Ray Price- Sings Heart Songs

Woo hoo!! Friday.  Here is a subject I have completely exhausted on this blog.  That is because he is one of my favorites.  This was $4 and despite the cover being beat, was actually in decent shape.  I like the title.  Sounds like it was written by Thor.

This was Ray Price’s first album, released in 1957.  Pretty good little way to start one’s career.  I don’t think it made a whole lot of noise chart wise. but Price did have a slew of top singles including “Crazy Arms” under his belt when this was released.

A lot of good songs but of course, I am drawn to my favorites and Price’s version of “Faded Love” is no exception.  Therefore here it is as a sample.

Great album- Top Rated.

OST-The Pirates of the Penzance

When I first got this, Kevin Kline was on cable on a pretty solid basis, most notably the Cole Porter Biopic De-Lovely.  When I was picking out records for the month, this trend continued but with the movie based on the Broadway production this soundtrack is from.  So it kind of went full circle.  Plus bring a fan of Gilbert and Sullivan in general made this purchase inevitable, especially with the low price of $1.20 with discount for a double record.

The Pirates of the Penzance, was G&S’s fifth collaboration and actually the first of their productions to open in the US (it opened in New York in 1879).  This was done to combat the lack of international copyright laws in the US. With their previous works such as HMS Pinafore, over 150 production companies staged unauthorized performances in America with many liberties to the text and no money in the pockets of the creators.  After a three month run (that initially remedied the fore mentioned problem), the production was opened in London in 1880 and ran for 383 performances, garnishing praise from both critics and audiences. Filled with the patter and counterpoint vocals common in G&S’s work along with a playful parody of the works of Verdi, Gounard, Mozart, and Donizetti, Pirates remains one of the pairs most popular works today.

Though there have been many productions over the years, the most notable was staged in 1980 by Joe Papp and the New York Shakespeare in the Park organization.  After 10 previews and 35 performances, the production was moved to Broadway  were it ran 20 previews and 787, becoming a massive success. The performance featured more swashbuckling (which makes me cringe to think what prior versions were like), more musical comedy, enhanced instrumentation and arrangements, and a restoration of the original G&S ending. The production was nominated for seven Tony’s, winning three including one for Best Revival and a Best Director nod for Wilford Leach. It is this Broadway production for which this album is based. It has also served as the musical basis for most productions since.

Based on the success on Broadway, a movie version of this production was made with most of the principals in place.  This was released in 1983 but was not as successful as its stage counterpart.  Maybe perhaps as America was not ready to accept movie-musicals again but also in part because a good amount theater owners boycotted the release due to the fact that it was also released to a direct home market thru subscription tv at the same time.  What ever reason you want to believe, the movie was a box office bomb.  However, growing up in the mid-80’s, I do vividly recall HBO playing the crap out of this as well as making a big deal about it.  This and a half naked Brooke Shields were my early memories of HBO (reinforced because Rex Smith looked very similar to the actor in Blue Lagoon).  Anyway, back to this narrative, I tried watching it as a 10 year old on TV at the time but could not as ultimately I found it too silly. (I also found Blue Lagoon to be boring despite a half naked Brooke Shields).

Well,  I watched again for the first time last month and again, I found it was still rather silly.  But then again, wast G&S production isn’t?  I was impressed this go around by both the music and the actors and found it to be an enjoyable movie.

The star of both the Broadway production and the movie, was undoubtedly Kevin Kline who played the Pirate King.  This was one of his early roles but the Tony he won for Best Actor in a Musical was his second.  As he would later win an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in A Fish Called Wanda, he is only short an Emmy and a Grammy to complete the EGOT.  Also, Kline did what Judge Reinhold could not, land Pheobe Cates.  The pair has been married since 1989.  But back to something relevant, Kline’s performance shows a strong comedic timing and great vocal performance.

When the movie played on HBO, the station made a big deal over the performance of Linda Ronstadt, who at the time was a major singing star.  Given her penchant for collaborating with many different styles of artists.  Ronstadt, who played the female lead of Mabel, was nominated for a Tony for her role and generally gave a great performance in the production from at least what I have heard.

The only role that really changed radically thru the Papp productions was that of Little Ruth.  Ruth was played by Patricia Routledge in the Shakespeare in the Park version.  She was later played by Sweeney Todd murderess/ Murder She Wrote sleuth Angela Lansbury in the movie version.  However, for the Broadway run, the role went to Estelle Parsons.

After seeing performances from all of the above (well more like hearing), my favorite tends to lean towards Parsons, although both Lansbury and Routledge gave fine performances. It does prove however, the G&S were able to do something that Hollywood can not do today: provide great roles for older actresses.

