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.

Bonnie Pruden/Otto Cesana- Keep Fit/ Be Happy Vol 2

This was one dollar.  Worth the price to check out.

Bonnie Pruden, born in New York City on 1914, was a pioneer in the field of physical fitness.  She developed programs, ran fitness centers, wrote books, recorded albums, marketed fitness equipment, and even designed clothing for fitness. She was also an expert climber. In 1976, she developed a system to use pressure points to allieve pain called myotherapy, which she devoted her later years to.  She moved out to Tuscon in 1992 to open  a physical fitness /myotherapy institute and despite suffering a broken pelvis, multiple heart attacks, cancer, replacement hip surgery,stents,d by-pass surgery, Pruden kept on chugging until her death in 2011.  She was six weeks away from her 98th birthday and apparently  she was still exercising at her hospice bed just days before her passing.

Of Prudden’s accomplishments, one such feather in her cap was her creation of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness.  In what was known as The Report that Shocked the President, Prudden submitted to President Eisenhower data that showed the comparative fitness levels of US children to their European counterpart.   This was  pretty big deal when I was going to school.  As a pupil, I was really good at 2/3’s of the systems requirements I could run in the top 10%.  I could also reach the top 10% pull ups.  However, push-ups and sit-ups were always my downfall.  Could never complete the required amount in time and thus could never win a Council medal.

This album, released in 1960, consists of 14 exercise routines along with a photo step guide, set to music.  The music is all original, written, arranged and conducted by Otto Cesana.  From what i could find on Cesana, he was perhaps an Italian-American conductor from the San Francisco area who despite being classically trained, showed a pension for jazz and produced work more suited for easy listening/ lounge/ hifi audiences.  I am assuming he is dead now.

That being said, the music is quote good on this album.  Real good.  If you can tune out the exercise steps, it makes for a good listen. It probably makes for a decent work out as well.  The back cover notes in all caps, “YOU WILL BE STILL THE NEXT DAY” so be fore-warned.

For samples, I went with the Pelvic Tilt exercise “Black Out”.  I also decided to go with Walk #1 and Walk #2, “Ridin’ Wild” and “Rush Hour”.  I felt “Rush Hour”, in particular was quite similar in the middle to”Twisted Nerve”  which came out 8 years later on a Bernard Herrmann soundtrack of the film of the same name. It was also used quite famously in Kill Bill Vol 1.

Anyway,  good little album for the price.  Satisfactory.

Martin Denny- Afro-Desia

Saturday means quick posts.  Also, since I have done many posts on Martin Denny, this greatly speeds today’s entry along.  This was from the bunch of records I got from my friend Micahl so it was at a cost of $0.00.  

This could have been Denny’s sixth or so album, released in 1959 on Liberty Records.  This collection as the title would suggest as well as the back cover would state, draws its inspiration from Africa.  Lot of really good songs on here that I have posted from other artists including “Baia”, “Temptation”, “Simba” and “Siboney”.

In what is the ultimate bout of laziness, a link to Ambient Exotica’s album review.

But for a sample, I decided to go in a different direction for once and post “Cubano Chant”.  I think it was the vocal chants that drew me to it. Also, the rest of the album skipped heavily and I was too lazy to clean it.

Really good album though.  Top Rated.

Baja Marimba Band- Heads Up

Well, finishing this anniversary month with this effort.  I am sure Herb Alpert would have been a more fitting choice, but as I do not have anymore of his albums, here is the next best thing.  This was $1.  I got it for “Georgy Girl”.

I didn’t realize it until I wrote this post, but this month’s selections are rather vibe heavy.  Well, no turning back at this point.  Released in 1967, this would have been the band’s fifth album.  It is a decent collection of songs. led by marimba-ist Julius Wechter. A decent enough track list although it has one of the more tepid versions of “Temptation” on it.

For a sample, I went with the song I liked the most, “The Cry of the Wild Goose” although it sounds very derivative of “Ghost Riders in the Sky” which was presented on an earlier post from this band. I also decided to go with “Georgy Girl” as well since it was the reason I bought this record.

Satisfactory record.  Thank you for joining me this month for what has been this blog’s second anniversary.

Les Baxter-Tamboo

We are filling this anniversary month with a lot of frequent guests on the blog.  In that regard, there is no one less fitting than Les Baxter.  This record was $4.

Les Baxter, a talented composer and arranger in his own right, gave birth to the Exotica genre with his 1952 release of Ritual of the Savage.  And although the movement would bear it’s name from Martin Denny’s first album in 1957, it was Denny’s cover of Baxter’s “Quiet Village” that put exotica further on the map.  Denny and Arthur Lyman would both strip down Baxter’s overblown sound, but there is no doubt who came first.

