Robert Ashley and his Orchestra- Themes from Italian Films

Can’t quite remember how much I paid for this.  There is no price which would normally indicate $1 but it was in my personal collection and I seem to recall I paid $6 bucks for this some time ago. At the time, my budget was $5 and under so I guess for that reason, it was absorbed into my stash, but now that I am forced to raise the limits, I can put this one on the blog.  I got it for my favorite Italian movie song, “El N. Zumbon” or the song from “Anna”.  Various versions have been posted on this blog.

This album, released by MGM Records, is as the title suggests, a collection of songs from Italian films.  I am not sure if Robert Ashley is the same US composer, known for incorporating electronic techniques in his works or not. In fact I kind of doubt it.  Not sure when this record came out either.  A lot of question marks from this album.

Which I may be more inclined to answer if it were a better album.  I found it too slow paced for my liking.  I felt the version of “Anna” was just flat and had no life to it.  Hence, it is not being used as a sample.  I also wondered why “More” from Mondo Cane was not on here although it may have something to do with the release date of the album.  So for a sample, I took a song from the 1953 film I sette dell’Orsa maggiore , or Hell Raiders Of The Deep.  Here is “Malasierra” penned by P.G. Redi.

The poor version of “Anna” doomed this record for me so meh.

Command All Stars- Persuasive Percussion Vol 3

Here’s another week with this record, which is a bit too expensive for my blood at $6.  Records everywhere are getting too expensive.  I would say in the last year, used record prices have jumped up between $1 and $2.  Which I guess in the short term is a good thing as it keeps me from coming back from the store with 30 records for $30.  Also, the Half Price Books in Sugar Land slashed their international section dramatically.  Boo.  Anyway, I got this album for the song I am going to post as well as the fact that I have posted Vol 2 prior and the overall high quality of Command recordings.

This record, originally released in 1960 and re-released by Pickwick in 1978, culminates prior Command recordings with an emphasis on percussion.  I am not sure which musicians contributed to this, but the result is pretty much on par with other Command efforts (Discogs list credits here).  As always, credit must also be given to Command’s man in command, Enoch Light.

I got this specifically for the version of “Hawaiian War Chant” which is among one of my favorites.  I also decided to post another fave, “Perdido”.

Good album.  Satisfactory.

Ted Sommer and Bill Lavorgna – Cole Porter in Pleasing Percussion

Today’s record which was $6 brings together to favorites of this blog, Cole Porter and percussion.  An added bonus is the promise of organ on the cover.  A bit on the pricey end, but this is the way things are post-2017.  If you have not heard, I moved by upper spending bound from $5 to $8.

I am continually amazed from doing this blog of the span and reach of Cole Porter’s music.  He was truly one of America’s greatest song writers and perhaps one of the greatest of all time.  It is hard to accurately place one on an infinite line of tine and space.

Ted Sommer, born in New York City in 1924, is a jazz drummer who worked with such greats and blog guests as Dick Hyman and Terry Synder as well as Zoot Sims, the inspiration for the Muppet’s Zoot.

Bill Lavorgna, born in Patterson, NJ in 1933, was best known for his work as a musical director on Broadway.  A Korean war vet, upon return he worked with such greats as Judy Garland, Liza Minnelli, Dizzy Gillespe, and Frank SInatra.  Lavorgna past on in 2007 at the age of 74.

The Lowrey Organ, made by Fred Lowrey in Chicago, was the most popular brand of organ in the 1960’s and 1970’s.  Lowrey made it’s one millionth organ in 1989.  Also apparently, Chicago is the hotbed for organs as the Hammond was invented there as well.

Well, here they are on this album which features the skills of both men pitted against the illustrious work on Porter. I am not sure what year this came out.  I am guessing late 60’s.  It was released on budget label Pickwick under the Grand Prix Series.  Decent enough album.  Pretty good light jazz interpretations of popular Porter songs.  Nice little organ parts as well as good percussion breaks.  Songs include favorites such as “I Love Paris”, “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”, and “It’s D’Lovely”.  However, for a sample, I went with “You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To” as I feel it capitulates everything this record was trying to do, which it largely accomplishes for the most part.


Shony Alex Braun – Continental Varieties

Keeping February rolling with this record I got for a dollar.  Lot of songs that are kind of mainstays of this blog so buying this was a no brainer.

The gypsy violinist of this record, Shony Alex Braun, was born in Transylvania,  in 1930.  I am not sure how truly gypsy he was, but he was half Jewish and as a result, survived the Holocaust serving time in both Auschwitz and Dachau. Braun credits his ability to play music as the reason for his survival.  He would later win a Pulitzer Prize for his composition “Symphony of The Holocaust” on 1994.  He moved to the US in the 1950’s and had a good career as a musician, composer, and actor.  He would die in Los Angeles in 2002 of pneumonia. The story below relates to how,  during the Holocaust, he was in a room with SS officers who wanted him to play for them.  Struck by nerves, he forgot every tune he knew.  When they threateningly approached him, he began to play the Blue Danube, despite both playing an instrument larger than he was used to and never playing that song before.  Pretty amazing story.

