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.

Gordon McCrae- The Seasons Of Love

This was $3.  I got this for the singer, Gordon McCrae, singer and actor.  Born in East Orange, New Jersey in 1921, McCrae started on Broadway in 1942. A singer career followed as well as the big screen, which he first appeared on in 1948. After roles in such musical hits as Tea For Two, and By The Light Of The Silvery Moon, McCrae landed the biggest two roles of his career in two Rodgers and Hammerstein film adaptations, Oklahoma and Carousel.  His love interest in both was Shirley Jones.  Oddly enough, they get married in both. One marriage does not work out.  Anyway, McCrae continued with tv, radio, and performances until his death of pneumonia in 1986.

It is the R&H movies in which I became aware of McCrae.  And on that note, I find it interesting as I really liked Oklahoma as a kid.  Carousel, on the other hand, was quite lame.  First off, I am sorry your marriage to a carny did not turn out to be the bed of roses it would appear to be.  Second,  the male protagonist really does not go through any deep change other than dying.  I think he could have done more for his daughter and the fact that when he comes back to earth for redemption, he strikes her is indicative of his character.  Finally, despite having one of the most recognizable and inspirational songs from Broadway, “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, I found the music overall to be quite singular in use and limited.

But time and tastes do change.  Today, I rather like Carousel.  I still think Billy Bigelow is a jerk and it could have ended a bit better, but  the story has grown on me some as well as the music aside from  the fact that the movie omits “The Highest Judge of All”.  In comparison, I now feel the portrayal of Judd in Oklahoma, is unfair and borders on class resentment.

This record came out on Capitol Records in 1959, after the success listed above.  Conducted by Van Alexander, the album contains songs mostly about seasons.  It is the slow crooning style that I guess he was known for.  Songs include “Indian Summer”, September Song”, “Autumn Leaves, ” and “I’ll Remember April.”

For a sample, I went with “I’ll Remember April” because I remember April.  It was last month.  Seems like a just paid rent for that month and here we are again.  

Decent enough record.  I mean not my cup of tea on all points but I knew what I was getting into when I bought this. 40’s/50’s style old school crooner with the moderately deep voice singing slower romantic tunes.

VA- Curtains Up! Music and Plunk, Tinkle, Ting-A-Ling

This was a dollar.  I like percussion-esque albums as well as orchestra pops.  This combined both. Internet service is still intermittent at best in my apartment.  This leads to brevity for today’s post.

This is a collection of various symphony orchestra’s conducting various numbers with a focus on various mood effects, mostly percussion.  The conductors on this album include Howard Hanson, Antal Dorati, and Frederick Fennell.  The composers on the record include Leroy Anderson, Percy Faith, Cole Porter, John Phllip Sousa, and Bela Bartok among others.  It was released by Mercury Records in a series of Curtain Up! Releases.  My guess is it was released sometime around 1958 to 1960.

I really liked this album.  A bunch of good interpretation of songs.  Musically, it covers a large span of sounds.  A lot of goods spots.  I had to pick two.  I went with Anderson’s “The Typewriter” and Porter’s “My Heart Belongs To Daddy”.  But I did like a whole lot of other songs on this album including “From The Diary Of A Fly”, “The One-Hoss-Shay”, and “Butantan”.  But I felt Porter’s song was the best on the album and “Typewriter” has that gimmicky appeal that I do love so.

Great little record.  Satisfactory. Probably deserves more writing on this post but not happening this week.

Robert Shaw Chorale- Operatic Choruses

This was a dollar.  Lot of opportunities to have fun with this post.  Well, time is kind of limiting that this week.  time and bad internet connection at the house.

Oddly enough this today, I am going to see the last of the Ring Cycle, Gotterdammerung and yes, it has bothered me every year on some level that I am watching the work of a rabid anti-semite.  Well, the Houston Grand Opera has been doing a piece from the cycle every year and I have been all in up til this point.  After I went to the first part, Das Rheingold, I started getting season tickets.  The first year, I only went to two operas, but after that, I have been arguably attending most shows a season and have really enjoyed them.

As far as this production, it is OK.  Technically, it has been great.  Production-wise, I am not a fan of the modern set and custom although many people are raving about them.  I also felt the dragon in last year’s Seigfried was clown shoes. It looked like a rubik snake.

