Enoch Light and his Orchestra- The Million Dollar Sound of the World’s Most Precious Violins

dscn5516Here we go with another month of Donkey-Show.  This month should be okay. Like corn kernels, there are a few gems within this month’s selections.  This was 80 cents.  I am unsure why I bought it other than being another Command Record which in general, contain interesting arrangements and quality production. This was previously owned by Cowl’s Music Center in Laredo, Texas.  I believe they sold high end audio equipment.  Since Command Records were well known by serious audiophiles, I am sure this record was used for display purposes.violin1_wide-0c18365a010c2912b2fcb2c20dccb41bad0f04aa-s900-c85

I have had several Enoch Light albums on this blog in the past.  If you are unfamiliar with his work, I would suggest you search Light on this blog.  The underlying concept of this album is the use of some of the world’s rarest and most expensive violins. Most people are aware of Antonio Stradivari and his violins.  Presented here are some of the lesser known instrument makers including Carlo Bergonzi, Alessandro Gagliano, Giuseppe Guarneri, Giovanni Battista Guadagnini, Jean Babptiste Villaumme, and Giuseppe del Gesu of the Guarneri family who is probably right behind Stradivari in regards to craftsmanship.

A Stradivarius
A Stradivarius

The record features some of the most precious violins at the time (the time being 1959).  This includes a 1724 Stradivari which was the first of its brand to come to America, the Duke of Edinburgh Violin made by Bergonzi in 1744, the Venus Violin made by Guadagnini, the Dancia Violin made by Guarneri in 1726, and the Prince of Orange Violin made by del Gesu in 1744.  Also among the arsenal is a Pietro Antonio Landolfi violin from 1765, owned and played by Light himself.

Information and pictures on the Prince of Orange Violin


As far as the album itself, it is the same high quality that Command Records are known for.  Interesting, lush arrangements with the focus on violins.  Highlights include “Laura”, “All Or Nothing At All”, “The Breeze And I”, “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”, and “In The Still Of The Night”. Also among the top songs, is “Temptation” which I have used for a sample.

del Gesu's work
del Gesu’s work

Satisfactory Record although the focus on strings does take away from the other instrument families which usually shine on Command Records.

The Ventures- The Ventures in Space

dscn5396This was $3.00.  I knew it was a pretty good album when I bought it.  While doing research on another Venture’s album a few posts ago, this one was heavily referenced.  On a separate note, I should try to remember to end the blog’s month with artists who appear regular on this site.  It cuts down on my work. These folks have been on my blog before and as a result, I forget what pictures I used for the posts.cdchd-1176a_1

This was the Ventures 14th album and in a slight departure from their surf rock, ventures in to a futuristic space rock sound.  No pun was intended on that last sentence.  The difference in style is subtle but regardless it is well complimented by the band. Highlights include “Twilight Zone”, “Moon Child”, “War Of the Satellites” and “Solar Race”.

The record came out in 1964.  One critic has noted whereas most casual fans can do well with a greatest hits compilation, this record is the exception to the rule. All of the tracks are pretty good and function well together.

The back cover stated that all sounds were produced by musical instruments rather than “electronic gimmicks”. That is good and all but it is quite a brash statement against electronic music.  Is there not artistic merit in that form of music?dscn5397

For a sample, I decided to go with “Penetration” as it kind of vaguely reminiscent of their first big hit, “Walk Don’t Run”.  a1464112277_10

Top Rated Record.

Hank Snow- Sings Your Favorite Country Hits

dscn5394Here is another Hank Snow record.  Someday, I should check to see who has been on this site the most.  Snow would definitely be among the top, probably because I am Canadian, but also because he is a country great.  This was $3.snow1000

This album, released in 1965, was marketed to Snow fans.  Here is Snow tackling some of the big country hits of the time (actually all from 1963 for some reason.  These kind of albums were popular in the 60’s because they were easy to make and fans bought them.  Not that 1965 was a bad year for Snow.  He had three hit singles that year.  None of them were from this album, though.  hank-snow

As an album as well as a concept, this album does deliver.  There are a lot of good tunes on this, including “From A Jack To A King”, “Mary Ann Regrets”, “White Silver Sands”, “In The Misty Moonlight”, “Trouble In Mind”, and “Bumming Around”. The record was produced by Mr Nashville Sound, Chet Atkins. Also, the Anita Kerr Singers provide back up on the record, which was quite standard for Snow’s work.dscn5395

For a sample, I went with Dave Dudley’s big hit, “Six Days On The Road”.  I also decided to go with “Lonesome 7-7203”.  I realize that I posted this song earlier this month from Webb Pierce’s album.  Normally, I do not believe in posting something twice in one month.  However, I decided this month to throw convention in the wind.hank_snow

Satisfactory Record.

