Sunday, January 25, 2009

Steve Allen - Electrified Favorites (1958)

Anyone familiar with Steve Allen's musical work knows what to expect. This is traditional jazz. Nothing space age about it. Still, an enjoyable album to listen to (especially if you like the sound of the Wurlitzer electric piano). Incidentally, the guy on the cover is NOT Steve Allen. He's a model who also appeared on a couple of Ray Conniff's album covers in the 1950's. Examples: S' Wonderful and S' Awful Nice Liner notes from the back cover.... "Steve Allen at the Wurlitzer Electronic Piano" With the music business crying eternally for "new sounds" it appears that Steve Allen has answered the call loud and clear this time out. Fans of the old Tonight Show and his Sunday evening opus are familiar with the small Wurlitzer electronic piano he's been using the past year or so. When they hear this collection of swinging tracks they'll wonder why the bespectacled one didn't record the instrument a long time ago. Not only does it provide a new sound but that sound seems particularly suited to the jazz idiom. The electronic 88 is not going to make Carnegie Hall throw away its old concert grands but it does give an off-beat, fresh feeling to the piano voice. In the low registers it sounds slightly organish, in the middle area of the keyboard it has a chunky guitar-like sound, and in the upper octaves a celestial tinkle bites crisply through. Allen employs all three registers to catchy advantage in this listenable, danceable clutch of standards and (as always when Stevo records) originals. Oddly enough it's the originals which bounce the most in this collection. "Steverino Swings" and "Electronic Boogie" are two sides that figure to get hefty plays in any rhythm-and-blues jukebox (they actually present Allen more in his capacity as jazz instrumentalist than composer since they're basically the blues and are given titles chiefly for clearance purposes). On "Steverino Swings", Allen plays some familiar blues figures and some new ones and the track proves again his earthly feeling for traditional jazz. "Electronic Boogie" is reminiscent of the old Freddie Slack specialties and with the solid drum support of Bobby Rosengarden and Frank Carroll's bass the 8-beat really romps. Two other Allen originals included in the session are "Playing the Field" and "Even Steven", a pair of well-constructed melodies familiar to old Tonight viewers. On "Memories of You" Steve plays a little like somebody working out an arrangement for the old Lunceford band. Taking only slight liberties with the melody of this theme from the Benny Goodman movie, Allen uses block chord figures to establish an easy, walking treatment that's never before been applied to this particular ballad. "Careless", one of the top songs of the late 30's, is treated in similar style. The same general medium-tempo groove predominates through the rest of the album, most notably on "Sweet Lorraine", (where Steve plays some one-note sections with good jazz feeling) and "Time on My Hands". On portions of his jazz choruses, by the way, Steve and the Wurlitzer combine to get a sort of Charlie Christian mood going. All in various sounds and rhythms add up to pleasant listening. If you're a behind-the-scenes type, you might be interested to know the making of this album represented one of the shortest recording sessions in album history. Steve showed up at the date without having decided what tunes he wanted to do, Bobby Rosengarden arrived an hour late, and from there on in Allen, working with his shirt and T-shirt off for most of the session, just called them off and played them, with no attempt to discuss arrangements or plans of action before hand. that's pretty much Steve's approach to television and life, too. He ad-libs it. Seems to work out just fine. SAMPLE: Download album: HERE - (A special thanks to Rod Sein of Sudbury, Ontario who digitally restored this album for me a few years ago)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

You're not hallucinating. I did have an album posted. But the owner asked me to take it down. I don't want to step on anyone's toes. I'll post more music next week.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Old Records (compilation)

I've finally ripped a small stack of records that I set aside last summer, but never got around to recording....until now. The beauty of these old records is how cheap they can be bought for (and often times, even free!). My turntable is a Numark TT100 with Shure M44G stylus. Recording is done through the soundcard (CT4780) on the back of my PC (driver for this card). I also use Audacity. This compilation is typical of the 2 1/2 hours worth of music I usually store on a single minidisc. Great for long rides and family get-togethers (plug it into the stereo and leave it playing in the background). 66 songs in all. Some of you may find this exhausting (but hopefully not). There's a good bit of RCA's "Living" series on here, plus Henry Mancini, Martin Denny, Franck Pourcel, The Three Suns, Arthur Fiedler, Marty Gold, Floyd Cramer, and many others. SAMPLES: TRACK LISTINGS: Part 1 & Part 2 DOWNLOAD LINKS: Part 1 & Part 2

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Robert Farnon

Here are two records by Robert Farnon. I ripped them from vinyl without using any software to clean up the "crackles" and "pops". I suppose it adds character. ;) The 2nd record (Canadian Impressions) is actually in better shape than the first one. Besides, how many music blogs are even covering Bob's music these days? I got these two LP's at a local Salvation Army over the holidays while visiting family in Massachusetts....$1 each (you can't beat that!) ....TRACK LISTINGS LINER NOTES: In recent years Robert Farnon has been an inspiring figure in British light music, at a time when the light concert orchestra has become as popular as the dance band. A good deal of the credit for this must go to Robert Farnon whose orchestral ideas blazed the way, not only for his own development but for other orchestras of this kind, such as Mantovani's and Frank Chacksfield's. He has also enlivened the music scene with some most attractive compisitions such as Portrait of a Flirt and Jumping Bean, as well as with the orchestral arrangements that have more than amply proved his taste and genius in this field. Born in Toronto, Canada in 1917, Farnon came to England in 1944 as musical director of the Canadian Band of the A.E.F., and through his many broadcasts became known to millions of listeners in the British Isles. After his release from the Army he decided to stay in Britain, and immediately his masterly scores began to appear in the libraries of such band leaders as Ambrose, Ted Heath and Geraldo. The BBC offered Robert Farnon a great opportunity of earning wider fame in a series entitled "Melody Hour". At the same time he was signed by London as the conductor responsible for directing the accompaniments to such well-known artists as Vera Lynn and Gracie Fields. The film industry has also made good use of Robert Farnon's talents both as an arranger and a conductor. Films such as "Paper Orchids" and "Spring in Park Lane" have allowed cinema audiences to appreciate further his artistry as a musical director. This selection of Robert Farnon's arrangements played by his orchestra is a typical example of his capabilities, some very good musical reasons why this arranger-composer has earned his popularity and esteem. And in his turn, Robert Farnon presents soloists and sections of his orchestra in their interpretation of well-chosen tunes. No recording could be more fully representative of Robert Farnon's talents as orchestrator and director. - PETE GAMMOND DOWNLOAD LINKS: Robert Farnon-"Something to Remember You By" (1955) & Robert Farnon-"Canadian Impressions" (1956)