VA- Taken From The Top

Here is another pricey record I picked up for $6.  Look at the people and songs on this and you can see why I could not pass this up.  This record is a compilation of live performances by such luminaries as Al Hirt, Lena Horne, Ann Margret, Freddy Jones, and Louis Armstrong among others.

Although it would seem easy, blogging on compilation albums like this can be tough as there are so many highlights.  I mean so many highlights.  This album was released by RCA Victor and the songs come from mostly from previously released live albums. (oddly enough the Al Hirt tune is from the album I posted earlier this week). This compilation came out in 1962. Really good stuff.

Well I tried my best to pare down my choices and overwhelming came up with this number which combines two of my favorite posts from the last two months: Louis Prima with Keely Smith doing their version of “Five Foot Two”.  Also , since I know my mom reads this, here is an excellent version of Della Reese singing “You Came A Long Way From St Louis.” Reese passed away last year at age 86. It should also be noted that Smith, who was also Prima’s fourth wife, passed last year at age 89 as well.  Man, did I do a lousy job keeping up with obituaries at the end of 2017.

Della Reese.

Really good album. Any of these songs were good enough to sample. 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.


Jim Nabors – Kiss Me Goodbye

Jim Nabors passed last November at age 87.  I wanted to put out a Obituary post like I normally do, but I was so busy at that time with many things going on that I neglected to do so, which is somewhat of a disservice to Nabors as well as this blog.  Well, better late than never.  Here is this album that I bought for a dollar.  It was formerly owned by one Laura Lewis who has pretty neat handwriting.  A lot of songs that I like on this album.

People who have never heard Gomer Pyle sing before are often amazed when they hear his deep baritone voice.  Before his move into television, Nabors worked night clubs with an act that featured both singing and an early version of his Pyle character.  Discovered by Andy Griffith, Nabors first played Pyle as a bit role.  However, the character’s popularity lead to a regular spot on the show and eventually a spin-off, Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C.  It should be noted that Nabors is one of the few people to be named an honorary Marine. Anyway, Nabors sung once on the Griffith Show, but it was his performance of “The Impossible Dream” on his own that really put him in the singing spotlight.

This album, Nabor’s sixth, was released in that turbulent year that was 1968 by Columbia Records.  Pretty good stuff.  As mentioned before, it has a lot of my favorite songs including “Born Free”, “Try To Remember”, “By The Time I Get To Phoenix”, “and “There’s a Kind of Hush”.  That signature Nabors voice dominates this record with a smooth deep sound. Good stuff.


For a sample, I went with two of my favorite songs, both French in nature.  First, we have “L’amour est blue(Love Is Blue)”, made famous by Paul Mauriat.  Second, from my favorite movie, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, we have Michel Legrand’s ” I Will Wait For You”.  Both artists works are also on this blog as well.


Al Hirt- At The Mardi Gras

Well, it is that time of year again.  Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday is next week, the 13th, to be exact.  The preceding carnival kicks in to high gear this weekend, most notably in Rio and New Orleans.  So what better way to celebrate than with this album, which I bought for $1.80.  Also, since I have posted many Al Hirt records, that will save me some time on extrapolation.

This record, released by RCA, was a reissue from an earlier 1962 release.  I am not sure when the reissue was done .  It was recorded live at Dan’s Pier 600 in the Big Easy, which was owned by his business manager.  According to Wikipedia, Hirt played there nightly during the mid- 50’s to early 60’s.

Pretty standard dixieland jazz album.  Some pretty good numbers here.  Not much else to say about Hirt that I have not posted on this blog before.  Songs like “Basin Street Blues”, “Perdido”, and “Yellow Dog Blues” give a pretty good picture of Hirt’s set at the time.

For samples, I went with the opening number, “Bourbon Street Parade” as well as “Diga Diga Doo”.

Neat little record.  Satisfactory.  Have a good Mardi Gras!!

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.


Faron Young- I’ve Got Precious Memories

Although we are well into the month of February, as far as administrative purposes go, here begins yet another month of Donkey Show.  For February’s past, I have done themes, namely soundtracks for Oscars and music celebrating Black History month.  Well, this month is just plain old February with an odd week highlighting a special topic.  Well, no better way to kick off this month’s posts with an artist who is quickly becoming one of my new favorites, Faron Young.  I watched the Hank Williams biopic again the other day , I Saw The Light.  I was still largely unimpressed but I am starting to warm up to it a bit.  Anyway, the scene where Williams steals Young’s girlfriend is in the movie and made me think of this record, which I bought for a dollar.

A  Shreveport, LA native, Young was originally wanted to become a pop singer until he saw Hank Williams on the Louisiana Hayride.  Well pops loss is country music’s gain.  Frequent blog subject and fellow North Louisianan Webb Pierce discovered him and the rest as the lazy writer will say, is history.

This album, released in 1969 by Mercury records, came out about mid-career for Young.  It would reach #38 on the country charts.  The title track would serve as the chief single, reaching #25. Pretty decent little album.  Young is like the rest of the old school country stars.  You know what you are getting when you buy their albums.  If I was to give any criticism, I would say all the songs kind of sound the same, but you an easily get away with that when all your songs sound good.

For a sample, I went with “When All I Need Is You.”  For the record, “Drinking Champagne”, “One Man World”, and “You Bet Your Sweet Life” were close contenders.


Va- Shut Down

Technically speaking, we are done with the administrative month of January with this post. This was $4.80 with discount. Last post of the week + last post of the month= a very quick post.

