Reviews

GLCD 5174 – The Golden Age of Light Music: The Lost Transcriptions – Vol. 1

Various

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ART TIMES Online June 2011

As I have been writing for years, Guild Light Music is in the process of releasing a seemingly endless series of CDs under the main title of “The Golden Age of Light Music.” They are now up to the 74th entry and it is a most unusual one. As a departure from the past compilations of commercial mono and stereo recordings of the late 40s to the middle 50s, this one takes a new direction. “The Lost Transcriptions, Volume 1” consists of recordings that were never meant to be sold to the public. As the excellent program notes tell us, musical selections were transcribed onto 7-inch and 12-inch 78 rpm discs as well as 16-inch discs that played at 33 1/3 rpm. They were sent to the troops all over the world to be played in barracks or over PA systems for the whole camp to hear. (It is said that the Germans close enough to hear would wait for Bing Crosby, because he sounded like a German baritone. They affectionately called him Der Bingle!) The sound is not bad, given their dates (from 1943 to 1955); and these selections are a good mix of the familiar and unfamiliar. Songs from then-current films include “The way you look tonight,” “Strike up the band,” and even “Ding dong, the witch is dead.” Among those less known today are “Ragging the scales,” “Primavera,” and “Dance of the frogs.” Mind you, these were all chosen to cheer up the troops, and any bouncy little tune was apt to do so. Among the conductors that have shown up on a majority of earlier Guild Light Music releases are Percy Faith, David Rose, Carmen Dragon, and Phil Spitalny. Mixed in with these are the RAF Concert Orchestra, The Orchestra of the H.M. Royal Marines (Portsmouth Division), and such seemingly ad hoc groups as The Orchestra in Khaki and the Army Salon Orchestra. As the notes inform us, all of these discs were to be destroyed after hostilities, but many servicemen took one or more home as souvenirs. It is from these surviving copies that Guild has gathered its material for this historically and musically interesting collection.
Frank Behrens

Brattleboro Reformer June 2011

As I have been writing for years, Guild Light Music is in the process of releasing a seemingly endless series of CDs under the main title of “The Golden Age of Light Music.” They are now up to the 74th entry and it is a most unusual one. As a departure from the past compilations of commercial mono and stereo recordings of the late 40s to the middle 50s, this one takes a new direction. “The Lost Transcriptions, Volume 1” consists of recordings that were never meant to be sold to the public. As the excellent program notes tell us, musical selections were transcribed onto 7-inch and 12-inch 78 rpm discs as well as 16-inch discs that played at 33 1/3 rpm. They were sent to the troops all over the world to be played in barracks or over PA systems for the whole camp to hear. (It is said that the Germans close enough to hear would wait for Bing Crosby, because he sounded like a German baritone. They affectionately called him Der Bingle!) The sound is not bad, given their dates (from 1943 to 1955); and these selections are a good mix of the familiar and unfamiliar. Songs from then-current films include “The way you look tonight,” “Strike up the band,” and even “Ding dong, the witch is dead.” Among those less known today are “Ragging the scales,” “Primavera,” and “Dance of the frogs.” Mind you, these were all chosen to cheer up the troops, and any bouncy little tune was apt to do so. Among the conductors that have shown up on a majority of earlier Guild Light Music releases are Percy Faith, David Rose, Carmen Dragon, and Phil Spitalny. Mixed in with these are the RAF Concert Orchestra, The Orchestra of the H.M. Royal Marines (Portsmouth Division), and such seemingly ad hoc groups as The Orchestra in Khaki and the Army Salon Orchestra. As the notes inform us, all of these discs were to be destroyed after hostilities, but many servicemen took one or more home as souvenirs. It is from these surviving copies that Guild has gathered its material for this historically and musically interesting collection.

