Harry Belafonte and Nana Mouskouri- An Evening with Belafonte/ Mouskouri

This record was one I see a lot of when I go looking for records.  That usually means in must have been a popular record when it came out .  So when I finally found it for a dollar, I knew it would not go any lower so I jumped on it.

I knew a lot about Harry Belafonte but virtually nothing about the other singer, Nana Mouskouri.  Well, Mouskouri, whose name I am know hating to type out, is one of the most famous international singers of all time.

Born in Chania on the Greek isle of Crete in 1934, Mouskouri has released over 200 albums as well as singles in multiple languages.  She has also been parodied by such luminaries as Benny Hill, Ronnie Barker, and SCTV’s Andrea Martin. She retired to Switzerland in 2008.  She also gave up her pension after the Greek financial crisis of 2010.  Perhaps this led her to return to show business the following year. I believe she is sporadically active here and there.

According to the liner notes, Belafonte saw Mouskouri while working in Athens in 1960 and helped her gain fame across the ocean in the US of A.  Mouskouri’s career at the time was taking off in Europe ( Wikipedia credits Quincy Jones in 1962) Anyway, their first performance together was in 1964.  The two would tour together thru 1965 and 1966. Wikipedia also states that Belafonte convinced Mouskouri to remove her trademark black rimmed glasses during her performance.  When she tried it, she hated it so much that she nearly quit the tour.  As a result, Belafonte relented.

This record, released by RCA Victor in 1966, features the pair of singers, singing songs in Mouskouri’s native tongue, Greek.  Ten songs, four solos by each singer and two duets. All the songs have song writing credits so I do not know if these were just songs that were popular in Greece at the time.  Despite Belafonte being the bigger star at the time, this album is all Mouskouri. Belafonte’s singing is slightly subdued on this effort. This is a little less fair to Belafonte as he is singing in a foreign tongue. I also believe Belafonte was being respectful, allowing Mouskouri more of the spotlight.

Anway, for samples, I went with Mouskouri’s “Dream” and the duo’s “Irene”.

Good stuff.  Satisfactory.

Arthur Fiedler and The Boston Pops Orchestra- Saturday Night Fiedler

This record, normally $6, was bought during Half Price Book’s Memorial Day Sale so with discount, it came out to $4.80.  Call it inflation, but I have realized an increase in second hand records over the last year.  So I am in the ethical quandary of either raising my spending limit to $6 or lying about the prices of records.  Anyway, I got this on the suggestion of sorts from my friend Scott.

Yes, my friend Scott told me about this record as this as well as the Ethel Merman disco album (posted on this blog in 2014 I believe), were in his father’s record collection.  So when I found a copy, I took it up to legendary Houston spot Dan Electro’s, (where Scott is also a co-owner) and we gave the record a spin.  It was insisted by Scott that we listen to both sides.

This led to a pretty decent conversation regarding pop orchestras, in which I theorized that pop performance, for the most part will get scant attention and effort from classical symphonies that perform them.  This is based on articles I have read for this blog from conductors of orchestras focused solely on pops.  Oddly enough, I ran into a woman later than night whose mother was in the Houston Symphony.  She confirmed what I had thought, that pops was just something they were contractually obligated to play and that is where it ends (although I had 10 minutes of what may have been the second most asinine conversation of recent times to get this answer).

As Scott would say, this was probably Arthur Fiedler’s ultimate album.  The liner notes were written on June 9, 1979.  A month later Fiedler wound die of cardiac arrest.  He had been in failing health for some time.  Part of me wonders if he would have liked something more traditional to end his career with.  The other part of me thinks that this is probably as good as any way for the most famous pop conductor to go out on.

Anyway, this record, recorded live at Symphony Hall in Boston Mass, features long standing pops conductor Fiedler and his Boston Pops with their take on the disco craze of the time.  Fiedler always did have a knock for translating current popular music in the orchestrated form. This record came out while the genre of disco was in decline.  But here it is, regardless.  Side one contains a medley of songs from the disco high watermark moment, the movie Saturday Night Fever. The second side contained a disco-esque arrangement of to Bach classic’s, “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor” and “Air for the G String”.  Interesting stuff.