This album, released by Impromto Records, came out sometime but I am not sure when.  My best bet is the 1950’s.  Backed by his Continental Ensemble and pianist/arranger Gregory Stone, the album is a collection of very famous instrumental standards from around the world. All the ones I like are here, including “Autumn Leaves”, “Granada”, ” La Vie En Rose”, “Dark Eyes”, and “Havah Nagilah”.  Braun’s violin is excellent in that gypsy style.  Good arrangements.  Overall good album.  I also liked the brief history and influences of the composers of the tunes on the back cover.

Well, as much as I like those songs above, and despite how good Braun’s versions were, I decided to go a different route and post “Valse Pizzicato”, written by George Boulanger.  The song showcases Braun’s skill with the picking technique, a technique scorned by most violists of the time according to the back cover.  Pretty good little track.


Robert Maxwell- Shangri-La

This was a bit on the high end at the time at $4, but I really like good harp albums. Also pretty women on covers draw me to purchases.  So I figured I would check this out.

Robert Maxwell (1921-2012) was an American harpist and song writer and the British pension plunderer you may think of.  Born in New York City, he had a great little career as a harpist on stage, radio, television, and movies.  He was a true innovator of the instrument, pushing the boundaries and challenging the conventional views of the harp.  As a songwriter, he is most famous for two exotica classics “Ebb Tide” and “Shangri-La” as well as “Solfeggio”, best known for its use on the Ernie Kovacs Show (which is probably somewhat racist in today’s context).  Who says I am not current with my references?

Maxwell’s Spaceage Pop page

This album, released by Decca in 1963, comes 18 years after the title song composition.   The album itself is a wonderful collection of exotica that is heavy on orchestration, most notably, the harp. Besides the title track, there are a lot of great songs on this record including “Old Devil Moon”, “Magic in the Moonlight”, “It’s Magic”, and “That Old Black Magic”.  As described in the paragraph above, Maxwell’s harp playing is beautiful, yet in many ways, unconventional at times. The overall arrangements are wonderful.   In some songs the harp is the driving center. In others, it is purely background.  Just an overall great piece of exotica.

For a sample, I present the bedazzling “Bewitched” from Rodgers and Hart.  The opening harp is haunting indeed.  I also went with one of this blog’s favorites ” The Breeze and I”, mainly because a cannot 100% identify the instruments used.

Excellent record.  Top Billing.

The Mom and Dads- The Very Best of The Mom and Dads

Look at this cover.  How am I going to pass this one up?  It looks like an SCTV skit. Got a to have a decent story in this record.  Besides, it was only a dollar.  I can’t make out the name on the record, but it has been duly recorded that this was purchased on December 1, 1979. Furthermore, it was recorded to CD on March 29th, 1995.  The owner felt it necessary to document the fact that this happened on a Tuesday.

The Mom and Dads were a polka band from Spokane, Wash.  At the time of the liner notes, the band consisted of Doris Crow, 72, Les Welch, 64, Harold Henderson, 58, and the youngest member, Quentin Ratiff, 42.  Wikipedia places their formation in the 1950’s but they rose to prominence in 1971 with the release of “Ranger’s Waltz”.  It was their first recording and it forced the group to adopt their name.  This became a hit in Canada and Australia.  19 albums and about 90 days of concerts a year later, the band were international stars.  The ride all ended when Welch passed away in 1983.  The remaining members have all passed as well, the last being Ratliff in 2013.

This record, released by GNP Crescendo in 1979 culminates the output during this period, (the 70’s).  A two record set, the album is all instrumentals; waltzes, polkas, and everything in between.  With the exception of “Ranger’s Waltz”, the rest of the songs are covers.  Pretty good mix of songs.  I mean they all kind of sound the same but at least there is a good cross section of songs.


For a sample, I went with the Kris Kritofferson number, “Me and Bobby McGee”.


Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops Orchestra- American Salute

This week we have been showcasing records that I bought without any close inspection and upon arrival at home, discovered them to be different than their covers.  If you have been following this blog, you can imagine how excited I was to see this as I post a lot of work by both Doc Severinsen and Command Records.  Plus this was only a dollar.

And what a track list this was, “Mas Que Nada”, “Love Theme from Paris Burning”, “It’s Not Unusual”, “Walk On By” ( the Burt Bacharachsong), “Goin’ Out Of My Head” ,and “Guantanamera”.  Plus the “Singing” in the title would indicate vocals. With a vocal chorus of 12 singers, Severinsen was backed on this record by the usual cast of Command characters including Dick Hyman and Tony Mottola.  All in all, this would have been a great album. Severinsen would have to really, I mean really screw the pooch for this record not to be great.

