Rocco Granata- Z’n Gouden Hits

All this week, we will be showcasing records I bought during my last vacation to Amsterdam, which now seems like a decade ago.  We are starting with this one that I bought for a dollar.  I got all my records in one swoop at a stall at the Waterlooplein Swap Meet

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So I went to Amsterdam, last year, one year ahead of schedule as I normally go every to years.  I also normally go during Thanksgiving but this year I went during December, mainly to see the Festival of Lights.  Weather was pretty bad  It snowed three days, and rained two, basically leaving a lot of slush on the ground.  The long underwear my aunt gave me last year for Christmas made all the difference in the world.  Also, I did not realize it at the time, but it was wonderful to get away from the US news cycle for a week.  I strongly recommend to anyone here to go abroad for this reason alone. But all in all, it was a good vacation.  Did a lot of the things I normally do; go to the zoo, hang out at Vondelpark and Oosterpark, the bars, and what not.

It is very odd but I seem to take the same pictures every trip so if you go back to the posts from December 2016, the pictures are basically the same. It has been about 12 years since I first went and I did a bit of reflecting on the subject.

There are a handful of people who have been working at the same bars during this period.  Most everyone who was working last year were still at the same bars as well.  The guy of Dam Square however, how shakes his change box to music from a wind up box was not there this year.  He had been there every year prior.  I did a few new things this trip which I will document in this week’s posts.  I stayed back at the Grand Kranspoly Hotel, as I did last year.  Overall, good time.

So there is this record that I bought by one Rocco Granata. Born in Figline Vegliaturo, in Southern Italy in 1938, Granata’s family immigrated to Belgium when he was ten. Choosing a career in music over coal mining, he played accordion and toured Belgium with his band.

Rocco’s Webpage

His 1959 B side single, “Marina” became a smash hit in Belgium, Germany, and other parts of the world , including the US.  Granata was able to parlay the single’s success into a pretty good career and world wide success.  A movie , titled Marina, was made in 2013 detailing his early life, showing the many struggles he and his family went thru before he was famous, ending with his appearance at Carnegie Hall (although it is noted they made his father a lot more strict in the movie for dramatic effect or so I am told).

This is a greatest hits album from Negram Records, released in the Netherlands in 1971.  The same copy with a different cover was released that same year in Belgium.  Real typical Italian type crooning or schlager if you will.  This seems to be a mix of various languages on here and that would be reflective of his international appeal.  With the exception of a few tracks (most notably “Marina”, not as much accordion on here as I would have thought at least in a dominant sense, but  then again, subtlety is a lost art. Overall pretty good album.

For a sample, I went with “Te quiero”.  which is Spanish for I Love You.

Pretty decent album and I got into the whole growing up with adversity backstory so satisfactory.

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.

Satisfactory.