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



RonH said...

Great! Thanks so much. Quality very good.

Buster said...

I have this one, mainly because of the Ronnie Deauville track - it's a good one! The other LP you mention sounds like a winner, too.

Ernie said...

Post, always post. There is no 'not post'. :)

Thanks Lee, better you than me on this stuff.

Lee Hartsfeld said...


My pleasure! Thanks for the nice words.


And, so, I ripped the other LP. A bit worn in spots, and so I hope I can compensate for the rough spots, but it's an interesting combination of sound-alike singles, plus instrumentals from some other source. Sort of a Franken-collection.


Sure. And I think I can understand a "I don't want to get into that" stance toward such budget efforts--they don't make for the easiest rips!

muisicman1979 said...

I do have the Gayle Larson version of "Secret Love" on a Tops 78 that came out four years before this album was put together, with Bud Roman's (I think) take on Lou Monte's version of "Darktown Strutters Ball" on the other side. Looks like this is going to be a great collection. Tops often did a great job with most of their albums. That Gayle Larson side is very well done and obviously does not have the "Movie soundtrack quality" of Doris Day's hit single, with the orchestra not quite as grand-sounding either.

There is also a chance that the version of "One Night" you posted on Shellac City a few months ago could have originated with Tops; in a box of very dusty 45's that I bought at my local Goodwill earlier this week, there was a 45 with a black label that said "Top Hits", not "Top Hit Tunes" like Waldorf did during the same time period. Four of the six songs featured on that 45--"Problems", "That Old Black Magic", "Bimbombey", and "A Lovers' Question", the latter edited to fit a Duane Eddy fake--are the exact same versions that appeared on my Golden Tone America's Top Tunes Volume 4. So Tops could have been tape-swapping as early as 1958.

Lee Hartsfeld said...


Wow. At Discogs, I see a black "Top Hits" label--it's a 1959 co-release with Waldorf. I'm pretty sure the Discogs listing is Waldorf/Pickwick co-release, which would make the "Top Hits" 45 a Pickwick release.

Re "America's Top Tunes" and Golden Tone, Golden Tone was a subsidiary of PRI, which had been bought out by Pickwick. (Confusing, no?) So, I'm guessing that at least some Pickwick material showed up on the "American Top Tunes" LPs, though most of the tracks would, I'm guessing, be recycled Tops titles. Tops itself was finished come 1960.

But I'm not clear on why you think that version of "One Night" may be Tops.

musicman1979 said...

The reason was because the EP had for sure FOUR Tops fake-hits out of the six tunes that were on there.

Another insight that I picked up when I printed your essay and read it later in the evening is that there is a chance that "Les Anthony" and "Ray Baxter" could be made-up orchestral leader names; if you noticed closely, it sounds like the typesetter either used to work at Capitol or was a fan of Capitol's Ray Anthony and Les Baxter and used those two names to cover up who is the real arranger-conductor on those sides.

I am pretty sure that Lew Raymond is a real person, unless he was Tops' version of Dean Franconi.

Comments on this record coming eventually; I have yet to finish your Top 40 Songbook post. It has been a busy week for me.

musicman1979 said...

Here is an E-Bay link to a 78 version of the record I found. I am starting to believe that it was pressed by Pickwick:

Lee Hartsfeld said...


Oh, and I see it has "One Night" on it. The same version I posted, I assume. Now I get it. Interesting label, which I've seen before in eBay ads. I certainly looks anonymous enough to be Pickwick! That company put out so many EPs which offered no clue as to their origin. The label design is similar to that of the Bravo and Hurrah! labels.

Ernie said...

"Another insight that I picked up when I printed your essay and read it later in the evening is that there is a chance that "Les Anthony" and "Ray Baxter" could be made-up orchestral leader names; if you noticed closely, it sounds like the typesetter either used to work at Capitol or was a fan of Capitol's Ray Anthony and Les Baxter and used those two names to cover up who is the real arranger-conductor on those sides."

I'm sure it was more deliberate on their part. An unknowing person could easily mistake the track as being by either artist since the names sound kinda familiar. You get in a hurry or aren't paying a lot of attention, it's an easy mistake to make.

musicman1979 said...

Good version of "Love Is A Many-Splendored Thing" back in the days when they were listing the Toppers as a vocal group and not as the resident house band of Tops Records. They give us the flavor of the hit Four Aces original without directly aping it. I can tell you for sure that the lead singer on that cut is no Al Alberts.

It sounds like the Ronnie Deauville is trying to copy the Frank Sinatra take on "Three Coins in the Fountain" with Lew Raymond using the female "Make it mine" intro from the hit Four Aces version. Mr. Deauville has a very unique singing style.

