Sunday, February 26, 2006

Lounge Along With Mitch (or, Mellow Out with Mitch)

It's funny, the way we can hear what we expect to hear. That's what happened to my ears, anyway, when they took in these ultra-smooth Mitch Miller tracks from the early 1950s: to wit, they heard strings. Why? Because easy-listening records have strings. As we all know. So, they heard them. Front and center. Or, rather, back and center.

Then, while I was copying composer credits from the album in question (Mmmmitch!, Columbia CL 601, 1954), my eyes noticed that the tracks were credited to "Mitch Miller with Horns and Chorus." And I exclaimed to myself, "Hey--no strings. No wonder these sound a little different." Yes, indeed, chicken-feed (a local expression that does not show up on Google).

Because I associate strings with EZ, I heard them. Even though they weren't there. Psychologists have a word for this: plain nuts. I mean, two words.

Anyway, this music functions beautifully as Hugo-Winterhalter-style easy listening, and without strings, thank you (save for piano, harp, and--I think--Celeste). I like this stuff better than MM's more brash "sing-along" style, though I don't mind the latter--it had its place, especially on Guy Mitchell's records. But here's a mellower Mitch than you might know or expect:

The Sea of the Moon (Freed--Brown, from Pagan Love Song), Mitch Miller's Horns and Chorus, 1952. From Mmmmitch!, Columbia CL 601. (So, Miller's singers could do something besides shout! Step aside, Anita Kerr. Astonishing, the stuff that had evolved before hi-fi sets became popular.)

Cuban Nightingale (Sun Sun Babae; George R. Martinez), Mitch Miller's Horns and Chorus, plus Stan Freeman on harpsichord, 1952. (The chorus in "sing-along" mode, and Freeman in virtuoso mode. Killer exotica!)

Oriental Polka, Mitch Miller's Horns (and percussion!), with Stan Freeman on harpsichord, 1953. ("La Choy makes Chinese food....")

Song of Delilah (Livingston--R. Evans--Victor Young), Mitch Miller's Horns and Chorus. Vocal by Burt Taylor; oboe solo by Mitch Miller, 1952.

Autumn Leaves (Johnny Mercer--Joseph Kosma), Mitch Miller's Horns and Chorus, 1952. English horn solo by Miller. (Best of the bunch, in VL's opinion. Predates Roger William's hit version by three years.)

I just noticed that (my storage spot) isn't retaining the track info for recently-uploaded tracks. This is probably a temporary "bug." Meanwhile, however, listeners can again play files at the site. Cool!

So far,'s latest changes have been for the better, by far. And I don't object at all to getting 400 percent greater storage space for no extra cost! Can't complain. (Though I usually manage to find a way. (<:)


Monday, February 20, 2006

Whittemore and Lowe: "Two Grand" (1946)

When I first heard the material on this 45-RPM set, I couldn't believe it was from 1946. No way. However... way.

Not this edition, mind you (45s didn't appear until 1949, as we all know), but the recordings themselves. Apparently, this set is/was a reissue of the 1946 78-RPM set of the same name, same line-up. If it sounds more like 1960 Ferrante and Teicher than 1946 Whittemore and Lowe, then don't be alarmed--this is, after all, the Vintage Lounge blog. Though even I didn't expect to find the basic F&T sound at such an early date in history--I figured the early 1950s, perhaps, but not just after the close of WWII. But here it is--a duo-piano-with-orchestra sound specific to the pop charts of 1960, only a lot earlier. I think they call this phenomenon "history."

Here, in order of their box-set appearance, are Arthur Whittemore and Jack Lowe's amazing duo-piano-with-orchestra recordings from 1946. Lover makes its second appearance here:

Lover (Hart--Rodgers), Whittermore and Lowe, with the RCA Victor Orchestra, 1946. From "Two Grand."

The Song Is You (Hammerstein II--Kern), with the RCA Victor Orchestra, 1946.

