11 Jul

CD Review - Classic British Film Themes & Songs Volume 1 - 1940 -1944

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CD Review - Classic British Film
Themes & Songs
Volume 1 - 1940 -1944
SEPIA 1391 [76:56 & 78:13]

This is an entirely fascinating release: a rich repository of nostalgia, consisting of 59 tracks on two discs. It is made up of items previously unreleased on CD, which have been drawn largely from studio acetates, playback discs, pre-recordings and rehearsal discs.

The first track on CD1 and the last two on CD2 feature the Mighty Wurlitzer Organ, played by Leon Berry and Joseph Seal respectively, with Cinema Fanfarethe National Anthem and A.B.C. Parade: Play Out Music.

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04 Jul

CD Review – High Heels – Favourite Light Classics

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CD Review
High Heels – Favourite Light Classics
Iain Sutherland Concert Orchestra
ALTO ALC 1492
Total playing time 78:45
Released June 2024

This new CD is especially welcome because – unlike a few years ago – there has recently been an almost total absence of new Light Music releases, either of restored material which originally appeared on '78s', or indeed of more modern recordings.

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24 Jun

Review – Enoch Light / 4-Channel Dynamite & Big Band Hits Of The ‘30s

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big band hits of the thirtiesCD Review – Enoch Light / 4-Channel Dynamite & Big Band Hits Of The ‘30s
Vocalion CDLK 4655 [67:53]

Remarkably for us nowadays, three new easy listening releases in almost as few weeks. Firstly, there was Ferrante & Teicher, secondly Iain Sutherland (as I had written about four of his earlier albums the Editor has exerted his right to review this one), and now the exceptional Enoch Light (1907-78): bandleader, producer, A&R man, record entrepreneur and label owner.

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19 Jun

CD Review – Ferrante & Teicher Grand Twins of The Twin Grands

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CD Review – Ferrante & Teicher
Grand Twins of The Twin Grands
1952-1962

Jasmine JASMCD2781 [75:11]

It was a delight to find in the recent releases from Jasmine Records, along with Gene Vincent, Marty Wilde, Sleepy LaBeef, The Mudlarks, The Goofers, Arthur 'Big Boy' Cudup, Jimmy McCracklin, Slim Willet and June Carter, an album of our kind of music – a rare occurrence nowadays and a definite blast from the past.

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07 Jun

CD Review – Eric Coates: Orchestral Works, Vol.4

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CD Review – Eric Coates: Orchestral Works, Vol.4
BBC Philharmonic / John Wilson
Chandos CHAN 20292 [TT 61:36]

Any doubts I might have had about the last two John Wilson albums reviewed here not being of great interest to some readers does definitely not apply to this latest release. It is a surprise, however, to find that the first album in the series was all of five years ago.

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22 May

CD Review – The Golden Age Of Hollywood

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Concert Works For Violin And Piano
Patrick Savage & Martin Cousin
quartz QTZ 2156 [62’36]

This is an interesting release not quite what you might expect from the main title. The only thing it has to do with Hollywood is to feature works by composers well-known for their association with movie music in Los Angeless Tinseltown from the 1920s to the 1960s.

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11 Jun

CD Review – John Ireland Sinfonia Of London John Wilson

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CD Review – John Ireland
Sinfonia Of London John Wilson
Chandos CHSA 5293 [67:16]

These days John Wilson and his superlative Sinfonia of London orchestra seem they can play no wrong, with critical plaudits and awards being gathered by each new release. They have all been reviewed on these pages, but I realise that the heavier fare on some albums may not always appeal to those readers who admire John for his earlier work as a conductor of light music. This latest should not be among them.

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03 Jun

CD Review – Trevor Duncan – 20th Century Express / Little Suite / Children in the Park

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CD Review – Trevor Duncan
20th Century Express / Little Suite / Children in the Park
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra / Andrew Penny
Naxos 8.555192 [68:27]

Trevor Duncan – real name Leonard Charles Trebilcock – was a Londoner born in 1924 and lost to us in 2005. He will be best known, especially to oldies like me, for the March from his Little Suite – the signature tune for the 1962-71 TV series of A J Cronin's 'Dr Finlay’s Casebook' – also The Girl from Corsica and Enchanted April, the title tune of another TV programme.