Well, my heart sank when I pulled this out as I was quite hyped to listen to it.  What I got was An American Salute by Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops Orchestra.  Released in 1972 by RCA, this is collection of songs with an American feel with numbers both contemporary and traditional.

Don’t get me wrong.  There are a lot of really great songs on this record and Fiedler’s skills as the leading conductor of pop orchestras is quite evident here.  I actually had about half this album recorded as potential samples.  Songs I liked include the title track, “Deep In The Heart of Texas”, “By The Time I Get To Phoenix”, “Rodeo Hoedown”, and “Chester”.  Ultimately, I went with “Alabama Jubilee” which is a more traditional Americana number along with the Jim Webb penned “Galveston” which is quite a good version.  Having some second thoughts writing this post about switching “Alabama” for “Chester” but no.  I am going with my gut.

So as good as this record is and despite my respect for Fiedler, I was just way to jazzed to hear the Severinsen album so I am still quite disappointed with this transaction.  Meh.  I know this is really unfair to Fiedler.  Anyway, I am still looking out for the Severinsen record and hopefully, this story will have a happy ending.

Michel Legrand- I Love Paris

Merry Christmas.  Here I am with an excellent album from one of my favorites.  This was in a  box of records I got from a friend of mine.  On a personal level, as I am writing this three days before Christmas, I am getting back to keeping these a bit more current.  Do not get me wrong.  I enjoyed doing these posts in advance.  However, it is a bit hard to keep up on current trends when I am writing about things that happened three months ago.

If you have been reading this blog, you may be saying, what gives?  Haven’t you posted this album before?  Well yes, in a way.  I posted the New I Love Paris earlier this year.  Well, I was under the impression that this was the first work, although it is on the Columbia’s budget label Harmony.  However, upon listing, the songs sound very similar.  Well, since I am writing this three days before Christmas, I really do not want to put much effort into this. 

Plus it is Christmas and I have other ventures to get on to.  So if you want to learn more about this, I would suggest finding out via Google. You can also read the original post I did on the New album.  There is a back story there and I am just to tired to go any further.  It is interesting to note that Legrand originally did this album as a quick money maker and  arranged/conducted it on the fly.  His result was a masterpiece.

Link to earlier Post

For a sample, I went with “Paris Canaille” and one of my favorites, “Autumn Leaves”.

Top Rated Album.  Merry  Christmas


Kip Anderson and the Tides- Shango! Night in a Quiet Village

Happy Monday.  By now, I should be back from vacation (although in reality at the time of this writing, I have not left). As much as I like getting ahead of myself and not having to worry about falling behind, I think I will try to keep posts a bit more current in 2018.  I feel I missed out some by not telling some of the better Houston stories while they were fresh.  Oh well, back to this, which was $1.  I got it for the exotica songs as well as the title.  The reason I am playing it today is that the record I picked out, a copy of The Nutcracker Suite, turned out to be a 78 rpm, which I kind of sensed due to its density.

Not much is known about Kip Anderson other than what I pulled off of of this Blog, Unearthed in the Atomic Age.  I believe this is the second time I referenced this site.  Anyway, Anderson, (no relation to the American R&B singer of the same name) was born in Bocas Del Toro, Panama and played the organ with various groups in various styles.  This information was also on the back cover.  I believe this is the only album he did under his own moniker.

Link to UITAA post on album

This album came out in 1965 on Kapp Records.  Despite being labeled as jazz, this is a pretty decent exotica album.  Pretty good organ parts.  Songs are good as well.  I liked a lot of it.  However, as I can only choose two samples, I went with the title track and “Voodoo Moon” which I think is the best track on the album.


Stan Kenton- Hair

You though I was sick of posting Broadway albums after October, right?  Well think again.  Here is this, which I purchased for $1.20.  I think it the time, I was amassing various cover versions of Hair and this one popped up. Still on vacation at the time of you reading this so lets hope it went OK.

Stan Kenton has been on this site before.  Twice I believe.  One good record.  One not so good record.  Well here is this released in 1969, a year after the musical had become a sensation.  Pretty good stuff which by the way is my standard response when I do not want to put much effort into this.  Half the songs have vocals or at least a chorus.  The others do not. Musically, this is a pretty entertaining.  Could have really gone either way as when classical. old school band leaders interpret modern music, the results can be mixed.  Fortunately for Kenton, this record does well.  Key musicians include Bud Shank, Gene Cipriano, Jack Sheldon, Bill Hood, and Gil Falco.

For a sample, I thought “Colored Spade” was really funky.  So here it is.

Satisfactory record.