Billy Vaughn and his Orchestra- Blue Hawaii

This puppy was a buck.  Got it for the songs, most of which I like.  What is going on this week, other than zipping thru posts?  Well, nothing as much to make note of but still too much to dedicate too much time to writing this.

On that note, Billy Vaughn has always been hit or miss with me.  Well this album from Dot Records, released in 1959, is pretty much a miss.  I found the arrangements to be a tad slow and boring and not really in the whole tropical vein.  Of course, exotica was never really Vaughn’s bag and perhaps this is not fair, but what do you expect me to do about it today?

Well, for a sample, I went with one of my faves, “Hawaiian War Chant”.

Meh. Sorry Billy.  I’ll get you the next time around.


Jo Stafford- Sings American Folk Songs

This was all of $1.  When I bought it, there was some tie in or something notable about the record, but whatever that was escapes me now.  It does have a bunch of good folk tunes on it.  Today, as I write this, the Great 2017 eclipse happened, which by now must seem like a distant memory to most.

Truly a historical day in Houston if one likes looking a clouds.

Well anyway, here is this by singer Jo Stafford (1917-2008).  Born in what is not a dirty word, Coalinga, California, Stafford was a singer who started in a group with her sisters before joining the Pied Pipers and then parlaying this into singing with Tommy Dorsey. She went solo in 1944 and her biggest hit was 1952’s “You Belong To Me”.  She retired in the mid-60’s with a few pop ups here and there until her death of heart failure at age 90.

During her solo career, many of Stafford’s works were backed by the Paul Weston Orchestra. Stafford and Weston would marry in 1952 and remain in union until Weston’s death in 1996.  The two did perform in a comedy routine, at first for friends and then for a bigger audience.  As two incompetent lounge performers Johnny and Darlene Edwards, the duo released five records.

This record was a 1962 re-release of an earlier record by Stafford.  The original released came out tin 1948, making it one of her earlier solo recordings.  Two years later a second version came out adding two songs.  Then in 1962, this came out with an additional 4, bringing the total to 12. With these songs conducted and arranged by her hubby, Weston, it should be noted that although these are conventional songs, none of these are conventional arrangements.  And I think that is what gives the album its charm.  Consequently, Judy Collins lists this album as highly influential in terms of her getting into folk music.

Lot of good choices on this album.  I really liked “Cripple Creek”, “Single Girl” ,and my perennial favorite, “Poor Wayfaring Stranger”.  However, I decided to go with “Sourwood Mountain”.

Good record.  Satisfactory.

Vladimir Golschmann- Mussorgsky (Pictures at an Exhibition)

Welcome to a fresh week of Donkey Show. Kick off the official start of this month’s anniversary celebration with this piece of work.  I bought this record for the same reason I posted it.  I have posted several versions of this work (well really only two-ELP’s and Tomita’s) and I felt that it would be a good idea to someday visit the proper piece. This was $1.60 with discount.

I also recently saw Pictures at an Exhibition performed at Jones Hall last month.  I had not been to Jones Hall since I was on a school field trip in elementary school.  Anyway, it was pretty good time and a pretty moving performance.  Mussorgsky’s piece was accompanied by Stravinsky’s Symphonies of Wind Instruments as well as John Adam’s Concerto for Saxophone and Orchestra featuring Tim McAllister on sax..  All three pieces were conducted by Hans Graf, a former Houston Symphony director from Germany.  

Current director, Colombian born Andres Orozoco-Estrada, spoke to the audience beforehand about each piece of work as well as some general music appreciation.  This was interesting and entertaining as well.

Anyway, that night’s performance as well as the version on this album are more of a tribute to Joseph Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) who took Mussorgsky’s piano piece and turned it into the full orchestrated version we know today.

According to Orozco-Estrada’s speech, Ravel wrote the book on arranging for orchestra, quite literally.  In his book, Ravel highlighted both his greatest successes as well as his failures in orchestrating pieces of work. As far as the original work goes, it’s origins have been well documented (or at least documented) in this blog as well as Google.

Pictures at an Exhibition is Ravel’s best known arrangements of other peoples work.  I was amazed at the performance how well someone could completely flesh out such an arrangement from a sole piano piece.  Regardless, it is a fine piece and it is represented well on this album.  The conductor, Vladimir Golschman (1893-1972) was  French born but moved to the US where he led the St Louis Symphony from 1931 to 1958.

This album also features “A Night at Bald Mountain” which I was familiar with but unaware that this was also Mussorgsky’s work. However, I am going with the track that got me to the dance, a piece from Pictures.  I was leaning towards “Limoges/Catacombae” as a sample but somehow decided to go the easy route with what is the highlight of the piece  the epic ” The Little Hut/ Baba-Yaga” and the grandiose and majestic “Great Gates of Kiev”.  Both numbers draw on allusions to earlier movements in the piece.  It serves as a great end to this piece.

Satisfactory Record.



Rostal & Schaefer / Ron Goodwin- The Beatles Concerto

This was $4 and purchased to offset some of the $1 crap I bought on the same day.  Got to try real hard to screw up the Beatles.  Not saying that hasn’t been done and posted on this webpage.  Just saying it does take some concentrated effort.