Link to Baxter’s Space Age Pop Page

Link to Exotica Page

This album, released in 1956, was Baxter’s second exotica album.  It is interesting to note that both this and Ritual were done before exotica or world music for that matter were even a thing.  Although the title comes from the Haitian Creole word for drums, the music is a reflection of African and Latin American music performed in an extravagant, over-blown manner.  Critics have noted that Baxter takes exotic subject matter and perhaps dulls the edges with American orchestration.  I am not sure this is a fair criticism.  In contrast, I feel that Baxter’s arrangements bring such works to a wider audience.

For a sample, I went with the lead track, “Simba” due to the vocals as well as “Mozambique”.

 

Satisfactory record.

The Stradivari Strings- Ping Pong Percussion of Rodgers & Hammerstein

There are two things I frequently post on this page: percussion and Rodgers and Hammerstein.  Maybe three things if you separate the duo. And perhaps a more accurate thing to say is among the things I frequently post as I have many recurring theme on this blog.  Anyway, this was a dollar.  I bought it because it combines two of the said recurring themes.

It is not that Rodgers and Hart did not write successful songs a lot of their works have become standards.  It is just with Hammerstein, the everything about productions seemed to be on a grander scale.  Other than Pal Joey, I can no think of another Rodgers/Hart musical.  I can name five Rodgers/Hammerstein musicals off the top of my head.

This record came out on Pirouette Records, a subsidiary of the Synthetic Plastics Company.  I did a post on them sometime back but can not remember which album.  Anyway, apparently there is a whole series of Ping-Pong Percussion records with such stars as Gershwin, Jerome Kern, and Leroy Anderson.  Okay, perhaps, three does not a series make, but you get the point. I am sure the Stradivari Strings was a house band.  Not sure why you would connotate a percussion album with a string band, but this is what Pirouette chose to do.  From what I can tell, this came out sometime in the early ’60’s

Overall, I felt the album was a pretty good interpretation of the duo’s work.  On a personal level, I could have used more songs that I like, but to counterpoint, it probably made for a better album by highlighting lesser known songs.  As far as the percussion goes, the album does ok at the beginning of the songs but does tend to go more into the strings about mid-way each tune. I have heard worse percussion albums but I wonder the reasoning behind naming this Ping Pong Percussion.

For a sample, I was torn between Carousel‘s “June is Busting Out All Over” and South Pacific’s “Some Enchanted Evening”.  Carousel, in particular, has been steadily rising for me, while Oklahoma keeps slightly falling.  I feel that the whole resentment of Judd is kind of messed up. Well back to this, I could not choose between the two so here is both.

Satisfactory.

 

Jackie Gleason Presents- Music For Lover’s Only

This was only $1.  I found it quite ironic that someone would trivialized domestic violence would put out an album for lover’s only. About 20 years ago, before I had any idea of the concept of a blog, I purchased one of Gleason’s other records.  At the time, I described it as something I would play to children if I wanted to discourage them from making music.

Always a fan but not able to read or write, Comedian Jackie Gleason enjoyed a second career in the music business in the 50’s and 60’s when he lent his name to a series of 20 or so Jazz flavored albums with romantic themes. most notably for Capitol.  He wanted to make music that would serve as wallpaper or mood music.  The instrumentation is in the back ground and the overall music is very laid back with smooth edges. Cornetist and trumpeter Bobby Hackett played on some of these as well as serving as leader on seven. He originally spoke very highly of Gleason’s musical skill as well as some of the lessons learned during these sessions.  However, later in life, when asked what Gleason contributed in the studio, Hackett replied ” he brought the checks”.

Gleason with the Ginger Man himself

Spaceage page for Gleason with some interesting background.

This was Gleason’s first record of his series.  Released in 1952, it became a best seller staying in the Billboard Top Ten for 153 weeks. I believe it was his best selling disc. It sounds as described above, a series or romantic songs played in a slow laid back fashion.  In true form the solos are in the background as the setting moods take the foreground.  What do I think? Well, the record to me comes off like a pair of safety scissors.  I find the songs on here quite boring. So after 20 years from buying my first Gleason record, my opinion is unchanged.

For a sample, I had a hard time finding something I liked on this but finally decided on ” I Only Have Eyes For You”.

I still hate these albums.  I find them too bland and given some of the other albums I have posted, that is saying something.  But what do I know?  These albums were quite successful.  People actually bought them en masse.  Well, I still don’t like them.  So meh.

Billy Vaughn and his Orchestra- Chapel By The Sea

This is the last entry in our Continental Week.  Not exactly falling within the genre, I am not sure why I choose this ti end the week , nor why I bought it other than it was a one dollar record on a day where I was buying a bunch of records.

I had a house guest on Christmas Eve and celebrations got out of hand.  When I awoke, my apartment was trashed.  Records, wires, musical instruments, and a bottle of vodka were scattered all over the place.  This record did not survive the night.  A chunk got chipped off.  As a result, I can not play the first songs on either side (“Midnight in Moscow” and the title track.