For a sample, I went with the latter, which I think Scott really liked anyway, simply titled “Bachmania”.

I do not like posting Fiedler’s record due to the high amount of auto correct I get on his last name but decent enough album.  Satisfactory.

The Four Freshmen- Voices In Latin

This was $3.  I got it for my favorite song “Brazil” which undoubtedly will be posted here.  If you have been reading this blog and did not expect that, I worry for you.

The Four Freshmen were and still are a vocal group who had hits in the 1950s. Formed in 1948 from other vocal groups in Indiana, they were discovered by Monday’s post subject, Stan Kenton. The group put out around 30+ records.  The last original member retired in 1993, but an incarnation still exists and tours.

Current Incarnation Web Page

This album, released by Capitol Records in 1958, features original members Bob Flanigan, Ross and Don Barbour along with Ken Albers.  As the title would suggest, this is a collection of latin flavored songs.  Arranged and conducted by Kenton associate Pete Rugolo, this is a pretty decent collection of songs.  The vocals are good but the music is pretty swinging as well, at least for a vocal group.  This record also features the flute of Herbie Mann.

Lot of choices to chose from. I liked “Frenesi”,  “Tangerine”, “Granada”, and “Chelsea Bridge”.  But ultimately I went with “The Breeze and I”.  Of course as mentioned above, I am also posting “Brazil” which is one of the few vocal versions I have put up on this site.  It is interesting to note that both songs feature trombone solos from vocalist Flanigan. Flanigan would pass on in 2011.

Pretty decent album.  It kind of grew on me so satisfactory.

Julie London- Julie Is Her Name

This was $1.00 Probably the red hair against the green back drop drew me towards this purchase which was more than likely made at Sig’s Lagoon.  Ah, poor Sig’s.  I used to go there once a month but since I have to many records as it is and I usually walked away from Sig’s with 30 or so per trip, I have stopped going.  Some of the best cheap records were procured there (* they also have a great selection of regular priced records as well).  Someday I will return Sig’s, some day.

Anyway, here is this from Julie London.  London, born in Santa Rosa, CA in 1926, was a singer, turned film actress, turned tv star.  She is best known for the 32 pop/jazz records she put out mostly during the 50’s and 60’s but she did some film work of note as well as time on the small screen with a 6 year run as nurse Dixie McCall on the show Emergency!.

It should be noted that she started with her husband at the time, Bobby Troup while the show was produced by her ex-husband, Dragnet’s Jack Webb.  So much for keeping your family life away from your work life.  Anyway, London, who was a chain smoker since age 16, suffered a stroke in 1995 and passed on in 2000, at age 74.

This was London’s first record, released by Liberty records in 1955.  It went to #2 on the US charts, driven by the strength of what would become her signature song, “Cry Me A River”.  Pretty decent album of 50’s jazz type numbers.  

Barney Kessel lends his guitar to the album along with bass from Ray Leatherwood. The sparce instrumentation   makes for a good effect.  Most of the songs if not all are love ballads and are pretty slow.

For a sample, I went with the one up tempo song on the album, the b-side to “Cry”, “S’Wonderful”.

Not exactly my cup of tea, but not a bad record either.  Satisfactory.

Petula Clark- Color My World/ Who Am I

Perhaps you have noticed that the quality or length of my posts goes down the closer to the end of the month. Well, if I am getting smart ( and I think I am), I should start using artists who appear frequently on this blog towards the end. And so there is this, which I bought for 80 cents.  

This was Petula Clark’s 6th US record, released in 1967 (with a similar record released in the UK).  The two title tracks were singles in the US the year prior. The album contains songs from various artists including Roger Miller and Paul McCatrney as well as collaboration between Clark and others.  