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25 May

Ol’ Man River

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Ol’ Man River
(Words Oscar Hammerstein II, music Jerome Kern)
Analysed by Robert Walton

Why does the song Ol’ Man River sound so ancient? It’s much more than just Hammerstein’s brilliant lyrics, although they obviously help.

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Ol’ Man River
(Words Oscar Hammerstein II, music Jerome Kern)
Analysed by Robert Walton

Why does the song Ol’ Man River sound so ancient? It’s much more than just Hammerstein’s brilliant lyrics, although they obviously help. The simple answer is because of the primitive pentatonic scale (black notes of the piano) which occurs in most of the early music cultures, e.g. in China around 2000 BC. It’s sometimes called the Scottish scale because the bagpipes have a similar tuning - C, D, E, G and A. (Like my ringing chimes). It’s the main chorus of Ol’ Man River that is purely pentatonic using the 5 note scale. Hence the prehistoric atmosphere it creates. It couldn’t be a better setting for such a magnificent tune. Note the built-in syncopation on the word “River” and every third note of each bar in the chorus.

So from China, let’s follow a possible musical journey. First to Africa for the rhythm, America for syncopation, developed by Stephen Foster, a touch of jazz and finally to Jerome Kern who couldn’t have chosen a more appropriate format. If you speed up Kern’s melody, it could be one of the first of the extended “fanfares” before 20th Century Fox got in on the act! But there’s also an extra special tenderness in the main tune at bar 5. In the key of C on the word “JUST keeps rollin’” (Dm9, 11) the effect is overwhelming if you freeze “just”. Play, sing, hum, whistle or just listen to this grand tune. It’s a most all-encompassing experience.

The bridge starts “You and me we sweat and strain”. Like all bridges it begins as the perfect contrast, but when it rejoins the main melody it slips back in, just like from a verse. So in fact there are two verses.

But who first sang this comparatively simple 32 bar popular song? Jules Bledsoe introduced it in the 1927 musical “Showboat” and also the first film version in 1929. However the best-known singer of it was Paul Robeson in the second film version of 1936. The popular third film version of “Showboat” was in 1951 featuring William Warfield. In the film “Till the Clouds Roll By”, Frank Sinatra gave the song an entirely new feeling and freedom, getting away from the predictable basso profondo performances.

My favourite version of Ol’ Man River has got to be the most versatile artist of them all, Gordon MacRae, a legitimate baritone/crooner who sings a very gimmick-less arrangement with the Carmen Dragon Orchestra. (NZ Maori baritone Inia Te Wiata made a fine job of it too). And only recently I came across an outstanding traditional version of the song, sung, but “not crooned” by Dick Haymes. Big bands considered it too sluggish, hence their tendency to play it presto like Ted Heath, when it’s asking to be a medium swing.

Ol’ Man River is unquestionably one of the most moving songs ever written - a colossus in its category! A natural waterway even today carries the vital ingredients of life itself - work, play, family, culture, faith and love. The Mississippi River brilliantly describes the backdrop of the long-suffering African-Americans. Bringing the River Jordan into the mix was a clever move. In answer to Tennyson’s “The Brook” (“Men may come, men may go but I go on forever”), Hammerstein came up with “he just keeps rollin’ along”. Quoting from St. Augustine’s Confessions being “tired of life and afraid of dying” is a clear sign that life was a struggle. In spite of all this, it’s a universal message of hope and optimism.

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About Geoff 123
Geoff Leonard was born in Bristol. He spent much of his working career in banking but became an independent record producer in the early nineties, specialising in the works of John Barry and British TV theme compilations.
He also wrote liner notes for many soundtrack albums, including those by John Barry, Roy Budd, Ron Grainer, Maurice Jarre and Johnny Harris. He co-wrote two biographies of John Barry in 1998 and 2008, and is currently working on a biography of singer, actor, producer Adam Faith.
He joined the Internet Movie Data-base (www.imdb.com) as a data-manager in 2001 and looked after biographies, composers and the music-department, amongst other tasks. He retired after nine years loyal service in order to continue writing.