Les Baxter- Thinking of You

dscn5392This was $3.00.  Generally speaking, I am a fan of Les Baxter’s work.  It has been featured on this site in the past.baxter-les-51a14f48b62b1

I do not know why I did not spend more time reading the back of the album.  It was only three paragraphs, double spaced in large type.  It would have told me all I needed to know about this album.dscn5393

This album, released by Capitol in 1954, this is a collection of romantic ballads augmented by use of chorus.  Made in Baxter’s heyday, this album is a departure from the exotic and exciting arrangements that mark his other works. In other words, I hate this. I mean, I can get too down on it as the back cover explained it all and I was too much in a hurry to be bothered to read it.  There are still a lot of trademark Baxterism’s and it is not bad per se, but it is not my cup of tea as far as Baxter is concerned. It is kind of loungy in areas which is good, but the music is overtly sentimental (which is what romantic ballads call for).  Also, I feel that the chorus is made to be the central part of the music which take away from the arrangements.01-firesidelounge-empty_54_990x660_201404241037

For a sample, I went with the only really interesting arrangement on the record, Kurt Weill and Ogden Nash’s “Speak Low”.  If more moments were like this on this record, I would have a better opinion on it.1fffe

This album goes straight to meh for me.  Which is somewhat unfair as it is not trying to be anything which it is not.  Will I start reading the liner notes a bit closer in the future?  Probably not.

Asleep At The Wheel- Comin’ Right At Ya

dscn5390Even at the higher end of the spectrum ($4), this was a good deal.  1024x1024

Asleep At the Wheel are purveyors of that Texas Swing at a time when country was moving rapidly away from that sound.  Formed in West Virginia by Ray Benson and Lucky O Gosfield, the band has released over 25 albums including last years tribute to one of their biggest influences, Bob Wills”.  The band is also still touring, although they are playing The Woodlands rather than Houston this year (on New Years). They will also be playing at The Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix on Dec 21.  The group is based out of Austin.  They relocated there in 1974 on the request of Willie Nelson.

The band’s webpage.


Before that move, they released this, their first album in 1973.  They were living in Oakland at the time, on the request of Commander Cody.  This was their only album for United Artists and would lay down the sound which future releases would follow.  It is a great starting point for the band with original tunes as well as good covers, including Wills’ “Take Me Back To Tulsa” as well as Moon Mullican’s “Cherokee Boogie” and the oft covered “I’ve Been Everywhere”.  The band is joined by fiddle players Johnny Gimble, Buddy Spicher, and Andy Stein.  What makes this album more remarkable to me is to think where country music was going at the time.  To put out a record that unashamedly went back to its roots was pretty remarkable.

Allmusic review of the album because I am lazy today

For a sample, I went with one of my favorite Ernest Tubb songs (and probably the underlining reason I bought this album), “Driving Nails In My Coffin”.asleep-at-the-wheel-press-pic

Satisfactory record.

Busy Farming (Folk Songs)

  • dscn5388This was $4.  This is exactly the kind of music I am experimenting with on this site. For the past ten years, Sugar Land has been one of the growing areas of Houston.  In the same respect, more and more people from different places in the world are calling Sugar Land home.  As a result, the Half Price Books in Sugar Land has become a treasure trove of international music.550838-262956-14

This record is from the China Record Company, the oldest and largest state owned record company.  They formed in 1949 when they “liberated” themselves from EMI.  At least I think.  I am going off a sketchy Google Translate.  Anyway, they have released over 60,000 records detailing ethnic, classical, and folk music from China spanning over 5,000 years. They have also been working towards moving towards the digital age.  They are headquartered in Beijing (this record shows Peking as that was its name at the time).

CRC’s Webpage

As I love going off on tangents, I will use this post to show one of my favorite Chinese propaganda posters and tell the brief story of Lei Feng (1940-1962), who may or may not have existed.  Lei, an orphan, was taken in by the Party who raised him as a mother.  He was devoted to Chairman Mao and the Party as he joined the People’s Liberation Army. Under his studies he learned to “live a life of extreme frugality, to eschew selfishness and to devote himself body and soul to the revolution and to the people”.  Known as an extremely helpful individual, he performed many good deeds as well as reminding people to be happy with what little they had and to let the party do the thinking for them.  Lei met his fate in a manner that is in dispute.  Some say he was electrocuted.  Others say he was hit on the head by a falling electrical pole.  Either way, his diary became a national study.  I like the poster below because it translates into “Develop the spirit for bitter struggle”.  I guess I like it because I have a dark sense of humor and sometimes, that is what we just have to do.  Either way, there are some very good posters and interesting stories on the webpage.e13-1