In the Still of the Night (Porter), with RCA Victor Orchestra, 1946.

The Continental (Magidson--Conrad), with the RCA Victor Orchestra, 1946.

Falling in Love with Love (Hart--Rodgers), with the RCA Victor Orchestra, 1946.

Brazil (Russell--Barroso), with RCA Victor Orchestra, 1946.

They Didn't Believe Me (Reynolds--Kern), with RCA Victor Orchestra, 1946.

That Old Black Magic (Mercer--Allen), with RCA Victor Orchestra, 1946.


Friday, February 17, 2006

"Trylon and Perisphere," a Ferde Grofe classic

From the CD Paul Whiteman--Carnegie Hall Concert, December 25, 1938 comes this gem of a Ferde Grofe composition:

Trylon and Perisphere (Grofe), Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra. Performed live at Paul Whiteman's eighth (and last) Experiment in Modern Music. (Edited) comments by Deems Taylor.

This is such a wonderful piece, I hate to take any portion of it to task, but things get a bit turgid during Grofe's usual reprise-athon near the end--I wonder if the fault lies in Grofe's writing or if the performers hadn't quite gotten the score down? Maybe a little of both. At any rate, Trylon and Perisphere, written for the 1939-1940 New York World's Fair, was by far the best work featured in the concert, which is available for purchase here. It's a very interesting historical document, even if most of the works--by folks such as Richard Rodgers, Raymond Scott, and Duke Ellington--are less than inspiring. The slow moments are more than made up for by Fred Van Epps' Quonk, Morton Gould's The Bell Fugue, and a performance of Gershwin's Cuban Overture (with Rosa Linda--who completed the work after Gershwin died--at the piano!) And, of course, by Trylon and Perisphere. As a lover of Arthur Honegger's music, I listen to Grofe's piece and wonder if he was trying to render Honegger in easy-listening terms. If so, I can't imagine a more successful experiment.

A rare example of what "Pops" concerts could be, if there were only more Grofes out there....


Saturday, February 11, 2006

An intensely delightful track from "Ecstasy"

A rather unfortunate album title/cover art combination....

The cover art to 1955's Ecstasy is just a little overdone, though what was merely ridiculous in 1955 now looks downright disturbing--a dazed woman swooning in a dark room, a man's hands gripping her shoulders, an empty couch waiting behind her, and the word "Ecstasy" in large letters above her. Oops.

Some images don't age well.

But some of the music on this Otto Cesana gem has aged not merely well, but superbly. Best of the bunch, probably, is Symphony in Jazz (First Movement), which, like the rest of the material, was composed by Cesana himself.

When I spotted this LP in a flea market several months ago, I could tell by the catalog number that it was from the mid-Fifties, and the titles struck me as old-fashioned for that period. Plus, the playlist (fifteen titles) seemed unusually long. So I should have suspected, right off, that this was a reissue of older material--probably two ten-inch albums' worth. However, I had (in spite of these clues) not a clue. And after years of collecting vintage mood music on LP. Sheesh.

Luckily, I quickly established, via Google, that Ecstasy is a reissue of two 10" Cesana efforts: a circa-1950 Ecstasy (Columbia GL-103) and 1953's Sugar 'n' Spice (Columbia CL 6261). These are the albums that make up Side One and Side Two, respectively. And it just occurs to me that I probably related this boring story already, a number of posts back. Oops.

The moral is, never assume the issue date of a mood/easy/lounge LP has anything to do with the date of the material. That's one of the first LP-collecting lessons I ever learned, though apparently I'm very capable of zoning that lesson out.