One such collaboration was this track, “Las Vegas” which I felt was really swinging.  That it kind of belonged in the movie Casino.  I really liked this track for many reason, one of which that this is an English woman belting out a song about the bright lights and dark underbelly of Vegas.

Other than that, this was a pretty good album of songs.  Satisfactory.

Ray Charles- Modern Sounds In Country and Western Music

I like having big records on Saturdays and perhaps there has been none bigger than this.  Plus I paid just a dollar for it.  I might as well have stolen in it.  I thought at this price, it would be in pretty rough shape but it actually plays pretty well.  

This was a monumental album for Ray Charles. It was his 18th album and his fifth for ABC-Paramount.  With four charting singles, it brought Charles more fame from mainstream artists.  Those close to Charles did not see the wisdom of putting out an album of country standards, but Charles masterfully translated country and western tunes into R&B flavored arrangements.    

As common place today as taking the country genre and adapting it to big band arrangements, this was a radical idea both musically and socially in the early 1960’s.  Most thought the record would flop but Charles saw the similarities between the two styles and crossed them over in a way that paid its respects to both camps.

Released in 1962, the album was a critical and commercial hit. Most critics consider this Charles’ best album.  The record spent 14 weeks at #1 on the Pop Charts.  “I Can’t Stop Loving You”, in turn , became a #1 single as well.

For a sample, I could have gone with any song but decided to go with Hank William’s “Hey Good Lookin”. Top Rated Record.

Patty Duke- Don’t Just Stand There

This was $2.80.  I get inflation so I understand that the records at Half Price could not be $1 forever, but the increments of 50 cents have made the discount math harder than normal.  Of course that is because my math skills have been eroded by calculators.  

Patty Duke, born in Queens, NYC in 1946, started as a very successful child actress, with her first big role on stage (and later film) as Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker.  For her work in the film version, she became the youngest person at the time, to win a competitive Oscar (Best Supporting Actress).

This success led her to her own television show, The Patty Duke Show, in which she played a set of cousins.

Upon the show’s demise, she took up her first grown up role as Neely O’Hara in The Valley of the Dolls (whose soundtrack has been posted on this blog). While her character was truly one hot mess, in 1982, Duke went public with her struggles with chronic depression, now diagnosed as bipolar disorder.  When her symptoms were bad and her appearance became rambling, many industry folk thought she was drinking or on drugs.  She became one of the early advocates for the disease.  

A fixture on television, Duke worked more or less up until her death of infection in 2016. 

During Valley, Duke’s singing parts were overdubbed, which upset the actress as she had a successful singing career or sorts.  She had two top forty singles (including the title track of this album which reached #8) and released five albums including one folk album, which now that I know exists make me want to hear it. This album, released by United Artists in 1965 was her first.

Pretty decent album.  A lot of pop standards on here including “Downtown”, “What The World Needs Now”, and “The End of the World”.  Pretty good 1960’s teen pop.

For a sample, I went with the Lennon-McCartney number “World Without Love.  It was written by McCartney who did not think it was good enough for the Beatles.  It was sold to Peter and Gordon who made it a hit.  I also went with this blog’s unofficial namesake, “Danke Schoen”.

Probably was planning to do more on this post but I felt comparing losing control over a hot dog to mental disease was a bridge too far for myself to poke fun about.  Also, really gunning thru these posts this week.  Anyway, satisfactory record.

Tom Jones- I (Who Have Nothing)

Here comes another month of Donkey Show despite it being the 3rd.  Off on holiday today and tomorrow for July 4th and trying to get as many of these posts done.  At first, I thought this was a lackluster month when I was looking at the records I pulled.  However, after listening to the songs for a week, I felt this was a pretty good selection.  Kind of all over the place as well as some real good songs.  When ever I find a song that I want to add to my repertoire, it is a good month.  This month there were four of them.  Anyway, here is this to start off from Tom Jones.  $2 was the cost with discount.  The Half Price at Veteran’s Memorial (the only Half Price I went to this Memorial Day Sale) no longer has the $1 records. Most of them are now $2.50.