Link to Chinese Poster Web Page on Lei Feng

Back to this record, this I am assuming is a collection of Chinese folk songs from. various regions.  I believe these are work songs, marked by a leader with a call and response type interplay with the chorus.  This is a 10″ and features songs from various areas.  It is hard to say when this came out but my guess is the late 1970’s.  Very interesting stuff.  The vocals and chorus play well and the instrumentation is haunting.dscn5389

For two days in a row, I am getting lazy with samples.  I start with the title track “Busy Farming”, a folk song from Northeast China”.  Second, I am going with a Kiang Si folk song “Sending a Sweetheart Off to the Red Army”.    From the Human region, we have “Work Chant of the Lishui Boatmen”. There is no instrumentation on the next track but the call and response is pretty entertaining. Finally, I present “Going to Szechuan”.chinesepropagandapostersworkers3

Satisfactory record. Maybe, I can start using more restraint for the rest of the week and limit my samples to two at the most.

Bobby Vee- Meets The Crickets

mi0003983020Bobby Vee died today at age 73 from complications from Alzheimer’s.  He had been suffering from the disease for some time.  bobbyveepromo5

Obit from the BBC

Obit from the St Cloud Times

Obit from People

Born in Fargo, North Dakota, Vee had 38 singles in the Top 100, 10 of which made the top 20.  His bigger hits include “Take Care Of My Baby”,  “The Night Has 1,000 Eyes”,and “Rubber Ball” which was posted earlier this month by Jimmy Osmond.  He also toured with a young Bob Dylan, before Dylan got famous.  As a result, Dylan regarded Vee pretty highly, both personally and professionally.

For a tribute sample, I pulled this record I got somewhere for free by Vee and The Crickets, Buddy Holly’s old band.  It is quite fitting as Vee’s career took off after the death of Holly.1391484206000-bobby-vee_1161699_ver1-0

Vee was part of a hastily assembled band, The Shadows, put together to play the show in which Holly was supposed to play the night after his crash.  This performance would start the chain of events that made Vee a star.  dscn5596

The record itself is very good.  Released in 1963, it is a collection of popular rock and roll song of the time with songs from Holly, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Bo Diddley among others.  Here in tribute is “Well… Allright”, a Holly song that was also covered by Blind Faith.67845578aacb33b311b00ede68594cad5089474c

R.I.P. Bobby Vee


George Mgrdichian- The Now Sounds of the Middle East

dscn5385This was $4.00.  At the time,  I was looking for anything either Oud or Middle East related.  This album hits both points.  The inclusion of two “western” songs also sealed the deal, one of which will be sampled below. 360

To explain further how I got here, about two months ago I had insomnia on a Sunday night, the exact time slot when Turner Classic Movies play foreign films.  I like foreign films but the problem is at that time of night, I am half asleep and sometimes I nod off during the subtitles thus missing major plot happenings.  On this night however, I saw a documentary on the Moroccan band, Nas El Ghiwane.  It was called Trances.  It was pretty radical.  The band started in the 70’s by five avant garde actors.  One died in a car crash and the band continued as four.  The movie is on Youtube but without the subtitles which were very interesting.  I guess the point that would tie this to start of this paragraph was that since it was mostly music I could drift in and out of sleep without missing anything.

So at the time of purchase, I was really looking for Nas El Ghiwane records.   The use of a non traditional banjo style was the thing that hooked me. However, after combing the usual suspects, I was unable to find their records. This was the closest thing I could find.  It is an album that features the oud (rhymes with good).  It is an offshoot of the lute. The thing that really drew me to Nas was the banjo in place of the oud.  So, by my reasoning, I could listen to the oud and just copy the instrument on my banjo.george-mgrdichian-original-photo-oud-armenian-jazz-arab-1970-world-middle-east-be5a1f5c13b14928559d624f391c57cf

George Mgrdichian was born in Philadelphia to Armenian parents.in 1935.  He originally played clarinet in an Armenian band.  However, when the oud player was drafted into the military, Mgdichian picked up the ball and ran with it.  Self taught, he developed a revolutionary style and set out to expand the West’s exposure to the Oud much like Segovia and the classical guitar or Ravi Shankar and the sitar.  He would play solo or with various ensembles.  He also released a handful of albums.  Mgrdichian would die from cancer in 2006.  He was 71.