Well, nobody's perfect. And no piece of music is without flaws, either, though Symphony in Jazz is still pretty darn good. I was sure it would be a first-rate piece of fluff, a la The 101 Strings (whom I love), and a hodgepodge, like most concert jazz efforts. Instead, the music is lively, interesting, jazzy enough, AND superbly organized. In fact, it adheres very nicely to sonata form, as far as I can tell--the standard form for a symphony's first movement. The liner notes helped me follow every detail, and I'd type them here if I hadn't already gone on too long. Let's get to Cesana's excellent jazz symphony:

Symphony in Jazz (First Movement) (Cesana), Otto Cesana and His Orchestra, circa 1950. From 1955 Ecstasy LP.

And here's a Cesana repeat from 1953: Whirlwind, which originally appeared on the Sugar 'N' Spice LP. Fun, brilliantly-orchestrated mood music:


Um. Rather, let's hear it next time. Looks like I didn't upload the file. Behind the blog, things are very hectic right now, but we expect some calm to return to the picture soon. Whirlwind was probably not the track to be uploading, at least at the moment!

Lee, coping

Monday, February 06, 2006

Merv and Mort say "Welcome back!" to VL

VL being Vintage Lounge, of course. And Merv and Mort being Merv Griffin and Morton Gould. An odd combo, but nothing wrong with that.

We begin with 1949's Your Kiss, which appeared as the flip side of The Merry Christmas Polka, oddly enough. The Freddy Martin band produced plenty of first-rate lounge during Merv Griffin's stay--one ultra-smooth chart after another, all superbly complimented by Griffin's mellow baritone. (You can probably tell I'm a Freddy fan.) Martin's was not the first of the smooth big bands, by any means, but his came the closest to the spirit of Mantovani and Percy Faith. Which, around this part of the Blogosphere, is something to praise:

Your Kiss, Merv Griffin with Freddy Martin and His Orchestra. (78 buried in stack; no composer credits handy!)

Next, Morton Gould's flashy and fun The Bell Fugue, composed for Paul Whiteman's eight and last Experiment in Modern Music. Needless to say, a very Raymond Scott feel to this, though more skillfully done in the Classical-content department. From the CD Paul Whiteman at Carnegie Hall, which I way-highly recommend. The works, overall, are a mixed bag, but the concert is a great historical document, and the highlights--such as this piece and Ferde Grofe's marvelous Trylon and Perisphere--are worth the price tag, I think. And, for Scott fans, there are three of his, including the interesting (however gloomy) Suicide Cliff.

Anyway, here's Mort, as superbly presented by Paul Whiteman:

The Bell Fugue (Morton Gould), from the CD Paul Whiteman at Carnegie Hall, Nostalgia Arts 303 3025, 2005. VL says, buy it--you'll love it!

Another reason to purchase the Whiteman CD: Rosa Linda shows up, performing Gershwin's Cuban Overture, which she completed following Gershwin's death in 1937! To quote Johnny Carson, I did not know that. I am impressed. Rosa is just one more musician who deserves to be much better-known.


Thursday, February 02, 2006

State of the blog

Greetings! My apologies for the lack of activity at this blog--I do hope to get things going again, and soon. What's been happening is that Music You (Possibly) Won't Hear Anyplace Else has been taking all of my blogging time, AND things have been unusually hectic hereabouts. Time is hard to find. Newsweek, too. Chortle, guffaw.


Anyway, I'll do my best to restart this site. Meanwhile, my thanks to, um, Anonymous for pointing out that Jesse Crawford accomplished A Precious Little Thing Called Love by his lonesome--I was afraid that might be the case, but I couldn't find specific disc. data for the track. My ears told me the xylophone and piano were the real thing(s), hence I referred to the other two musicians. (As it turns out, Jesse 2 and Jesse 3.) A calculated risk. Not knowing enough about theatre organs, I didn't know that these instruments often (or as a rule?) had xylophones and pianos literally built into them! Not synthesized, of course, but the genuine, actual sounds.

There. I think I covered my be-hind pretty well. (Oops. I didn't mean to type that out loud!)

Seriously, I appreciate corrections. It's like free knowledge for me--an unbeatable deal.

And I have got to get this blog going again....