This record from Capitol is a compilation of car themed numbers.  The album features songs by The Beach Boys, The Cheers. The Super Stocks, The Piltdown Men, Jimmy Dolan, The Eligibles, and actor Robert Mitchum.  As much as I wanted to use the Mitchum track (“The Ballad of Thunder Road”), I felt that it was a too well known track and his calypso record was much better.  However, good luck every finding this for under $8.


But back to the point, this is a great little album of hot rod songs.  For samples, I had a hard time narrowing it down, so I am left with four tracks.  I decided to go with some of the lesser known artists . First, we have the 1950’s vocal group, The Cheers with ” Black Denim Trousers and Motorcycle Boots” backed by the Les Baxter Orchestra.

Next we have The Super Stocks, a studio band led by Gary Usher and backed up by the Wrecking Crew. Here they are with “Wide Track”.

After that, we have the double saxophone assault of the Piltdown Men led by Ed Cobb, with “Brontosaurus Stomp”.

Finally, we have the doo-wop group the Eligibles, who backed up various singers such as Gene Vincent and Sonny James.  Here they are with “Car Trouble”.

Nifty little record.  Top Rated.

Erroll Garner- Paris Impressions Vol 1.

This record was $2.80.  The Cole Porter standard, ” I Love Paris” has been a frequent guest on this blog so I decided to see what Erroll Garner added to this cannon.

Garner, born in Pittsburgh, PA in 1923, was a prolific jazz pianist known for his swing ballads and distinctive style.  What makes his contributions even that more amazing is that he was an ear player and never learned to read music (when asked why he never learned, he would often reply “No one hears you read”). Influenced by Fats Waller and Earl Hines, Garner;s piano style, punctuated by vocal gruffs, was marked with melodic improvisations and an independence between hands. As a result, he influenced many including frequent blog guest, George Shearing.  Perhaps his greatest contribution to jazz was the standard “Misty” which he wrote.  Garner died of cardiac arrest in 1977, leaving behind a large catalog of works as well as an archive of unreleased material.

This record, released by Columbia in 1958, features songs with a Parisian slant, most notably the fore mentioned Porter tune.  He is credited as a pianist and harpsichordist on this record, but if memory serves me right, there is only one harpsichord tune on this and I am too busy at the moment to go back and check.  Really good interpretations of these works as well as great piano work.  A second volume was released the same year.

Well for a sample, of course I am going with the Porter tune.  You would assume that is a given at this point.  Anyway this song illustrates the magic of Garner in my mind.  I also went with the harpsichord track, “Cote d’ Azur” as it is a haunting number .  This song by the way, was written by Garner.

Satisfactory little record.

Vic Damone- The Liveliest

This was $4 and contained a lot of songs that I really like.  The last part of last year, I lamented at the fact that I had done most of this blog’s posts ahead of time and was therefore unable to keep content timely (or perhaps more accurately, unable to incorporate more current events into blog posts).  Part of my was looking forward to breaking this trend in 2018.  However, as of today, I have written all of January’s posts during the New Years Eve weekend.  Also, this year’s posts have been rather short and too the point .  I mean how much more simple can I put it  than an album being good? Well, I am mixed on both these fronts , but then I remember the point of this blog was to let the music do the talking.  Maybe as the year progresses, I can find a happy medium.

So here is this, a live album from crooner Vic Damone.  Damone, born in Brooklyn in 1928, was a multi-faceted entertainer in the same vein of Frank Sinatra.  He transitioned from bug band crooning to pop singing to TV to Vegas.  A stroke in 2002 led to his retirement from the stage, but he reappeared in 2011, mainly because his grandkids had never see their grandpa perform.  Damone is still alive today.

This record, recorded live at Basin Street East, was released by Capitol Records i 1963.  Basin Street East was a popular venue in New York that produced live recordings from Peggy Lee, Herbie Mann, Dave Brubeck, and Trini Lopez among others.  Pretty decent little album which combines popular numbers with on stage banter.  Highlights include ” What Kind Of Fool Am I”, “Fascinating Rhythm”, “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” and everybody’s crooner classic, ” I Left My Heart In San Francisco”.

But I bought this record for one of my favorite numbers, which was a #4 hit for Damone; from My Fair Lady , ” The Street Where You Live”.  For the record, Damone does an excellent version.


Dusko Jaksic- Od juce do damas

$5.  I paid an arm in a leg by early 2017 standards for this.  Why?  Not sure.  Most likely, I bought this at that vortex of used international records which is the Sugarland Half Price Books.

Dusko Jaksic (1927-2009) was a Serbian (or what was mostly Yugoslavia during his active years) artist who was a prolific singer and actor.  Growing up in Belgrade, he first studied music an then theater.  He has started in many production both on stage and film in productions of various national origins.  Western production roles include Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha and Higgins in Pygmalion .  Besides a prolific singing career (80 or so record), Jaskic also wrote significant amount of poetry. Finally, his song “Beograde” has become the defacto anthem of the city.

Translated Serbian Wiki page.

This album came out in 1976.  The title translates into “From Yesterday to Today” which is one of the more popular record titles of around the world. Discogs classifies it folk and schlager.  Pretty decent album with some song writing credits going to Jaksic.  Not really being an expert of Yugoslavian popular music, it is hard for me to a) differentiate this from other music from similar time/places and b) add any real meaningful insight.But I would say that yes, this really does sound mostly like schlager.

The notable exception is “Moja Mala Nema Mane” which opens with a stunning gypsy violin.  Nice little snappy number and therefore, here it is as a sample. The title translates on Google as “My Little Girl Has No Flaws”.

This album is ok and at the risk of alienating any Serbian fans of this blog (which I know are out there), I will give this a satisfactory rating.