By here this is, this release from 1962 .  It is ok.  Good song selection.  Ok arrangements.  Billy Vaughn’s work is a mixed bag.  This one is just ok. It did go to #14 on the US Chart. I was going to go with the Bert Kaempfert penned “Wonderland by Night” but it has a skip in it.  There was not much more to choose from, though.  So here it is with skip and all, “Wonderland By Night”.

Meh for the most part.  I hate ending the week with a meh album but it is too late to change things now. On the positive note, this weeks posts were a lot less labor intensive compared to last weeks.

The Mariachi Brass Featuring Chet Baker- A Taste of Tequila

Welcome back to Continental Week . Although this may not fall under the true definition of Continental music, it definitely belongs with the other records I have posted this month.  It was $3.  I got it for the inclusion of Chet Baker.  I would love to put some of his solo work on this site but it is hard to come by and probably not under $5.

 

IMDB Link to Movie

On the flight overseas I made in November, I watched the Baker Biopic Born to Be Blue.  A Canadian/ UK production filmed in Sudbury, Ontario and released in 2015, it was my favorite movie from the trip.  I thought it was fantastic for two reasons.

Baker was very prolific both early and late in his career.  In the middle, there was a period of struggle and that is the period in which this film is set.  That is first reason I really liked it.  This period made for a good story.  It showed his struggle to get clean off drugs, to learn to play the horn again, and to compete with Miles Davis and the East Coast sound.  Second, I thought Ethan Hawke did an excellent job in his portrayal of Baker.  Hawke was not playing a pretty boy.  He was playing a former pretty boy.

There is a brief scene in the movie (as well as the above trailer), in which Baker was struggling to get work and takes any job he can get.  One such job is with the Mariachi Brass.  In the movie he is wearing a sombrero in the studio. And that is pretty close to the truth.  Baker joined this quickly assembled response to Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass.  Not really highlighted in the movie was the fact that Baker played flugelhorn on the album, quite possibly because his embouchure was still healing due to be broken by a drug dealer over non-payment of services rendered. This scene was also shown in the movie as well.

And since I was over in that part of the world, I stopped by the hotel where Baker overdosed in Amsterdam.

Baker released five albums with the Brass. This album, released in 1966, was the first, I believe.  Arranged and conducted by Jack Nitzsche, this album has a decent selection of songs with a Latin tint to them.  It should go without saying but this is not among Baker’s best work.  In fact, it is rather uninspiring.  What it is is an interesting picture of a period of struggle for Baker, the same as the biopic.  It is also interesting to hear Baker on an instrument other than trumpet.

There are some decent moments on this.  Two country standards, “Flowers On The Wall” and “El Paso” come to mind.  That is why I am using them as samples.

For the most part, this is meh territory.  But seriously, go see Born To Be Blue.  I thought it was a great film.

 

 

The Norman Paris Trio- The Cocktail Hour

This album comes from the Big Al Collection (that means it was free). Nice cover among other things.  It looks a lot like a compilation album but it is not.

One of the reasons I really wanted to go to Amsterdam was the Lights Festival.  Last time I was there, in 2014, it coincided with my visit.  This year, I missed it as it started on Dec 1.  It runs until Jan 22. During this period, various light installations are set up around the canals.  It starts at the central train station and goes down Prins Hendrikkade with a detour around the NEMO Center.  It then goes down Herengracht and loops back up to the beginning. If you get a chance to check it out, it looks super cool at night.  Alas, these pictures are from 2014.

Link to Website for Festival

Back to this album, it was from the Norman Paris Trio, featuring Ed Arndt on bass, Frank Cerchia on guitar, and the namesake on piano.  I could not find a whole lot of info on the Trio, nor did I really want to. Work has been long this week.

Released on Columbia in 1956, I believe this is the second of their three albums.  They also backed Dorothy Loudon for one and Portia Nelson for two.  At least this is what a 3 minute search on the internet is telling me.  Again, refer to prior statement about work. I believe they were from New York.  Apparently they worked some TV and radio.

This is a pretty decent album.  I liked it.  It is jazz but it sounds a lot like Tal Fallow’s bands; a lot of good piano/ guitar interplay.  Song list is good. A lot of songs that I like; “I’ll Remember April”, “Lover”, “Oh What A Beautiful Mornin'”, and “This Was Nearly Mine”.

For samples, I went with “Fascinatin’ Rhythm”, “Right as Rain”, and “Lullaby of Leaves”.  The last song in particular is one i like because I was very familiar with the Ventures’ version.  In fact, I thought they wrote it ( they did not).  Anyway, this was my first time to listen to an alternate version of this tune.

Satisfactory record.