Mgrdichian’s Obit

This album is pretty good.  The songs are all pretty interesting as well as short.  The music on it comes from Turkey, Israel, Greece, and Armenia.  There are also two modern tunes given the eastern treatment, the Beatles’ “Yesterday” and Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five”. If you have been reading this blog for awhile, you should know I like things fast.  This album does not disappoint in this respect.  Mgrdichian tears thru oud lines at a breakneck speed.  dscn5386

In terms of samples, I am being being lazy by posting a few of them.  First off is the Turkish “Sultan Yoga”and “Shenez Longa”.  Next is the Greek “Marinella” which is mashed up with one of the most recognizable pieces of music, Beethoven’s ninth.  Finally, because it is one of the most iconic songs written in the last century, I present Brubeck’s “Take Five”.performers-georgemgrdichian1

I really like this record.  Top Rated. I am still looking somewhat for a Nas El Ghiwane album because I really want to write a post on them.  However, I am shifting away from banjo and back to country guitar so I am less hot on them as I was two months ago.


OST- Easy Rider

dscn5383This was $3.20.  It was a pretty iconic soundtrack that I was familiar with. I spent this last week going thru old blog post, namely all 52 pages worth.  The early days make me laugh a bit going back a bit back when I could not get pictures to come up the right way,  I noticed a good number of video links went dead but I am not going thru the effort of re-linking them.


IMDB entry for Easy Rider

Easy Rider, released in 1968, was a landmark of independent film, a strong counter-culture statement, the rise of Jack Nicholson’s career, blah, blah, blah, blah , blah, blah, blah.  What can I write about this that has not already been said?  Brought to you by the people who brought you the Monkees, this film, while revolutionary when it was released seems a bit uneven and dated today.  But in fairness, all movies, even one I like from the 1990’s suffer the same fate.

Less talked about than how this movie helped catapult Jack Nicholson is how its success ruined Dennis Hopper.  Flush from this movie’s success, his career stalled in the 70’s as he was unable to match the film’s success and his closet effort, The Last Movie, was marred by excessive drug use.  Also on screen buddies Hopper and Fonda off screen were not so much.  Fonda did all he could during filming to get Hopper fired. The two would also sue each other after production.dscn5384

But on to the music, this album’s soundtrack is pretty decent.  According to IMDB, this was one of the first movies to utilize existing material for the soundtrack rather than a specialized score. A song by the Byrds and two from leader Roger McGuinn, two from Steppenwolf as well as a tune from the Holy Modal Rounders and the Jimi Hendrix Experience, the album is a collection of popular mainstream counter culture songs of the time.  The Band contributed “The Weight” to the movie but was unable to include a version on the sidetrack so a version of the song is performed by Smith.  9689251_1

For a sample, I went with “Kyrie Eleison” by the Electric Prunes followed by some dialog and a street band playing “When The Saints Go Marching In”.  The song was used during the New Orleans montage.  As for the song itself, it came from an album Mass in F Minor.  This was the band’s third album and in a departure (or perhaps a compliment) to their psychedelic sounds, they released an album of Greek and Latin mass sounding songs.  Kind of weird direction to take and as a result, the album was somewhat of a disaster.  The band, incidentally was a garage type unit from Los Angeles whose biggest hit was “I Had To Much To Dream Last Night”.

AllMusic review of Mass In F Minor


Satisfactory Record

Randy Carlos and His Orchestra- Hot Cha Cha

dscn5381This was $4.00.  It looked interesting enough.  Nice colors.  Pretty girl. What can I say?  At times, I am superficial.randy-aja-b

I could not find much on Randy Carlos other than he was from Caracas, Venezuela, and moved to New York in 1949.  There he became a band leader and was among the leading musicians in the New York Latino music scene of the day, although he did not have the staying power as some of his peers.  He was also popular with the gringos. I had a source on both these claims three weeks ago but when I went to write this, the source went dead.  Anyway, he played guitar and had a decent hit in the 1950’s with “Smoke” (Fumo). At some point (perhaps the 70’s), he moved to Florida and went into the restaurant business.  If he is still alive, he would be 83 I believe.

An Article on the Rise of Latin Music in Post War New York

This album could have been his fifth or so.  It is hard to accurately say. My guess is sometime around 1959.  Either way, this is a pretty happening album. Classic New York Latin Ballroom style.  Horns, piano, Latin percussion, the whole works. A lot of good songs, this album has. Yoda syntax I go into.  Why I know not.  dscn5382

For a sample, I was hard pressed to narrow it down so I went with “Green Light”, “Boomerang”, “Satellite USA” and “A Chevere Comae’ which features the rare vocals for this album.  Why so many songs?  Well I could not decide on any two and I figured this was some of the better music I have posted this month.the-machito-and-mario-bauza-band

Satisfactory record