Reviews

GLCD 5103 – The Golden Age of Light Music: The 1950s

Various

To the CD in our Shop


Essex Chronicle June 2010

On the lighter side of classical and cross over music is a series of releases with a distinctly nostalgic feel from Guild Records. David Ades has compiled More Strings in Stereo!
featuring some of the top names of the post-war years such as Nelson Riddle, Morton Gould and Percy Faith and their respective orchestras. With tunes such as high Noon and By a Sleepy Lagoon, you won’t be disappointed (Guild GLCD 5159).
And, of you enjoy this release, then Guild have many more in the same Light Music series including one featuring hits from 1940s (Guild GLCD 5102) and another from the 1950s (Guild GLCD 5103).
Chris Green

Keana Santinel – 20/01/2005

CD isn ‘t light on British light music
By FRANKBEHRENS Contributing Writer

I told you recently about one of the historical Guild recordings. It also has, among its many fascinating catalogue entries, two CDs of light music from the 1940s and from the 1950s. While those concentrated on British composers and bands, the latest offering, “The Golden Age of Light Music: the 1930s,” gives us a cross-section of records made on both sides of the Atlantic.

Composers include Richard Rodger (“Slaughter on Tenth Avenue”), John Ansell (“Plymouth Hoe”) and other names possibly more familiar to British music lovers than to us. Among the orchestras are those of Paul Whiteman and even the Berlin Philharmonic.

But the main point of this CD is a lesson in living musical history. As singing at the parlor piano gave way to listening to acoustic recordings, the advent of the electric recordings made listening even more pleasurable. No surprise, then, that pieces short enough to be accommodated on one side of a disc were the perfect grist for the record companies’ mills.

So you can enjoy this Guild offering on two levels.


MusicWeb Tuesday June 08 2004

Light Music at its very best. The 1950’s were great years for this genre of attractive, evocative and nostalgic music. Great album, great tunes and great playing. …

This is in many ways a very different disc to the 1940s edition from the same Guild series. The first thing that I noticed is the improvement in the sound quality. Now this has nothing to do with the fantastic work of Guild Records. It is quite simply that the 1950s were the era of the 45 rpm disc, the LP and of course the first forays into stereophonic sound. Accordingly it makes for very comfortable listening; one does not need to make allowances for the noisy ’78’ surfaces.

As to the style of the music, there is a certain amount of inspiration from ‘swing’ – not a lot but just enough to make it clear that its influence has rubbed off. However, we have no intimation that ‘Rock and Roll’ was invented in this decade!

Once again the disc is crammed full – 77 minutes – of magical, racy and inspiring tunes from the great post-war decade. There are some real treats here. These range from classic jazz standards reworked for orchestra to well known radio programme theme tunes that have spanned the generations. There is a splash of romantic music and lots of fun too. The whole album is epitomised by the feeling that ‘I have heard it all before’; even the numbers that are not familiar. Now this is the great thing about music of this era. Much of it was used on television programmes in the 1950s and 1960s. The old ‘light’ programme featured a vast amount of this kind of music before they discovered ‘pop.’ Many of us in the UK of a certain age remember ‘Friday Night is Music Night,’ still going strong on Radio 2. Even as a child this programme was often ‘on’ at my grandmother’s house. From being knee high to a grasshopper all this music was slowly sinking into my mind.

There is no need to discuss all these evocative works. I intend to select a few highlights. Note that the music is played by orchestras whose leaders were often composers or arrangers in their own right. They are all here on this disc – David Rose, Edmundo Ros, Mantovani, Billy Cotton, Frank Chacksfield and Stanley Black, to mention just a few.

I notice that there is a nice balance between ‘tone poems’ and arrangements and impressions. Beginning with the former, Charles Williams is at home both on the conductor’s rostrum and at the composer’s desk. His Heart-O-London is a classic example of the ‘Capital’ genre, which can be added to those of Haydn Wood and Eric Coates. This work was commissioned around the time of the Coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and has echoes of Big Ben and the ubiquitous street cry, Cherry Ripe.

Whilst on the ‘big city’ theme I must mention Cyril Watters’ fabulous Piccadilly Spree. This is a fine example of how light music requires superb craftsmanship to give its best effect. This is a ‘great’ piece that fairly bustles along. It perfectly describes the mood of the place. It makes you feel great to be alive – and happy and proud to be living and working in London!

Moving swiftly on to Spain … We have a fine version of Augustin Lara’s great song ‘Granada.’ The Monty Kelly Orchestra brings some of the magic of Chacksfield’s moonlight and sunshine moods to a well-known tune.

Paris is always close to the heart of composers and Edward White’s Paris Interlude is as good as it gets. Of course he is best known for his Runaway Rocking Horse and Puffin’ Billy. The present piece is an attractive work that gives an impression of gay Paris in the aftermath of the war. It was composed in 1952.