 


 

Bellows Falls Town Crier 27. May 2011

Guild Presents Music for GI’s Only
As I have been writing for years, Guild Light Music has been releasing a seemingly endless series of CD’s under the main title of “The Golden Age of Light Music.” They are now up to the 74th entry and it is a most unusual one. As a departure from the past compilations of commercial mono and stereo recordings of the late 40s to the middle 50s, this one takes a new direction. “The Lost Transcription Volume 1” consists of recordings that were never meant to be sold to the public. As the excellent program notes tell us, musical selections were transcribed onto 7-inch and 12-inch 78rpm discs as well as 16-inch discs that played at 33 1/3 rpm. They were sent to the troops all over the world to be played in barrack or over PA Systems for the whole camp to hear. (It is said that the Germans close enough to hear would wait for Bing Crosby, because he sounded like a German baritone. They affectionately called him der Bingle!) The sound is not bad, given their dates (from 1943 to 1955); and these selections are a good mix of the familiar and unfamiliar. Songs from then-current films include “The way you look tonight,” “Strike up the band,” and even “Ding dong, the witch is dead.” Among those less known today are “Ragging the scales,” “Primavera,” and “Dance of the frogs.” Mind you, these were all chosen to cheer up the troops, and any bouncy little tune was apt to do so.
Among the conductors that have shown up on a majority of earlier Guild Light Music releases are Percy Faith, David Rose, Carmen Dragon, and Phil Spitalny. Mixed in with these are the RAF Concert Orchestra, The Orchestra of the H.M. Royal Marines (Portsmouth Division), and such seemingly ad hoc groups as the Orchestra in Khaki and the Army Salon Orchestra. As the notes inform us, all of these discs were to be destroyed after hostilities, but many servicemen took one or more home as souvenirs. It is from these surviving copies that Guild has gathered its material for this historical and musically interesting collection.
Frank Behrens

 


 

MusicWeb International February 2011

Lost…but found? Let me briefly paraphrase David Adés’s explanatory notes. These recordings were made on transcription discs for broadcasting companies to use. During the war they were made for Forces programmes overseas. None were commercial. Naturally though quite a few have survived. This applies to popular repertoire and also to classical. I’m sure collectors will have come across, for example, US Office of War Information discs. I picked up a batch in Vienna, but there are plenty about the place.
That’s the point of this disc, to present a disc of transcriptions on a variety of labels, from a wide range of bands and orchestras. These, clearly, included the crème de la crème of the brethren; Torch, Faith, Rose, Melachrino, and their Anglo-American confreres, and also Dolf van der Linden, whose one contribution here is songful, but thin-toned. Part of the archaeological fun to be had centres on tunes that might not otherwise have been recorded by the bandleader concerned, and also in enjoying the plethora of Transcription labels; ORBS, VOA, Towers of London, World Programme Service, Standard Program Library, Thesaurus Orthacoustic (nice one!) and the others.
Is that Sidney Torch(insky) grunting away at 0:36 into Strike Up The Band? Grand start anyway. The RAF Concert Orchestra clearly had some good fiddlers on board and they can be heard in The Way You Look Tonight, the first in the Swing Time selection from an ORBS transcription disc of 1942 or 1943. He also furnishes a ripe, but much later If You Please, and an over-decorative Solitude (but with a nice Lou Whiteson fiddle solo). Percy Faith’s VOA disc of Ragging the Scales has some ballsy percussion and fizzing violins. David Rose later reworked the otherwise unknown The Butterfly and The Alligator, so it’s good to make its acquaintance here. Some of these transcriptions are very short. Phil Spitalny and his All Girl Orchestra are accorded a measly 1:39, whilst Carmen Dragon and his orchestra have to make do with only 1:21.
Viola player, composer and conductor Anthony Collins is represented by his de Falla-sounding but actually very different Jota, played by Phil Green c.1955. It’s good to hear Don Gillis’s Three Sketches played by the Hollywood Salon Orchestra conducted by Harry Bluestone – three delightful and succulent miniatures, with the middle one having taken one too many sips from Monti’s Czardas. Lewis Williams gets saucy with Dance of the Frogs by Lamar Stringfield, who obviously enjoyed himself with cod-Americana. And then we have an intriguing sequence of Eric Coates’s The Three Men Suite. The first is a Melachrino performance from 1943 whilst the second and third come from F. Vivian Dunn and The Orchestra of H.M. Royal Marines (Portsmouth Division) from a year later. The same forces end the disc with a good performance of the Romantic Overture, a nineteenth century work by the Hungarian Kéler Béla, or Béla Kéler, or Adalbert Paul von Kéler. Take your pick.
I enjoyed this disc. The performances are pretty rare, and they’ve been collated with acumen, and thoughtfulness. As usual David Adés booklet notes are a model of what such things should be. Great sound as well.
Jonathan Woolf
I enjoyed this disc. Performances pretty rare, collated with acumen, and thoughtfulness. Great sound as well.