Well, no trip to Phoenix is complete without some sporting event so Saturday night, the whole family went to a hockey game.  The Pittsburgh Penguins were playing the Coyotes.  Oddly enough, it was Larry Fitzgerald Bobble Head Night.  Great game.  Sidney Crosby was 2 points away from 1,000 so every time he touched the puck, you got excited.  Coyotes led for most of the game until the Penguins tied it up late in the third. The Coyotes then found themselves short handed in overtime but managed to hold Pittsburgh off long enough to score the game winner in the last minute of overtime.  Great game.

I learned last night that Concerto’s are meant to highlight a particular instrument. This piece of work show cases the piano talents of one Peter Rostal and John Shaffer as well as the writing/arrangements of John Rutter against the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra led by George Martin’s (who also produced the record)  buddy and first signing, Ron Goodwin(1925-2003).  Goodwin scored over 70 pieces of film, mostly UK releases including I’m Alright Jack.  He also scored Where Eagles Dare and Force Ten From Navarone. 

Released in 1979, this album contains one side consisting of three movements of the Beatles Concerto which had been performed worldwide since 1977.  The second side contains six Beatles impressions.  Both side are pretty good.  The concerto is a more complete work with elaborate orchestrations. The principles were trying to arrange and perform the Beatles’ work in a style of Rachmaninoff or Tchaikovsky. To this end, they were wildly successful as the work gained such comparisons instead of being a straight interpretation. The second side is also interesting as it takes Beatles songs and performs them in style similar to other composers.

I wanted to take samples from both sides to illustrate these things. From the first side, I leaned heavily towards the 3rd movement which puts “Can’t Buy Me Love” against a different background and marries it to “The Long And Winding Road”.  For the second side, I was really torn between  “A Hard Day’s Night” which wonderfully borrows from Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue”, and “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” from which I should know by the now after doing this site, the style of which the music alludes to but don’t.  All I can say it that is a grandiose rendition.

Good album.  Satisfactory.

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.

Mantovani- Plays The Immortal Classics

This week’s theme around here is Continental Music and in a strange kind of way that did not come to me at first, this fits that classical Continental definition.  This was 80 cents.  Like a fish, I was probably hooked by the bright colors on the cover.

This was released by UK’s Mantovani in 1956.  Surprisingly enough the album in not overburdened by strings, which was his big thing.  All (well most of ) the big names of classical music are here; Rachmaninoff, Mozart, Handel, Bach, Chopin, and on of my favorites, Tchaikovsky. Again, I thought it would have been more stringy, but Mantovani held true to original work to which I am ambivalent about. Not to say there are no strings on this album. Several songs are string heavy but not in the over the top style of cascading strings that Mantovani is known for.

For a sample, I went with Prelude in C Sharp Minor by Rachmaninoff and Waltz from String Serenade by Tschaikowsky.

It is a toss up.  If he put more strings on it, there is no guarantee that it would have worked or would have been done tastefully.  On the converse, it does not sound bad as it is.  I tried hard to do the other but I just keep coming back to Meh.

Dolf van der Linden- Dutch Sax

dscn6186This was one dollar.  I have owned this and have been trying to post this for the last year and a half but for some reason or another, it always gets pulled from the rotation at the last minute.  Well, no time like the present.dscn6449

This record gives me a good transition into talking about my vacation that I took two weeks ago,  Went to Amsterdam.  It had been two years since I went last.  I was kind of on the fence about going and truthfully, I was still questioning the decision two days into my trip.  However, I wanted to stay somewhat familiar with the city and if I did not go, it would be another two years or so for the next trip. By the end of the trip, I was pretty glad I went.dscn6541

Weather was awful but bearable.  Spent a lot of time at old places I like to go to.  I also went to places where I have not been for a while.  Spent many of the days down in Rembrantplein.  Also spent a good amount of time at Vondelpark, Oosterark, Waterlooplein, Rozengratch, Museumplein, and the northeast area by Prins Hendikkade area.  I spent the nights mostly around the Dam City Center.  I went to one art exhibition, the swap meet, and the zoo among other places.dolph

This album is led by Dolf van der Linden, a popular orchestra leader born in Vlaardingen, Netherlands in 1915.  He was well known in his country wit some significant recognition throughout Europe.  Known for his arrangements of popular music, he died in 1999 at the age of 83.  wwwopac

The alto sax solos were performed by Cees Verschoor.  I do not know anything about him and for some reason was less inclined to do much research on the subject today.  As far as the record goes, it is lush orchestration.  Six Duke Ellington songs grace this album. I liked this the first time I listened to it. Not so much the second time.  For some reason, the third time was a bit better. Other than being done by Dutch musicians, there is not much Dutch about this record.  As far as music goes, it is pretty American sounding.dscn6187

For a sample, I was torn between “Passion Flower”, “Passionata” and “All Too Soon”.  For some reason, I went with “Passion Flower”.metropole-orkest-dolf-van-der-linden-002

As far as this record goes, meh.  A bit too slow for my liking.

