Wednesday, April 26, 2023

The Big Hits of 1965--Hugo Winterhalter and His Orchestra (Kapp KS-3429; 1965)


I'd hoped to get this up earlier, but things got in the way, I guess.  Foul, evil things.  Grotesques.  Creatures from another place, another time.  Nasty, loathsome, dreadful beings.

No, wait--that was only a dream.  Never mind.  Anyway, I would have assumed that this 1965 Hugo Winterhalter Kapp LP was worth just about what I paid for it: 75 cents.  But over at eBay, a dealer in India is asking $51.  Fifty-one bucks??  Plus postage.  And I also see it up for $8.40, $10, and $18.  Hmm..  Maybe it is collectible.  Oh, and a still-sealed copy for $39.99.  But, seriously, please.  What is with these crazy Buy It Now prices?  Are they posted in the hope that people will check out eBay and conclude that a pop instrumental LP by Hugo Winterhalter is a goldmine find?  How many people even know who Hugo was nowadays? 

And I want to rate this album as excellent in every way, but it's hard to be objective about this song lineup, because (despite its mere one or two rock and roll numbers) it really brings me back to the time and place.  Well, save for maybe two titles.  Anyway, ever since Mary Poppins (which I watched twice in 1964), I was epically aware of Chim Chim Cheer-ee.  As written, the song has a slightly dark tone, being in C minor, and with a spooky, chromatically descending bassline, but Hugo's arrangement goes full Halloween, sounding in spots like a precursor to Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite. Ingenious scoring, though I think this would have frightened me at age seven or eight.

And, boy, do I remember Red Roses for a Blue Lady, which was on constant AM rotation--and it could have been the same local station which played the Beatles, Beach Boys, and Manfred Mann, because in those days a hit was a hit.  Was a hit.  I don't remember when radio got formatted.  Nor do I remember whose Red Roses version I heard over and over--Vic Dana's?  Wayne Newton's?  Anyway, I recall not knowing what "blue" meant, so maybe I thought the song was about a female Martian.  And I know A Walk in the Black Forest, if not from its initial chart success, then certainly from nonstop oldies play throughout the 1960s, though of course not with the near-Herb-Alpert vibe Hugo gives it here.  An interesting touch.

And of course Petula Clark's marvelous Downtown was, for a while, THE Top 40 hit, at least in our market--and former big band arranger HW expertly gives it a very big-band sound--along with ample strings, of course.  As for Elvis' Crying in the Chapel, I don't have a firsthand memory of it, though I came to know the tune quite well (courtesy of the Orioles?).  Hugo's arrangement has none of the contemplative quality of EP's take--it's brassy, with sharply accented triplets, but not the worse for it.  I'm still deciding what I think of this one.

I remember Goldfinger and King of the Road as constant-rotation hits, and Hugo gives them faithful and outstanding charts.  I remember being enchanted--a little spooked, even--by Goldfinger's main chord progression, which is just the simple tonic-to-minor-sixth-chord cliché that goes back to Chopin.  The trick, in pop, is to go from a tonic triad to a dominant seventh on the bVI.  A feeling of suspension happens because bVI is taking the place of ii in the context of tritone chord substitution.

I don't remember Dream on Little Dreamer from its day, but I've loved the Perry Como record since I first heard it (circa 1982).  Winterhalter goes for a lighter feel, and with a faster tempo, and it works quite well.  As for Who Can I Turn To and Forget Domani, I kind of, sort of remember them from their chart time--Hugo's scoring of the latter is very sprightly, with something of a The Longest Day feel at the start. As for Charlotte, I mainly knew it from the movie (when it aired on TV), though I later thrifted the Al Martino Capitol 45 and liked it.  Winterhalter's treatment very much recalls the Patti Page hit.

And I know Cast Your Fate to the Wind from the days of the Sounds Orchestral hit; Hugo slows it down and gives it a EZ-Mexican feel (you've heard of EZ-Mexican, no?), totally removing any Vince Guaraldi feel.  I don't know that anyone would guess its Guaraldi origin from this treatment.  It drags a bit, but I like it.