Music Web International January 2011

After suffering for eight days with the worst bout of flu I’ve had in years – and this after having the flu jab which, my vet assured me, would protect me from the dreaded lurgy – I was feeling pretty low and fed up. Then I put this disk in the player and what a tonic! It really perked me up with its bright and breezy feeling. Good tunes, excellent arrangements and, as usual, brilliantly planned programme. The music spans some 100 years from Béla Kéler to Eric Coates and beyond. I suddenly feel much better. Forget LemSip, take The Golden Age of Light Music! 

Things get off to a brilliant start with three great swinging arrangements by three of the best arrangers – Sidney Torch, Percy Faith and Len Stevens – and they’re fantastic! I am not usually taken with arrangements of songs but here, with arrangements which have a special verve I am all in favour of them. Claypole’s Ragging The Scales sounds as fresh, if not fresher than it first was, in 1915, in this excellently extrovert version.

All three arrangers re-appear, and their contributions are most welcome. Sidney Torch delivers a sensitive version of If You Please by the great Jimmy Van Heusen. This has a rich and romantic sound and feels like an American arrangement not a British one! Len Stevens’s version of Duke Ellington’s Solitude is a veritable cornucopia of good things from slow melancholy to fast jauntiness. Nice piano and saxophones here. Two more from Percy Faith, including a discovery from Vernon Duke, a sumptuously scored slow dance and a nicely racy version of La Bamba – move over Richie Valens and Los Lobos, this is the real thing!

David Rose wrote a lot of music and here’s a real discovery – The Butterfly and The Alligator, a kind of gossamer scherzo with a curious middle section. Delightful. Pepper Tree Lane is the street which leads to the Hollywood Bowl and only makes one wish to hear the whole suite. Rose was married to Judy Garland from 1941 to 1944 – he was the first of her five husbands – and one must wonder if that is why he made this arrangement of a song from her most famous film. It’s a fun-filled affair, with a nice light touch. I particularly liked his use of harp.

Song of The Flame is a lost film, only the soundtrack remains. This title song is Spanish in flavour and over too soon. Too Romantic, from the first Road film, was a duet for Dorothy Lamour and Bing Crosby and emerges as a lovely middle tempo tone poem, with strings and trombones. Vincent Youmans’s title song for the film Flying Down To Rio, whilst lacking girls on aeroplane wings, is a kind of muzak version of this great tune, with an easy-going lilt and a smile on its face.

For the rest we have original compositions. The Peanut Vendor is highly coloured and warmly rhythmic. Jupe Elders’s Primavera is a romantic wisp of a piece, Anthony Collins’s Jota is a million miles from what one expects from this composer – it’s a wild Manuel de Falla style piece with light music touches added for local, English, colour.
Lamar Stringfield was a Pulitzer Prize winning composer and founder of the North Carolina Symphony Orchestra. Despite being based on the song Frog Went A-Courtin’, Dance of The Frogs would find a happy home in any film set in the wild west; it speaks the vernacular of cowboy film music. Nice stuff. I once read, I forget where, that Armas Järnefelt’s Praeludium appealed to simple-minded music-lovers! I love this perfectly formed miniature, and I suspect that that puts me firmly in my place. I hope that at some point Guild can find Henry Wood’s delicious recording of this piece for issue.

Three big pieces to end. Don Gillis, he of Symphony No.5½ fame, wrote quite an amount of music, and some of it is being newly recorded. Here is yet another rarity. These Three Sketches are well proportioned brevities and marvellously unpretentious in scale and outlook. I am so pleased to have made their acquaintance. Eric Coates’s The Three Men Suite is more robust and a very pleasant and varied suite. Indeed, it’s one of the best I have heard from Coates. The Man From The Country has a freedom about it – wide open spaces are evoked. The Man About Town has a suitably relaxed, and cosmopolitan, air. The Man From The Sea is a rollicking fantasy on Follow Me Down to Hi-Lo and Three Blind Mice! This is a very clever piece of work and very entertaining. Finally, Béla Kéler’s Romantic Overture, a big work – it’s a Verdi or Rossini overture with slightly more obvious jokes. It makes a suitably exuberant conclusion to a stunning disk. Great sound and good notes contribute to the success of this issue.
Bob Briggs

Forget LemSip, take The Golden Age of Light Music!