Mediterranean Moonlight / The Music of Jimmy McHugh

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Two magnificent Decca LPs are finally restored to the catalogue, through this generous new 2-CD set from Vocalion


"Mediterranean Moonlight" CD 1

1 EL RELICARIO (Padilla); 2 APRIL IN PORTUGAL (Ferrao); 3 FAREWELL TO NAPOLI Cottrau, arr. Leon Young); 4 LADY OF SPAIN (Evans, Reaves, Damerell); 5 MAKE IT SOON (Salvador, Pon); 6 TINA (Grosz, Kennedy); 7 VALENCIA (Padilla); 8 BLUE VENETIAN WATERS (Kaper, Surmann, Kahn); 9 ISLE OF CAPRI (Kennedy, Grosz); 10 THE STORY OF TINA (Katrivanou, Hassall); 11 ARRIVEDERCI DARLING (Rascel); 12 TESORO MIO (Becucci, arr. Leon Young); 13 MAJORCA (Gaste, Bonnett); 14 CARNIVAL OF VENICE (Frosini)

"Lovely Lady" CD 2

The Music of Jimmy McHugh

1 I’M IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE (McHugh, Fields); 2 LOVELY LADY (McHugh, Koehler); 3 ON THE SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET (McHugh, Fields); 4 DON’T BLAME ME (McHugh, Fields); 5 I CAN’T GIVE YOU ANYTHING BUT LOVE; (McHugh, Fields); 6 BLUE AGAIN (McHugh, Fields); 7 I’M SHOOTING HIGH (McHugh, Koehler); 8 A LOVELY WAY TO SPEND AN EVENING (McHugh, Adamson); 9 CUBAN LOVE SONG (McHugh, Fields, Stothart); 10 EXACTLY LIKE YOU (McHugh, Fields); 11 I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT YOU’RE IN LOVE WITH ME (McHugh , Gaskill); 12 GOOD-BYE BLUES (McHugh, Fields, Johnson); 13 I COULDN’T SLEEP A WINK LAST NIGHT (McHugh, Adamson); 14 DINNER AT EIGHT (McHugh, Fields)

Vocalion CDLK4162 [2 CDs for the price of 1]

When these Long-Playing records were first released by Decca early in 1957, Frank Chacksfield had already achieved considerable success and recognition internationally. The idea of a ‘concept album’ had, by now, been generally accepted by record companies, allowing conductors such as Chacksfield the freedom to choose certain areas and styles of music which they considered would appeal to their fans across the world. This was a notable improvement on the sometimes haphazard collection of singles which had been a feature of many LPs in the early days of this new phenomenon of the music business. As the 1950s dawned post-war austerity was still an unhappy fact of life, but fortunately things gradually improved as the decade progressed. Chacksfield’s choice of music associated with the Mediterranean struck a familiar chord with the pioneers of the package holiday boom that was just around the corner.

Mediterranean Moonlight is a tribute to that beautiful inland sea that borders so many countries associated with what has become known as the cradle of civilisation. It is practically tideless (contrary to the erroneous lyrics of Isle of Capri) and struggles to keep a balance between the conflicting demands of tourism, and the necessity for the locals living on its shores to be able to sustain a living from fishing and generally going about their business in deep waters.

Composers have long found it to be an inspiration, but few conductors have assembled such a wonderful collection of arrangements in honour of this beautiful part of the world.

Lovely Lady is a tribute to a talented songwriter who never quite achieved the fame of his contemporaries such as Berlin, Gershwin and Porter, but nevertheless entertained millions with his charming and catchy melodies. Jimmy McHugh was born on 10 July 1894, and after a short spell as an office boy at Boston’s Opera House he moved on to the local offices of Irving Berlin’s publishing company. In those early days of the 20th century music publishers employed numerous song-pluggers, who would take the latest sheet music to cinemas, theatres and music stores, and perform songs to encourage people to buy the scores. A really popular song could sell hundreds of thousands of copies, but with radio and talking pictures some years ahead in the future, the potential customers needed to hear what they would be buying.

Young Jimmy soon decided that he wanted to write songs, and in 1921 Emaline was the first one that was accepted by a publisher. This encouraged him to move to New York, where he concentrated on writing scores for the Cotton Club revues in Harlem. He was partly responsible for bringing an unknown pianist named Duke Ellington before a wider public.

Like most composers, McHugh preferred to let others put words to his melodies, and many of his biggest successes resulted from his collaboration with Dorothy Fields, a New York schoolteacher (and the daughter of a comedian) he met in 1927. Other lyric writers included Clarence Gaskill and Harold Adamson.

Jimmy McHugh died in Beverly Hills, California, on 23 May 1969 aged 74. In his later life he enjoyed the French paintings and antique silver that his massive earnings had allowed him to accumulate. "How do I write a song?" he once said. "Well, I get titles and write them down on a piece of paper. Sooner or later I may write them up – when I feel that fresh feeling coming on. Maybe one day you’re walking along the street and you start humming". Many of his melodies were composed on the upright piano which George Gershwin once owned.

Frank Chacksfield was born Francis Charles Chacksfield in Battle, Sussex, on 9 May 1914; he died on 9 June 1995 aged 81 in Kent, having suffered for several years from Parkinson’s Disease. During his long recording career with Decca alone, it is estimated that his albums sold more than 20 million copies. In total he made more than 150 long-playing albums which were released in many countries, especially in Europe, Japan and Australia as well as Britain and America.

After serving an ‘apprenticeship’ accompanying singers, the first Frank Chacksfield singles in his own right were released in 1951 with several sides for Polygon, Columbia, Parlophone and Oriole. Although they were enjoyable, these early recordings were not big sellers, and Chacksfield had to negotiate a new record contract. Decca already had star names such as Mantovani, Robert Farnon and Stanley Black making successful albums, and this probably encouraged them to seek another light orchestra to add to the list. Frank Chacksfield was duly signed up, and in 1953 he formed a 40-piece orchestra with a large string section.

His very first 78 recorded for Decca in April - Charlie Chaplin’s themes for his film "Limelight" - won him a Gold Disc through its big success in the USA. In Britain it earned him the New Musical Express ‘Record of the Year’ award. His second 78 "Ebb Tide" became the first-ever British non-vocal disc to reach No. 1 in the American charts, providing a second Gold Disc. American juke-box operators, in a nation-wide poll, voted Chacksfield the most promising new orchestra of the year. Rarely can a record company have experienced such great success with the first two releases by a new signing. [These numbers, and many of his other early Decca 78s, can be found on the Vocalion CD "Dinner at Eight-Thirty" – CDLK4109].

Following his great success with his Decca recordings, in August 1954 the BBC invited Frank Chacksfield to present his orchestra on television, and these shows continued, on and off, until 1964 when he conducted several half-hour programmes in the "Best of Both Worlds" series on the newly-launched BBC-2 channel, which were sold to some other countries. He also became an almost permanent fixture on BBC Radio in "Limelight", "Melody Hour" etc. As a child he had suffered from a slight stutter, but the friendly manner in which he conquered this affliction somehow added to his charm when he introduced his own programmes.

But it was his steady flow of long-playing records which ensured Chacksfield’s continuing popularity and high public profile. Some of his best remembered include: "Evening in Paris", "Music of Noel Coward", "Evening in Rome", "Broadway Melody", "South Sea Island Magic", "In the Mystic East", "Film Festival", collections of Academy Award-winning songs, and the two fine albums included on this 2-CD collection. "Mediterranean Moonlight", in particular, is enhanced by some exceptional lush scores from the pen of Frank Chacksfield’s long-time associate, the talented arranger Leon Young.

David Ades November 2002

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