One of the highlights is Richard Addinsell’s Festival. This is played by Mantovani and his Orchestra. It is one of those pieces that I have always wanted to hear. I knew that he wrote this work – presumably for the Festival of Britain, yet I never managed to catch up with it. Ever since listening to the Warsaw Concerto, I have been an enthusiast for his music. We are lucky to have recently enjoyed two discs from ASV and one from Chandos, so our knowledge of this fine composer is getting more comprehensive. Festival is quite a big, sweeping piece, that has the overtones of a film score about it, although it really is a short ‘overture,’ with a lovely romantic tune.

There are a number of arrangements on this disc. David Rose and his Orchestra give a contemporary arrangement of the Gershwins’ Liza. Duke Ellington is represented by a less than effective arrangement of Caravan by Philip Green. Like the volume of music from the 1940s, there is a film medley, ‘Parade of the Film Hits.’ This has tunes as diverse as Broadway Melody, Laura, Wedding of the Painted Doll and Over the Rainbow. Richard Rodgers is represented by an attractive version of Blue Moon.

Proud Canvas by Robert Farnon has little to do with an artist’s studio, but everything to do with the sea. Of course, Farnon would go on to compose the music for ‘Captain Horatio Hornblower’ (starring Gregory Peck and Virgina Mayo). This present work was often used as a background to any film or programme that need ‘seascape’ music. It has a distinctly nautical feel about it that has often been copied but never bettered.

There are a few ‘dance numbers’ on this disc – all of them attractive. Ray Martin does us proud with his Dancing Bells; one of those little tunes that seems to be so well known. Of course, another big hit by this composer was the ubiquitous Marching Strings – better known as the theme to Top of the Form. However this was written using one of his pseudonyms, Marshall Ross. The recording of Joe Heyne’s Petite Waltz is perhaps the least well recorded of the entire disc. However, it is played by the redoubtable Billy Cotton and his Band so it is well worth preserving even if the sound quality is not at its best. This is another well known tune by a lesser known composer and with a little known title. Sydney Torch’s attractive Flirtation Waltz and David Rose’s wonderful Waltz of the Bubbles completes this review of ‘dance’ music.

My final selection from this album is Robert Busby’s great tune Sportsmaster. This is a excellent, catchy march that was used as the music for a cigarette advert back in the ’fifties when we were allowed to smoke! I also wonder if it was used as theme music to a sports programme television. (Readers, please advise!)

Altogether a fine album of attractive, evocative and nostalgic music. But never let these adjectives get in the way of the fact that this is good, well constructed, beautifully orchestrated and well balanced music. Just because there is a good tune and a bit of a swing does not invalidate its claim to be great music. Light music is an art of its own and thankfully listeners realise that this legacy is of value and worthy of preservation and propagation. Well done Guild! Let’s hope that there are a few more albums like this ‘on the stocks.’
John France


Review By Jonathan Woolf

This is the third of Guild’s Light Music series to come my way and finds the genre in still rude health, just before the advent of the LP in Britain – most of these pieces were issued on 78 and have been expertly transferred with good notes from David Ades. The mix is pretty much as before with the composers and arrangers spreading their compositional wings widely to accommodate American popular music, film, a slice of Spanishry and the spry Marches that still had some constituency in post-War Britain. David Rose proves himself a master of the medium of course but Philip Green’s take on Ellington’s Caravan doesn’t win any prizes for subtlety. Marshall Ross’s Marching Song (Marshall Ross was actually conductor Ray Martin under a pseudonym – a fairly common practice at the time) will be best known in the UK as the signature tune to Top of the Form. But what you may not know is the middle section, a kind of jazzy trio, which adds a contemporary gloss on the up-tempo March. His Dancing Bells is spruce and perky but just a bit too twee. Charles Williams was always one of the most successful composers and his Heart-O-London throws in Cherry Ripe for good measure along with some bells. Colouristic devices were always in vogue for the arranger and orchestrators – witness the prominent xylophone in Granada or the solo piano in Joe Heyne’s Petite Waltz as played by Billy Cotton and his Band. But Sidney Torch is made of sterner stuff in Shortcake Walk where we find Ragtime, blue grass, fiddle and banjo and hoe-downery in one compact song – Torch always flirted with the genre and he’s on fine form as is his band. Dolf van der Linden – the Dutchman who recorded for Paxton on 78s – turns his hand to some David Rose-style pizzicati in Angel Cake and Edward White mines Gershwin for Paris Interlude (post-War austerity Britain clearly looked on with admiration at things Parisian as other songs in this series have shown; Sidney Torch’s Wagon Lit in the 1940s volume is probably the acme of yearning for starched sheets, wooden cubicles and fast untroubled transport).

One of the pleasant features of these discs is to look at the record companies producing this kind of music – publishing houses or film producers and the like, alongside the well-established commercial concerns. So alongside Parlophone, Decca and HMV we have Chappell, Polygon, Paxton, Essex, MGM and Boosey & Hawkes. There was a place for such music then and there is still now – any more, Guild?