, I like it.  Winchester Cathedral, meanwhile, is given the exact right touch of light humor, and Reach Out I'll Be There is quite effectively rendered in "easy" terms.  Masterfully, even.  Bang Bang is the only misfire (pun intended), to my ears.  The spoken "Bang Bang" part is downright weird, and I never liked the song, anyway.  So...

Otherwise, an A+.  Coming up soon, Capitol's The Top-40 Songbook, which, as it turns out, I didn't part with.

DOWNLOAD: More Mauriat (Philips PHS 600-226; 1967)

Black Is Black


Winchester Cathedral


Love Me, Please Love Me

Reach Out I'll Be There

Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)

Lara's Theme (From "Dr. Zhivago")

Theme From "Is Paris Burning"

En Bandouliere