For this record, I was going to ask my pal Scott for his thoughts about operatic chorus as he served some time in the Houston Grand Opera’s chorus.  However, he has been busy , re-opening Dan Electro’s Bar in Houston.  And likewise, I have been to busy to drive to the Heights to see him.  Well,  if you are in Houston, check out the bar.  It is a Houston classic spot. I am sure if I got around to asking him, Scott would say something to the effect of the importance of the chorus to opera and its role in the production.  Here’s an idea, why not go to Dan Electro’s and ask him?

Well, there is this album from the conductor, Robert Shaw (1916-1999).  Released in 1956, I think by RCA Victor, it is a collection of popular choruses and is quite good.  Good song collection that culls famous work from the French, German, and Italians.  A lot of decent tunes including, Bizet’s Carmen, Gounod’s Faust (which I saw at the HGO within the last two years, Verdi’s Nabucco, and Wagner’s Lohengrin.  On that note, I did not realize that Wagner wrote “Here Comes The Bride” until I heard this album. That means most married folk now have an ethical dilemma as well. Turns out your drunk uncle was not the only anti-semetic thing at your wedding.

For a sample, I was stuck between a bunch of songs, but ultimately decided on Verdi’s “Anvil Chorus” from Il Trovatore.  Yeah, I like the simple effects.  If you have watched any type of TV for the last 20 years, you know this song.

Good album.  Satisfactory.  I really wanted to do more with this post but , what can you do.

 

Milton Berle- Songs My Mother Loved

This was $1.  I got it to see what Milton Berle’s contribution to music would be.  Hey, where are my manners?  Another month of 2017 and another month of Donkey Show.  Most of the year, I have been running ahead of writing these posts.  Well, I have now fell behind.  Oh, well.  I have all month to get caught up.

Milton Berle (1908-2002), known as “Mr Television”, was America’s first major TV star. Getting his start on vaudeville and radio, Berle jumped on the rising medium of television in 1948 with the Texaco Star Theater, renamed later to the Buick-Berle Show, and later, just the Milton Berle show.  

This record, from Roulette Records, came out in 1957 at the end of his show’s run.  As the title would suggest, the album is a collection of songs for his mother, Sandra Berle, who passed three years earlier.

The Hugo and Luigi, who received producer credits at the bottom were Luigi Creatore and Hugo Peretti, songwriters who were also co-owners of the label.  The duo would work with Perry Como, Sam Cooke, and Elvis Presley.

Since this record is dedicated to Berle’s mother and given the fact that my mother is probably going to read this, I am going to skip over the fact that Berle was known as one of the largest endowed performers in show bidness.

And although, he worked clean for the large majority of his acts/shows, his performances at the Friar Club were often blue and made light of his gift.  Anyway, below, is a rather comical story from SNL writer Alan Zweibel, who oddly enough, used to write the jokes for the Friar’s Club roasts.

Zweibel’s recollection of Berle

Anyway, back to general decency, this record is a collection of older tunes from the first half of the century.  I am unsure who the orchestra and chorus are but they do most of the heavy lifting.  Berle does an occasional speak over on some of the songs. It is ok, overall.  I thought I was getting more Berle content when I bought this.

For a sample, I decided to play tribute to the boys of summer and Bull Durham with “Try A Little Tenderness” because women do get woolly.

Overall, meh.  Really don’t get to much out of this.  The arrangements are pretty bland and Berle’s voice overs don’t salvage this act. I guess I should factor in what I paid for this but still, meh.

The D’oyly Carte Opera Company- Gilbert & Sullivan/ Highlights from The Mikado and Patience

This was $3.  I have posted other versions of the Mikado on this blog.  It is probably Gilbert and Sullivan’s most famous work.  At least it is my favorite. Anyway that is why I bought it and why I am posting it this month.  The color scheme of the cover probably influenced me on some level as well.

There is an excellent movie which I am sure I plugged on this site before called Topsy-Turvy, which tells the story of the creation of light opera, its first performance and the lives of the principles involved.  It is a great period piece and is pretty entertaining.

