Portrait of Farnon

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From Living Era comes a new collection of Robert Farnon recordings – including 10 very rare Transcription recordings never previously available commercially

"Portrait of Farnon"
featuring Robert Farnon and his Orchestra
with guest stars Vera Lynn, Anne Shelton, Denny Dennis, Pearl Carr, Norman Wisdom, Beryl Davis, Paul Carpenter, Donald Peers, Kathran Oldfield and Denny Vaughan

All titles composed and/or arranged by Robert Farnon

1 A STAR IS BORN (Robert Farnon) Robert Farnon Orchestra 
2 DAISY BELL Robert Farnon Orchestra
3 A RAINY NIGHT IN RIO Anne Shelton & Robert Farnon Orchestra
4 JUMPING BEAN (Robert Farnon) Kingsway Symphony Orch / RF
5 SHE’S MY LOVELY Robert Farnon Orchestra
6 LONDON MELODY Norman Wisdom & Robert Farnon Orchestra
7 WAY YOU LOOK TONIGHT Robert Farnon Orchestra
9 FRENESI Robert Farnon Orchestra
10 THIS CAN’T BE LOVE Pearl Carr & Robert Farnon Orchestra
11 PROMENADE OVERTURE (R. Farnon) Danish State Radio Orch/RF
12 EVERY TIME I MEET YOU Denny Dennis & Robert Farnon Orchestra
13 LOUISE Robert Farnon Orchestra
14 PORTRAIT OF A FLIRT (R. Farnon) Kingsway Symphony Orch/RF
15 YOU’D BE HARD TO REPLACE Kathran Oldfield & R. Farnon Orch
16 HUCKLE-BUCKLE (Robert Farnon) Robert Farnon Orchestra
17 HOW HIGH THE MOON Denny Vaughan & Robert Farnon Orch
18 LULLABY OF BROADWAY Robert Farnon Orchestra
19 PINCE NEZ AND ASPIDISTRAS (Farnon) Danish State Radio Orch/RF
21 MANHATTAN PLAYBOY (Farnon) Queen’s Hall Light Orch/R. Farnon
22 TIME AFTER TIME Paul Carpenter & Robert Farnon Orchestra
23 HALL OF FAME (Farnon) Danish State Radio Orchestra / R. Farnon
24 MORE THAN YOU KNOW Robert Farnon Orchestra
25 BOW BELLS Donald Peers & Robert Farnon Orchestra
26 PEANUT POLKA (Robert Farnon) Robert Farnon Orchestra
27 NIGHT AND DAY Kathran Oldfield & Denny Vaughan with RFO
28 MELODY FAIR (Farnon) Robert Farnon Orchestra

Sanctuary Group Living Era CD AJA 5509

When Ray Crick at Living Era told me that he wanted a CD of early Robert Farnon recordings, he explained that many of Bob’s best-known works should be included to ensure that it would appeal to a wide cross-section of potential purchasers. However I was aware that a recent Naxos compilation had already covered much of this ground, although Living Era will be hoping to sell a large number of copies to their regular customers in the USA, who may not have come across the Naxos release.

To make this new release as attractive as possible – and to ensure that it is an ‘essential purchase’ for existing Farnon fans – a selection has been made which will introduce people presently unfamiliar with Bob’s work to some of his ‘biggest hits’, while at the same time including many rare and completely new tracks which purists will definitely want. The latter are taken from transcription recordings in the RFS archives, and thanks are due to two Australian members, Ian Rohl and Alan Heinecke, for four of them. Ian originally alerted us to their existence, then Alan provided good transfers for Alan Bunting to process.

As well as these 10 superb Farnon scores from the 1940s, previously unavailable on record, there are some rare Decca 78s where he is working as a ‘house arranger’ with some of their biggest stars of the time. (Before you question the inclusion of The Way You Look Tonight, this is not the version on Bob’s ‘Two Cigarettes In The Dark’ LP but an earlier more up-tempo arrangement).

An attempt has been made to recreate the atmosphere of Robert Farnon’s radio broadcasts of the late 1940s, minus the announcements, of course. Some of the Farnon compositions will already be familiar, although their names may elude many listeners who are not members of the Robert Farnon Society! Foremost on this CD are Jumping Bean and Portrait of a Flirt – the former being, at one time, the most-used signature tune in the world. Only slightly less familiar are A Star Is Born (nothing to do with the later Judy Garland film, but heard in Britain every week to introduce the main celebrity in ‘In Town Tonight’), Peanut Polka (named Popcorn Polka in North America), Manhattan Playboy (the male equivalent of the famous ‘Flirt’) and Melody Fair – often used by Farnon as his theme music (it originally came from a long-forgotten film called ‘Paper Orchid’).

Several rarely heard Farnon originals have been added to provide additional interest, and avoid too many familiar numbers that keen collectors may already possess.

In between the orchestral pieces there are some charming vocals by popular singers who were household names at the time. Some are still fresh in the memory, such as Vera Lynn, Anne Shelton and Norman Wisdom; others may take a little while to stir the memory banks, although it should not take too long before their accomplished ways with a good song spark some pleasant rekindling of recognition. Notable among the ‘lesser-knowns’ are fellow-Canadians Denny Vaughan (who sang with several British bands before returning for a successful television career in North America); Kathran (Kip) Oldfield (who also sang with Norrie Paramor, Johnny Dankworth and Laurie Johnson); and Paul Carpenter (who became a familiar face in British films).

Purely by chance, Kathran Oldfield contacted us last June to say that she had been delighted to discover our website, which brought back many happy memories for her. She explained that she felt privileged to be Bob’s female vocalist on his radio shows, especially as she was (as she put it) "…fresh off the boat from Canada." She eventually had a series on Radio Luxembourg called "Soccer Songtime" which ran for two years and featured Kathran with Norrie Paramor and his group. She also appeared in London’s West End on stage and in cabaret, and can still recall an early television show with Terry-Thomas. Eventually she returned to Canada where she married, although during the 1960s she appeared on US TV with the likes of Rock Hudson, Sir Cedric Hardwicke and Yul Brunner. ‘Kathran (Kip) Oldfield’ was her stage name: she is now Alixe Wallis.

Robert Farnon has enjoyed such a long and varied career that any collection of his music can only represent one facet of his considerable talents. In the years after these recordings were made he expanded his horizons further into the jazz and more serious musical fields, and today it is not uncommon to find his name alongside the likes of Mozart and Elgar, J.J. Johnson and George Benson on new CD releases.

The popular music of the period immediately following World War 2 is now viewed with some curiosity by younger generations, who are starting to discover that there was, indeed, a vibrant musical scene in Britain before The Beatles. Perhaps one day melody will again move centre stage, but until then those of us already ‘in the know’ can enjoy the kind of pleasing sounds digitally captured on this shiny disc for posterity.

David Ades

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