Bud Roman sounds like he is trying to ape Eddie Fisher's vocal style on "Stranger In Paradise" while Tops' take on the Moonglow/Picnic theme medley is considerably jazzier than Morris Stoloff's hit version, with just a touch of Big Band dance horns thrown in for good measure. This version could be better than the Morris Stoloff and George Cates versions combined!

The Rhythmaires and Lew Raymond do a great job aping the vocal style of the Four Aces on "It's A Woman's World", even though the lead singer, again, does not sound anything like Al Alberts. More comments coming soon!

musicman1979 said...

Very unique take on "Young At Heart" by Ronnie Deauville, complete with a unique arrangement that is totally different from Nelson Riddle's hit arrangement for Frank Sinatra on Capitol Records. At one point, the flutes almost nail Nelson Riddle's distinctive sound for that instrument. Excellent unique recording of this Sinatra classic.

I do tend to agree that Ruby is probably the weakest song in the set. Using the Richard Hayman hit arrangement, it sounds as if the pianist is aping the style of Liberace and Gordon Jenkins in place of Richard Hayman's harmonica solo. There are some moments where the orchestra is on target, but it is here that the pianist has more shining moments than the orchestra does.

Percy Faith created a very elaborate string arrangement that Tops evidently found it hard to recreate on their version of the "Theme From Moulin Rouge". Mimi Martel's vocal on this is sunny, peppy, and considerably less sultry than Felicia Sanders on the original Percy Faith recording. At one point, Mimi Martel almost sounds like Kitty Kallen!

Lastly, great Big Band swing on The theme from "the Man With the Golden Arm!" Tops pulled out another great winner with this disc. Excellent remastetring job, Lee. Four and a half stars out of five from me.

Buster said...

musicman - I am very familiar with Ronnie Deauville records. He was not in very good voice for this date.

Lee - I agree that this is a great sounding transfer! I did enjoy it.

Lee Hartsfeld said...


Thanks for your detailed reviews! I love reading them. Re Mimi Martel, I also noticed that she sounded more chipper than Sanders, and I was mildly disappointed in the presentation--but, as you noted, there was no way Tops could (no pun intended) top the Percy Faith record--or equal it, for that matter. And didn't Sanders lose out on that hit, to the extent that she didn't get the royalties she should have? I remember hearing or reading that somewhere. Thanks for the nice words on my transfer.


My exact reaction to the Deauville numbers--it seemed like he typically sounded better. His vocals are adequate, certainly, but he must have had a cold. Thanks for the nice words--I was wowed by the sheer detail in these grooves. I took a chance and emphasized the treble more than usual, and this seems to have gelled with the engineer's efforts.

Gilmarvinyl said...

I actually used to have a copy of this record before I was forced to part with the lion's share of my collection during the great purges of 2014 and 2017. I have been collecting since I was a teenager and then went to college. It was only then suddenly my parents wanted the space my records were taking up for their own stuff... they let me keep a bin, bless their hearts... I made a special emergency trip back home when they called me and said they needed me to consolidate my collection into one or two bins. I got there only for one of them (the same person that guilt-tripped me into getting rid of my high school club officer's sweater jacket) to stand behind me the whole time, second-guessing every record I was electing to put in the "keep" bin. I understand it was for the better in the long run (I still would not have room for all of them, plus the ones I have acquired since then in my current space), but it still hurts whenever I see a record I used to have and wish I still had it now. My advice to the young, if you start collecting, keep the collection to the size of a single box or bin until one gets a place of their own; otherwise, most of the collection is going to be either discarded or donated against one's will by assistance of a third-party who cannot be argued with once they have decided it needs to go.

Lee Hartsfeld said...

Very good points, but I think that many collectors--myself, included--ultimately end up with "too much stuff" in any event, since collecting is an activity always on the cusp of hoarding. I tend to feel that, if one doesn't have too much stuff, then one is not a collector. Anyway, when I moved to my present house, storage space was much smaller--plus, for some reason, I simply felt my collection was too large and needed to be trimmed. So, I did a big downsize, and then blogs became a thing, and I was hurting--I had gotten rid of any number of titles that would have been perfect for blogging. In fact, I went through a period of reclaiming titles. For me, my collection expanded like crazy when I lived on my own, post-Navy, in a two-bedroom apartment, with one bedroom devoted to storing "stuff." My present home is a mostly 19th-century farmhouse, so...

musicman1979 said...

you might want to share your link to this album over at Brand "X" Records. Someone over there brought this album up in the comments on the recent Big Hits From Columbia Pictures post.

Lee Hartsfeld said...


Thanks--I'll do that!