Anyway, this was released by the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company,  The company was formed in 1875 when Richard D’Oyly Carte brought Gilbert and Sullivan together to write a short piece.  From there, a partnership was born and more works followed. most notably 1878’s HMS Pinafore.  With the success of the work, the Savoy Theater was built and the Opera Company was formed.  Richard’s offspring carried on the tradition until the copyright on Gilbert’s words expired in 1961.  No longer having a monopoly of the duo’s work, the company withered away slowly, closing in 1982.  However, the Company re-established itself in 1988 and has been performing sporadically over the years, struggling with funding as so many fine artists find themselves doing nowadays.

Current Web Page

This album was recorded under the personal supervision of Richard’s grand daughter, Miss Bridget D’Oyly Carte, who served as the company’s head from 1948 to 1982. Released by London Records, it is a pretty good album with some of the more popular songs from the two pieces of works. From 1961, it features the New Promenade Orchestra, conducted by Isidore Godfrey.  I believe a series of G& S records were made from these.

 

From the Mikado, we have such classics as ” A Wandering Minstrel I”, “Three Little Maids”, Here’s a How De Do”, “The Mikado Song” and “Tit Willow” which I first heard here.

I was a bit disappointed with exclusion of the “Sun Whose Rays Are All Ablaze” although I am not surprised as it is not as popular as some of the other tunes.  The piece was used at the end of Topsy Turvy and really highlighted the struggles of the actress Leonora Braham and her loneliness of  being a single mother (widowed) in Victorian England.

I was less familiar with Patience, but it has some good numbers in it as well.  Seen as a satirical look at the Aesthetic Movement of the 1870’s and 1880’s, the work features some decent songs such as “Twenty Love Sick Maidens” and “Am I Alone”.

For samples, I went with “Who Is This ” from Patience as well as the finale, “So He’s Gone and Married Yum Yum” from the Mikado.

Satisfactory record.

Vladimir Golschmann- Mussorgsky (Pictures at an Exhibition)

Welcome to a fresh week of Donkey Show. Kick off the official start of this month’s anniversary celebration with this piece of work.  I bought this record for the same reason I posted it.  I have posted several versions of this work (well really only two-ELP’s and Tomita’s) and I felt that it would be a good idea to someday visit the proper piece. This was $1.60 with discount.

I also recently saw Pictures at an Exhibition performed at Jones Hall last month.  I had not been to Jones Hall since I was on a school field trip in elementary school.  Anyway, it was pretty good time and a pretty moving performance.  Mussorgsky’s piece was accompanied by Stravinsky’s Symphonies of Wind Instruments as well as John Adam’s Concerto for Saxophone and Orchestra featuring Tim McAllister on sax..  All three pieces were conducted by Hans Graf, a former Houston Symphony director from Germany.  

Current director, Colombian born Andres Orozoco-Estrada, spoke to the audience beforehand about each piece of work as well as some general music appreciation.  This was interesting and entertaining as well.

Anyway, that night’s performance as well as the version on this album are more of a tribute to Joseph Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) who took Mussorgsky’s piano piece and turned it into the full orchestrated version we know today.

According to Orozco-Estrada’s speech, Ravel wrote the book on arranging for orchestra, quite literally.  In his book, Ravel highlighted both his greatest successes as well as his failures in orchestrating pieces of work. As far as the original work goes, it’s origins have been well documented (or at least documented) in this blog as well as Google.

Pictures at an Exhibition is Ravel’s best known arrangements of other peoples work.  I was amazed at the performance how well someone could completely flesh out such an arrangement from a sole piano piece.  Regardless, it is a fine piece and it is represented well on this album.  The conductor, Vladimir Golschman (1893-1972) was  French born but moved to the US where he led the St Louis Symphony from 1931 to 1958.

This album also features “A Night at Bald Mountain” which I was familiar with but unaware that this was also Mussorgsky’s work. However, I am going with the track that got me to the dance, a piece from Pictures.  I was leaning towards “Limoges/Catacombae” as a sample but somehow decided to go the easy route with what is the highlight of the piece  the epic ” The Little Hut/ Baba-Yaga” and the grandiose and majestic “Great Gates of Kiev”.  Both numbers draw on allusions to earlier movements in the piece.  It serves as a great end to this piece.

Satisfactory Record.

 

 

Edmundo Ros and His Orchestra- Bongos From The South

This was 80 cents.  Pretty decent play list.  A lot of my favorites on here.