Superior charts, and a title list which, for the most part, takes me back to 1965 (or thereabouts), and ten of that year's biggest chart successes.  Minus the two which I only sort of, kind of recall.  The stereo fidelity is great.

DOWNLOAD: The Big Hits of 1965--Hugo Winterhalter and His Orch. (Kapp KS3429; 1965)

Chim Chim Cher-ee

Dream on Little Dreamer

Red Roses for a Blue Lady

Who Can I Turn To

King of the Road

Forget Domani

Cast Your Fate to the Wind


A Walk in the Black Forest

Crying in the Chapel

Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte


(Musical arrangements by Hugo Winterhalter)


Saturday, April 15, 2023

Cocktails for Two--Jacques Darieux and His Orchestra? (Palace PST-623)


You know that feeling when you thrift a Palace LP with an unusually classy cover, and the credits read "JACQUES DARIEUX and his orchestra," and so you're sure you've made a cool find of the obscure-easy-listening variety, and you're especially intrigued by the "Featured on TV's '77 Sunset Strip'" blurb, and then you put the mint-looking vinyl on the turntable and discover that 1) the pressing is packed with imperfections and 2) the tracks contain, not soothing massed strings of the Percy Faith variety, but the sounds of a Latin-style jazz combo?  Don't you hate it when that happens?

At least the actual artists, Frankie Ortega With Rhythm (listed on the labels and mentioned in the liner notes), are at the top of their game, with pianism on an almost-Page Cavanaugh level.  And, in fact, these were the guys who appeared on 77 Sunset Strip, not Darieux (Sorry, Jacques).  So, it's not the music I expected, but it's music I think I will grow to like a lot, once I've recovered from my sense of betrayal.  I'd describe the genre as George-Shearing-Meets-Carmen-Cavallaro. 

And why the deceptive cover art (which nearly smacks of a legit label) and the "Jacques Darieux"?  But, then, there is rarely any "why" in the realm of rack-jobber-LP packaging traditions.  For all we know, it was an honest error.  ("Hey, we just ran 500 jackets with the wrong name."--Palace employee.  "So?  Keep going."--Palace boss.)

And I didn't mention possibly the biggest howler of all: A "list price" of $4.98.  Really?  At the time, $4.98 was the top-end retail tab for legit releases, and this relic likely first experienced its display life in a dollar bin.  But if you're going to lie about the featured artists, why not pretend your product is a top-$$ item?  Once on a fibbing spree, just keep going--even if your trousers combust.

My favorites are the swinging Malaguena and the Rock-a-Bye Mambo, with its ingenious theme variants.  Also, a terrific, beautifully condensed Slaughter on Tenth Avenue--maybe the highlight of the set.  The rest of the numbers are standard standards (the best kind), save for Ortega's own My Summer Mood.  Or, as listed on the back jacket, My Summer Mood and Others.  Apparently, even at $4.98, Palace couldn't fit in all twelve titles.

A number of small "bumps" remain in the rip, since I'd have been another week eliminating each and every one.  Oh, and as a Ferrante and Teicher mega-fan, I greatly appreciate the strummed soundboard strings at the start of Spring Is Here and elsewhere.  "A sense of discovery along with a feeling of freshness," promise the liner notes.  Including the discovery that this LP is not by Jacques Darieux.

DOWNLOAD: Cocktails for Two--Jacques Darieux and His Orch. (Frankie Ortega With Rhythm)

After You've Gone

Slaughter on Tenth Avenue

Summer Mood (Ortega)

Crazy Rhythm

My One and Only Love

I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm


All the Things You Are

Rock-a-Bye Mambo (Ortega)

Summer Is Gone

Spring Is Here

If You Were Only Mine

(Cocktails for Two--Palace PST-623, in "Living Sound" stereo)


Sunday, April 09, 2023

Happy Easter 2023!