The most popular song in the production as well as perhaps the most popular song in all of G&S’s catalog is the “Modern Major General”song.  It has been widely covered, parodied, lampooned, and praised as it showcases the rapid fire patter execution that is the work of the duo.  For the Papp production, the role of the Major General was played by George Rose.

Of course the main plot device centers around the main protagonist, Young Frederick who finds that he is still a slave to duty to the pirates as he was born on the last day of February in a leap year and thus, going by birthdays as per his agreement, is 5 years old and not 21 as he believed.  There was a teacher at my middle school who had the same affliction (although not contractually bound to pirates or such).  She used to tell students that she was 8 years old.  Honestly even at my age back then, I found it annoying. It should also be noted that the role of Frederick, who is the central character was played by Rex Smith, who did an excellent job. He was also the first actor to portray Marvel Comic book hero, Daredevil and I am speculating he was neither the best or the worst at it.

Also of note, the music to the song “With Cat Like Tread” was used for the American song, “Hail, Hail The Gangs All Here” in 1917.  It was subsequently borrowed by Glasgow Celtic fans for their cheers.  The original melody by Sullivan was meant to parody Verdi’s “Anvil Chorus”.

The Papp production also added two songs from other G&S works; “Sorry Her Lot” from Pinafore, and “My Eyes Are Fully Open” from Ruddigore.  It is the latter that has become one of my favorites as it again highlights the rapid fire delivery as well as the vocal interplay that G&S made famous.  The lyrics have been slightly modified to fit the subject of Pirates, but in general, the verse that was suited for Mad Margaret seems a bit strange for Ruth.  However, you fans of  meta-reference should note that Ruth mentions that this is from Ruddigore. And yes, that is Vincent Price in the video below.

In general, I find plot and story wise, that the endings of G&S work are quite silly and Pirates does not detour much from this route.  To find that suddenly, the pirates are all actually noblemen and thus resolved seems kind of weak. Plus I am not sure how stopping pirates by reverence to the Queen would play for a US audience. Music-wise, however, I have the opposite opinion as I feel G&S finales really wrap up the production.  This finale references the big numbers including “General” and “Poor Wandering One”.  It should be noted that for Papp’s version, he restored the original G&S ending as well as returned the “General’s Song” to the finale.

Man, that is a lot of writing.  Well for samples. I decided to go with the “Matter Patter” as well as the Finale.

Top rated album for sure.  Really good job by all involved.  Man, this post turned into more of a book. Expect short posts the rest of this week.

 

Martin Denny- Afro-Desia

Saturday means quick posts.  Also, since I have done many posts on Martin Denny, this greatly speeds today’s entry along.  This was from the bunch of records I got from my friend Micahl so it was at a cost of $0.00.  

This could have been Denny’s sixth or so album, released in 1959 on Liberty Records.  This collection as the title would suggest as well as the back cover would state, draws its inspiration from Africa.  Lot of really good songs on here that I have posted from other artists including “Baia”, “Temptation”, “Simba” and “Siboney”.

In what is the ultimate bout of laziness, a link to Ambient Exotica’s album review.

But for a sample, I decided to go in a different direction for once and post “Cubano Chant”.  I think it was the vocal chants that drew me to it. Also, the rest of the album skipped heavily and I was too lazy to clean it.

Really good album though.  Top Rated.

Jerry Reed- Sings Jim Croce

Last post of technically the month although we are 3 days deep into June.  I got this as I like Jerry Reed and who doesn’t like Jim Croce.  I thought the two would go well together. It was high end at $5.

Jim Croce (1943-1973)was an ultra-talented singer song writer from Philadelphia who died too young in a plane crash in Natchitoches, Louisiana at age 40.  A funny story about Croce, his parents gave him $500 as a wedding gift with the stipulation that he use it to record an album.  His folks thought this would get music out of his system after it failed and he would pursue college (at least that is what wikipedia states).  Well, it did not fail.  And from that start, Croce’s career grew.  At the time of his untimely death, he was disillusioned with the music industry and was looking to get out (which again, if you trust wikipedia, which on Saturday, you will have to do).

Jerry Reed has always had a story telling quality to his good songs although it is slightly different from Croce’s.  However, Reed is able to take Croce’s catalog and really do it justice. The record, released in 1980 had the blessing of Croce’s wife, Ingrid, who really carried Croce’s torch after his death to keep his memory alive.

Pretty standard collection of Croce songs and all of the real big hits are here.  Besides masterfully running thru the catalog, Reed is also able to add some country twang to these tracks.  Real good album.  Could say more but it is Saturday. For a sample, I went with what I felt was my favorite song on the album, “One Less Set of Footprints”.

Top Rated Record.

Bonzo Dog Band- Beast of the Bonzos

This was not marginally $5, but I had the clerk assign the extra amount to a $1.  I got this as I really wanted to feature this band on this blog as they have two tie ins to pop culture.