Edmundo Ros was a Trinidad-born, Venezulean-weaned band leader who made a name for himself in the UK.  Skilled with both percussion and vocals, Ros formed his own orchestra which played in various clubs and restaurants in London. He would also buy his own in 1951.  Ros made many notable recordings during his career.  His last public performance was in 1994.  Ros would pass in 2011, two months shy if his 101th birthday.

This album, released by London Records in 1961 was done at a time when Ros style of music was quickly being supplanted by rock and roll. But it still is a decent album.  It is a collection of songs mostly from either South America or the southern US with some other Latin tunes as well.  Pretty good collection of tunes which are well done.  As the title as well as Ros’ background would suggest, the songs are percussion heavy.  Given this, the songs all feature pretty extensive orchestration. The band does not skimp on other areas for percussion’s sake. Good album.

For a sample, I had many choice to choose from.  I went with “Deep in The Heart of Texas” which is well served by a Latin arrangement.  I also went with “Brazil” because I always go with that song.  I also went with “El Cumbanchero” for reasons that will be apparent next week.

Good album.  Satisfactory.

Stan Kenton & Tex Ritter- ST

This was $4.00.  It had a lot of promise.  An interesting collaboration between two artists and a decent song list.

This album is a collaborative effort between alcoholic pianist, composer, and arranger, Stan Kenton (1911-1979) and country singer and actor Tex Ritter (1905-1974), who was the father of Three’s Company Star, John Ritter as well as the voice of the Disney Bear Jamboree’s Big Al.

This effort was released in 1962 for Captiol Records and features Ritter’s low country voice with Kenton’s Big Band orchestration. I had high hoped for this album but quite frankly, it does not work.  The two styles mix as well as oil and water. They do not compliment each other at all. In all honesty, it probably would have  been better served with a singer with a higher register.   Critics and fans felt the same as this album did not sell well.

There are a couple songs that I normally like such as “High Noon”, “Cool Water”, and “Red River Valley”. There are also a couple of big band standards such as “September Song” but really all of them kind of fall a bit flat.  After some thought, I went with “Cimarron”.  

Meh.  Pretty lackluster album and I had such high hopes for it.

 

Rostal & Schaefer / Ron Goodwin- The Beatles Concerto

This was $4 and purchased to offset some of the $1 crap I bought on the same day.  Got to try real hard to screw up the Beatles.  Not saying that hasn’t been done and posted on this webpage.  Just saying it does take some concentrated effort.

.

Well, no trip to Phoenix is complete without some sporting event so Saturday night, the whole family went to a hockey game.  The Pittsburgh Penguins were playing the Coyotes.  Oddly enough, it was Larry Fitzgerald Bobble Head Night.  Great game.  Sidney Crosby was 2 points away from 1,000 so every time he touched the puck, you got excited.  Coyotes led for most of the game until the Penguins tied it up late in the third. The Coyotes then found themselves short handed in overtime but managed to hold Pittsburgh off long enough to score the game winner in the last minute of overtime.  Great game.

I learned last night that Concerto’s are meant to highlight a particular instrument. This piece of work show cases the piano talents of one Peter Rostal and John Shaffer as well as the writing/arrangements of John Rutter against the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra led by George Martin’s (who also produced the record)  buddy and first signing, Ron Goodwin(1925-2003).  Goodwin scored over 70 pieces of film, mostly UK releases including I’m Alright Jack.  He also scored Where Eagles Dare and Force Ten From Navarone. 

Released in 1979, this album contains one side consisting of three movements of the Beatles Concerto which had been performed worldwide since 1977.  The second side contains six Beatles impressions.  Both side are pretty good.  The concerto is a more complete work with elaborate orchestrations. The principles were trying to arrange and perform the Beatles’ work in a style of Rachmaninoff or Tchaikovsky. To this end, they were wildly successful as the work gained such comparisons instead of being a straight interpretation. The second side is also interesting as it takes Beatles songs and performs them in style similar to other composers.

I wanted to take samples from both sides to illustrate these things. From the first side, I leaned heavily towards the 3rd movement which puts “Can’t Buy Me Love” against a different background and marries it to “The Long And Winding Road”.  For the second side, I was really torn between  “A Hard Day’s Night” which wonderfully borrows from Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue”, and “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” from which I should know by the now after doing this site, the style of which the music alludes to but don’t.  All I can say it that is a grandiose rendition.

Good album.  Satisfactory.