Oscar Levant- Levant Plays Gershwin/ Rhapsody In Blue

dscn6184This was one dollar.  I got it because of “Rhapsody In Blue”‘s connection with United Airlines.united-airlines

I scheduled this post to correspond with my trip to Amsterdam two weeks ago.  Being from Houston, I tend to fly United quite a bit as IAH is a major hub.  This trip’s flights were ok I guess.  I watched movies pretty much through both flights.  Of the movies I saw, I really liked the Chet Baker story (more on that next month).  The Miles Davis movie was ok.  Did not like the Hank Williams movie at all.  From the non music movies, I really liked The Lobster.  Anyway, the pre flight safety video, a highly produced feature was interesting, taking the “Rhapsody” theme and setting it to different musical styles of the world, including Scottish, Chinese,Peruvian, Hawaiian, and Chicago blues among others. Pretty interesting, musically.

I was wrong about what I thought were the origins of United’s usage of this song.  Based on the CEO message from the front of the In Flight magazines some time ago, I thought the song’s licensing was done by Jeff Smisek in an act of extravagant management spending after the United/Continental merger.  I had this image of him in a hot tub smoking stogies listening to this song for some reason.  Anyway, this is wrong.  The licensing was done back in 1976 for $500K, way before the merger. Never really liked Smisek much.  I did not like Larry either but many ex-Continental employees tell me he was alright.  Hard to say much about Oscar at this time.  It should be noted that I draw my opinion of the CEO’s based on their In Flight blurbs.


But regardless, here is this album, featuring actor/ pianist Oscar Levant, tackling the works of George Gershwin backed by orchestral arrangements.  “Rhapsody In Blue” features Levant backed by Eugene Ormandy conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra.  On “Concerto In F For Piano and Orchestra”, Levant is helped by Andre Kostelanetz conducting the Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra of New York.  A third track, “An American In Paris” is done by the New York Philharmonic conducted by Artur Rodzinski.dscn6185

For a sample, I am going with “Rhapsody” as this was the dominate theme of the post.quote-roses-are-red-violets-are-blue-i-m-schizophrenic-and-so-am-i-oscar-levant-17-35-68

As far as the album goes, meh.

Sauter Finegan and their Orchestra- The Return of the Doodletown Fifers

dscn5561This was $1. The color scheme as well as the production value of the album cover probably hooked me to buy this.  I have never heard of either of the two arrangers of this album before buying this. It is Thanksgiving in the US.  I am in Amsterdam for the week.0sf

Ed Sauter and Bill Finegan were big band arrangers who came together to lead this orchestra.  They had some modest success in the 1950’s and were known for their imaginative arrangements which often used non-traditionally instrumentation.  Formed in 1952, the duo briefly split in 1957.  They reunited in 1959 to do this album as well as jingles.  Sauter would die in 1981 of a heart attack at age 67.  Finegan continued to perform under the Sauter-Finegan name until his death of pneumonia in 2008 at age 81.

Link to Allmusic entry

As stated above, this was a comeback album of sorts for the duo.  Released by United Artists, it contains a collection of interestingly arranged instrumental numbers, which I believe were written by the duo.  I am told these arrangements are not as interesting as their earlier work.  However, I find them adequate.  There are some valleys here but there are a lot of hills as well.  Perhaps, it could have been more imaginative but it is not a bad effort.dscn5562

For a sample, I went with “Thursday’s Child”.sauter-finegan

Meh. It is not a bad album but i did have higher hopes for it, something more Esquivel in nature. I would like to hear some of the duo’s earlier work for comparison,


The Jay Gordon String Orchestra- Music For A Lonely Night

dscn5544Been awhile, huh? This was a dollar. I found the title funny.  Not sure to whom this album is marketed to.llli

This record was released in 1957, a year before the label, Tops merged with PRI Records. I am guessing these guys were a budget label.  I could not find anything on Jay Gordon other than there are a handful or records under his name.  He may or may not even exist.  It could be the label’s house band for all I know.dscn5545

Anyway, the album itself is okay, although I do not see how it fixes a lonely night.  The songs are well orchestrated and the arrangements are pretty silky smooth.  2fimage2f3212372f936full-de-lovely-poster

For a sample, I went with Cole Porter’s classic, “Begin the Beguine”.  I have been somewhat influenced this month by the movie De-lovely, which has been playing on cable as of late.  It is the story of Porter and his marriage to Ashley Judd.  Kevin Kline plays Porter.  It also features several artists of the 2000’s singing Porter standards.  Overall, I thought it was a decent movie.

“Begin the Beguine” sung in the movie by Sheryl Crow, is one of Porter’s most popular songs.  It has become a pop standard and has been covered by many artists.  It is known for its complex structure. Porter wrote the song in 1935 while on a cruise between  Indonesia and Fiji.  Here is the Jay Gordon String Orchestra’s take on the classic.  I particular like the woodwinds at the beginning.  Overall, it has a very exotica sound to it.people_20131122_dark

Meh.  I mean this is better than some of the budget orchestra albums I have bought over the years but it does not have enough merits for me to rate it any better.