The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band (later shortened to the Bonzo Dog Band) was an English trad-jazz band formed by art students who were swept up in the early 60’s 1920’s sound spearheaded by the Temperance 7 and The Alberts.  As they started to move thier sound into rock, they got two big breaks.  First Paul McCartney asked them to appear in the Magical Mystery Tour where they performed “Death Cab For Cutie”.  This is where the band of the same name got said name (pop culture tie in #1).

Second, around the same time, they got a gig on the TV for the children’s show Do Not Adjust Your Set in which they were the resident band.  Along with David Jansen and Denise Coffey, the show also featured Eric Idle, Michael Palin, Terry Jones, and the occasional cartoon by Terry Gilliam.  Two writers from The Frost Report, John Cleese and Graham Chapman, were fans and from there, Monty Python was born.  Bonzo’s Neil Innes also appeared on a few episodes as well as movies. (Pop Culture tie in #2).

This album is a collection of hits of sorts.  It has some of my favorite tunes which showcase the British wit and humor that is the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band.  Pretty good little album which if there is any complaint, is too short. If you want to learn more about the band and its members, well here is a link.

“It May Be Rubbish- But by Golly, it’s British Rubbish”

For samples, I went with three.  First off, to start is the “Intro/Outro”.  It should be noted that this track actually does contain a snipet of Eric Clapton playing ukulele. Also, if you are curious, the first seven or so members are actually in the band. The band plays an abridged version the very beginning of this episode complete with members of the show.

Second, I went with what is probably one of my favorite tracks and one that throws back to the group’s original sound, “Hello Mabel”.

Finally, I am ending it with a distortion heavy ode to self-help ads and body building, “Mr Apollo”.

Great little record.

VA-This is Broadway’s Best

At a dollar for this double record, I might as just of have walked out without paying for it.  Besides all the really great Broadway songs from some of the greatest Broadway productions by some of the most talented people to grace the stage, this record also includes a detailed booklet of some of the more popular Broadway productions as well as a cover with illustrations from the famous New York cartoonist, Al Hirschfeld.

 

Hirschfeld’s Web Page

Hirschfeld, born in St Louis in 1903, moved to New York with his family and studied art.  He became a commissioned cartoonist for The New York Times and as a self described “Characterist”, he drew countless portrayals of artists, performers, politicians, and other celebrities for just about every publication there was at the time.  

His unique use of pure black lines against white backgrounds made his work iconic.  Hirschfeld passed on in New York in 2003, just months shy of his 100th birthday.

This record, as suggested above, is a collection of iconic Broadway tunes from top productions such as Gypsy, My Fair Lady, South Pacific, Finian’s RainbowShow Boat, Kiss Me Kate, West Side Story, Pal Joey, and The Sound Of Music among others.  Performers include Carol Channing, Julie Andrews, Rex Harrison, Ethel Merman, Carol Lawrence, Mary Martin, the list goes on and on.  What more can I saw?  Iconic performers giving performances from iconic productions.  The booklet is also real neat as it has a bunch of pictures. It was released by Columbia Records in 1961.

For a sample, I was pulled in show many directions.  I could have listed the whole album. However, I decided to go with three samples.  First off , from On The Town, here is the signature song, “New York New York”.  Written by Adolphus Green and Betty Comdon in 1944 with music by Leonard Berstein, the original version which ran 462 performances differed from the movie version, which cut all but three of Bernstein’s song. Comdon had a role in the Broadway play along with Green who is here on this track with John Reardon and Cris Alexander.  Also different from the movie is the exclamation that New York is a H-E- double hockey sticks of a town. I realize this is a side note, but I would love to have been a fly on the wall for the filming of the movie version of this musical, just to see a perfectionist Gene Kelly swear and berate Frank Sinatra for missing cues.

I also went with Bye-Bye Birdie’s “Kids”, mostly as a tribute to the Simpsons who both parodies the song as well as the actor who sung it, Paul Lynde. He is joined by Marijane Maricle on vocals.

Finally, just because I like the song, here is Carol Haney with “Hernando’s Hideaway” from The Pajama Game.

Great album.  Great cover.  Great packaging. Top Rated.

Les Baxter- Quiet Village

The weekend is here (or more aptly, I am done writing this week’s posts).  This was $4.  I have posted various Les Baxter albums on this site as I am a fan.

This seems to be a compilation of various Les Baxter tunes with the intent of capitalizing on the emerging exotica scene at the time.  Albums sampled include the seminal exotica piece, Ritual of the Savage, Tamboo! (which has been featured on this blog), Ports of Pleasure, and others.  Complete with an quasi-idiotic story on the back cover of three cases of people picking up and leaving for exotic destinations, the center piece of the album is the title track.  The album cover is sure to note that this is the original version of the song (although the song is highly derivative of Brazilian Ary Barroso’s “Na Baixa Do Sapateriro” ).