A classic viral Godzilla-attacking-Peeps image for our Easter 2023.  Plus, three 78s--The Haydn Quartet's marvelous1908 recording of Robert Lowry's Christ Arose, the Trinity Quartet performing Jesus Lives! (1923), and the 1919 Memories of Easter, with more bang to the kettledrums than in my previous postings.  Parts 1 and 2 of the latter were edited together (in a hopefully seamless fashion).

The remaining five selections feature me, totally live, on pipe organ--or, more accurately, the excellent Chapel Organ patch on my Casio WK-3800--and using the same snyth's Tubular Bells voice for the final selection, Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow, to the 17th-century tune of Lasst Uns Erfreuen, as memorably harmonized by Ralph Vaughan Williams in 1906.  Not the easiest thing to play without the benefit of foot pedals, but luckily my piano teacher taught me how to finger just about anything.  And my two Jesus Lives tunes are different, with different texts.  And only the second title should have an exclamation mark--my typo.

Happy Easter!

DOWNLOAD: Easter 2023

Christ Arose--Haydn Quartet With Orchestra (Feb. 2, 1908)

Jesus Lives!--Trinity Choir (Jan. 3, 1923)

Memories of Easter--Marie Morrisey and Columbia Stella Quartette (1/3/1919)

Jesus Christ Is Risen Today--Your blogger, Casio WK-3800

Jesus Lives (Andrew L. Skoog, 1921)--Same

Welcome, Happy Morning--Same

Jesus Lives! (Henry John Gauntlett, 1851)--Same

Praise God, From Whom All Blessings Flow (Harm. Ralph Vaughan Williams, 1906)--Same


Friday, April 07, 2023

The First Hits of 1965--Frank Chacksfield and His Orch. (London PS 415; 1965)--Surprisingly faithful instrumental covers


Frank (Ebb Tide) Chacksfield and His Orch., performing The First Hits of 1965 in, of course, 1965.  And by "faithful," I of course mean faithful to the source, even as Chacksfield's arranger (very possibly, Frank himself) keeps everything in an excellent easy-listening vein.  A well-done balancing act, stylistically.  One less faithful take, however, is Dear Heart, that fine Henry Mancini tune for the equally fine movie (one of my all-time favorites), which is rendered here in a country style, and for unknown reasons.  It works well enough, but it departs from  the feel of Andy Williams' hit.  Then again, nobody was harmed in the process.

But Frank does total justice to the Beatles classics I  Feel Fine and She's a Woman--and I'd have expected nothing less, because for some time I've owned a 7" Chacksfield LP containing other 1960s r&r hits, and they are presented quite effectively, too.

The Fab Four attribution reads "McCartney-Lennon," and we've encountered this credit reversal before on pop instrumental efforts like this.  Of course, I Feel Fine was primarily a John song, and the latter a mostly Paul number, so we can't conclude that Decca/London had gotten any inside song info. Too bad, because that would have been intriguing.

And we get equally dynamic versions of Downtown (love the original!), Hawaii Tattoo (a hit for the Waikikis), and especially Goldfinger--all benefiting from the outstandingly crisp and very stereo-sounding Decca/London stereo.  (It's great whenever stereo sounds especially stereo.)  And the original moods of the hit singles are superbly recreated for The Wedding (Julie Rogers), Mr. Lonely (Bobby Vinton), Willow Weep for Me (Chad and Jeremy). and Have You Looked Into Your Heart (Jerry Vale).  Exceptions are I'll be There (Gerry and the Pacemakers), which lacks the drive of the Pacemakers single, and Walk Away (Matt Monroe), which steps up the tempo and thus shaves some of the sadness from the tune--but Chacksfield does such a terrific job as a whole, we can allow him some license.

I'd have preferred a greater number of rock and roll numbers, but the Beatles and Petula Clark covers, not to mention the forceful rendering of Goldfinger, leave this blogger with no complaints.  Five stars.  Enjoy!

DOWNLOAD: The First Hits of 1965--Frank Chacksfield and His Orchestra (London PS 316; 1965)

I Feel Fine

The Wedding


I'll Be There

Mr. Lonely


Willow Weep for Me

She's a Woman

Dear Heart

Hawaii Tattoo

Have You Looked Into Your Heart

Walk Away