Ah, Wales… The Land of Song.  Other than Charlotte Church, Duffy, John Cale, The Darkness, Manic Street Preachers, Goldie Lookin’ Chain, and Bonnie Tyler (who I just assumed was American), I am hard pressed to think of anyone else than Tom Jones.  Also, I am reminded of Kevin, the Welsh machinist who I knew in Corpus. The later in the day, the more alcohol he drank and the more he drank, the easier he was to understand.  Always ended up in the Safari Bar, which was known as the place old (65+) people went to hook up as well as where people went when they got kicked out of other bars at night.  Also had the longest last call in town. They had an immaculate waterfall inside but alas, it got new ownership and it is gone (or at least last time I was there 10 years ago, it was gone). But oh, woe to the man or woman who found themselves in the Safari at 2 am.

But back to Jones, this was his 15th or so album.  Released in 1970, it went Gold shooting up to #10 in the UK/ # 23 in the US.  Pretty decent album, it produced two singles, the title track and “Daughter of Darkness”.

While looking (or listening more accurately) for a sample, I was struck with the fact that there were a lot of songs that are staples of this site. Songs such as “Try A Little Tenderness”, “Lodi”, and  Rod McKuen’s “Love’s Been Good To Me” seem to always make their way to this blog.  However, I decided to buck convention and go with “See Saw”.

Good album.  Satisfactory.

Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks- Where’s The Money?

This was all of $1.00.  I thought this was the second Dan Hicks record I owned. I was wrong. I have three.  I also thought this was the second one I posted.  Wrong again.  This is the first.

Dan Hicks passed on in February of last year.  His music is both easy and complex to describe.  On some levels, it is an exact extension of the hot jazz/ gypsy music of Django Reinhardt and the country swing of Bob Wills, plus many other genres of music, all while looking like hippies. His band the Hotlicks was formed in 1967, split in 1972, reformed sometime before 1973 and split sometime thereafter with an occasional reunion, most notably in 1991. The band was sprung from the San Francisco area where Hicks moved as a youth.  He was born in Little Rock Ark, in 1941.  See what I did there?  I did it backwards.

Dan’s Webpage

Anyway, this was his second record and it was done live. Recorded at the Troubadour in Los Angeles, the album features what his webpage calls the best known lineup of the band featuring Maryann Price and Naomi Ruth Eisenberg on vocals and percussion, Sid Page on first violin and mandolin, and Jamie Leopold on Double Bass.

I was really blown away how good this album was and how eclectic it sounded on one hand while making perfect sense on the other.  The songs are all really good.  Great musicianship and great vocals.  Also , featured on the album is some of the best stage banter I have heard in a long time.

For a sample, I went with what I felt was the Best song on the record, “Caught in the Rain”.  I also went with the first track, “I Feel Like Singing” because when I first listened to it, I thought the record was skipping.  And if you really think about it, to accomplish that feat on a live record is really saying something.

Anyway, great album. Top Rated.

The Melachrino Orchestra- Music For Two People Alone

This was originally 50 cents but with discount, came out to a lean 40. Why did I get it?  Can not remember anymore.  Most likely price.  

This record, released by RCA Victor in 1954, is from the Melachrino Orchestra, led by George Melachrino.  Born in London from Greek and Italian roots, and proficient on a variety of instruments, he worked in bands before becoming an army musician in WWII.  After the war, he lead his own orchestra with records, performance, and soundtrack work. His series of  “Moods” albums became pop staples but may be better known today for their covers rather than the actual content. Melachrino died in 1965 but the string orchestra under his name continued after his death for another decade at least. He also has a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame.

Melachrino’s Space Age Pop Page

Anyway, this is a collection of songs for two people alone and draws from a diverse source of material including Hammerstein-Kern, Rodgers-Hart, Gershwin, Gonzalo Roig, Lew Pollack, and Hoagy Carmichael.  

It is Carmichael’s selection that I used for a sample.  Here is his composition, “Two Sleepy People”. On the whole, this record put me to sleep.  Meh.