Anyway,  here is “Temple of Gold”.  

Top Rated Record

Some Russian Album??? (Vladimir Vysotsky-In Concert)

Another international effort, again from Half Price Books in Sugar Land.  This was $4.  I do like Russian music as past blogs has shown but I bought this for no better reason than I thought the guy on the cover looked like me.  I have bought records for worse reasons. (Note-Not a real cigarette).

That being said, I know absolutely nothing about the singer or this record.  If there are any Russians reading this, if you could give me a little information or at least tell me the singers name, that would be appreciated. It is a live album as there is banter between songs. I believe this came out in 1987.  That and 1967 are the only dates I can make out on this.

I do really like this record.  It is simply a guy and a guitar and has a real Gogo Bordello vibe to it.  The guy has talent but I do not know what he is singing about.  Hopefully this is not a super, alt right, nationalistic record. again any information would be helpful.  As far as a sample, there were four songs I really liked so I am posting them all. For a record, I know absolutely nothing about,  I really like it.  I am going Top Rated with this one.

UPDATE: A few days after writing this post, I decided to stop being lazy and actually put some efforts into finding out who this was by.  Right now, my working theory is that this is a posthumous re-release of a 1967 piece by Russian musician and actor Vladimir Vysotsky.  Again, this is just a working theory but I am about 90% sure this is him.

Link to Wiki page

Vysotsky, born in Moscow in 1938, was a prolific artist who wrote over 600 songs and had an unique style which has been oft emulated by artists (Gogol Bordello for one).  Largely ignored by Soviet elites, his political and social commentary nonetheless made him a star in his lifetime and a Russian icon in the music world.

Alcohol, tobacco, and drug use led to an early death in 1980 at the age of 42.   He has been called one of the most singular influential musicians in 20th century Russia and this album is a great indication of that.  Anyway, this is who I think this is.  If any one can confirm or deny, that would help.  

UPDATE 2:  I am now 99.99% sure this is Vysotsky and this is  a live album of early performances. Incidentally, the Wikipedia link discusses in detail his guitar style which I have enjoyed playing with over the past few days. Anyway, I belive the song below is one of his well known ones. It was also featured in the movie White Nights.

Perez Prado- Big Hits by Prado

This record was an absolute steal for $1.00.  The Cuban King of the Mambo’s repertoire speaks for its self on this record.

This record, released by RCA/ Victor in 1960 is a re-imagining of Prado’s big hits, including the iconic “Mambo No 5” and its lesser known cousin “Mambo No 8”.  All the songs have a bit of added spunk from their originals. All and all, really good stuff.

Normally I would not post something that I have already featured on this site but I was taken aback by the version of “Why Wait”.  You can check it out on the earlier post to note the differences.  I also went with “Ruletero”.

Link to earlier post of “Why Wait”

Not much to say on this post as it is my last of the week, but great record.  Top Billing.

Judy Collins- In My Life

With April coming to a close, we are still keeping a spotlight on thise artists who frequently pop up on this site.  Judy Collins fits this bill perfectly.  I got this not only for the artist, but for the high number of songs on this album which are among my favorites; “Pirate Jenny”, “Liverpool Lullaby” and “In My Life”.  This was only 80 cents with discount.

This was Collins’ sixth album (her fifth studio effort) and marked a transition from folk to more of a pop vein.  Released in 1966, the album also featured more orchestration compared to the more simpler folk style of previous releases.  There are a lot of great song writers on this album including Dylan, Farina, Brecht-Weill, Newman, Cohen, Donovan, and Lennon- McCartney.  As stated above, the song selection as well as the interpretation of these tunes makes this album something special, although quite truthfully, I prefer to folk sound of the earlier efforts. But back to this, it is a completely diverse selection of works which I feel does quite well for itself.

For a sample, I had many choices to chose from but for some reason, decided to go with a song I had not heard until I bought this record.  From the 1963 play/ musical The Persecution and Assassination of Jean Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade, of Marat/Sade for short, here is a collection of 4 songs from the effort. The play, which features music in a Brecht manner, takes place in the days after the French Revolution and is a play with in a play with the Marquis de Sade directing inmates from an insane asylum as the title would suggest. Apparently, Sade used to really do this.

It premiered in 1964 in West Germany and soon found its way to London and Broadway.  It would win a Tony for best play in 1966. A film version was released in 1967 staring Patrick Magee in the lead role of Sade, a role he performed in the London production. Anyway, it is an ambitious work for Collins to tack on this album and I think she does it quote well.

Excellent album. Top Rating.