GLCD 5153 - The Golden Age of Light Music: Strings and Things go Stereo!

GLCD 5153 – The Golden Age of Light Music: Strings and Things go Stereo


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All Music Guide

The 50-year term on sound recordings in the EU prescribes that in 2008 recordings from the year 1958 entered the public domain, at least in the EU. This makes available the first full year of stereophonic recording and, for some collectors, Guild Light Music’s “Strings and Things Go Stereo!” will be a case of “treasures from trash.” Already available before 1958 on hard to find open-reel audiotapes, the idea of stereo took on a life of its own once it hit the LP market that year. The major labels were rather slow on the uptake in regard to the new format; RCA Victor – which had been recording in stereo since 1953, but hadn’t manufactured any records that way – barely managed to get some stereo releases into the market by the end of that year; much was the same story at CBS. UK Decca was the only large recording concern to address the issue at all in 1958; like RCA, it had already been using stereo for recording purposes for years. EMI didn’t even bother with the trend until some time later. Therefore, some of the tracks on “Strings and Things Go Stereo!” consist of stereo recordings made in 1957 or 1958 that didn’t appear on record in that form until years afterward.
This collection is extremely valuable from the standpoint of grasping the kind of material common to the first stereo records, but it is mostly made up of music that appeared on relatively minor labels of that time: Chicago-based Mercury, Everest, Dot, Warner Bros. – an industry infant in 1958 – Disneyland (!), and particularly the notorious Trans-World / Somerset / Stereo Fidelity label – imprints that came from under the same umbrella held aloft by Philadelphia-based producer David L. Miller.
Miller, who had helped jumpstart the popularity of rock & roll through fostering the career of Bill Haley, was also – quite ironically – the man who gave the world 101 Strings. By 1958, that highly profitable concept hadn’t quite yet coalesced in Miller’s brain, so a plethora of phony names was used — such as the Cinema Sound Stage Orchestra, the Paris Theater Orchestra, the New World Theater Orchestra, and so forth – to signify the far more germane Orchester des Nordwestdeutschen Rundfunks Hamburg (aka, NORD) under Joseph Kuhn. Miller’s labels released a deluge of millions of cheap albums that continue to cram the shelves of thrift stores decades after, netting a handsome profit and selling off the company in 1964.
With “Strings and Things Go Stereo!” one deeply appreciates compiler David Ades’ efforts in going through all of those 1957-1958 Somerset releases and finding decent tracks to include in this collection; there’s a good reason why you will find them so often in the trash bin as they remain so great in number and rich with maudlin, syrupy, mediocre arrangements.
Ades has managed to raise something of value from an entire genre often derided as valueless; locating Mantovani’s grandiloquent reading of Love Is a Many-Splendoured Thing among the countless things he did, Billy Vaughn’s classy Canadian Sunset and many other selections illustrate the earliest days of stereo-specific music without carrying over too much in the way of strings swirling around your head or dated, ping-pongy effects.
Les Baxter’s Tahiti: A Summer Night at Sea is like a mini-tone poem in three parts, which seems far longer than its 2:29 running time; Hal Mooney’s Gemini is like the music that once played under drive-in movie concession stand trailers, but restated in a plucky stereo image. Joseph Kuhn’s Pavement Pigalle is a striking, French-flavored composition that nearly sounds like the work of Andre Popp, eccentricities and all; revealing well the historically held notion that Kuhn was a brilliant, flexible, and creative arranger, properties rather difficult to find sometimes on the 101 Strings credited to him before his untimely death in 1962.
The advent of the stereo LP had a significant and lasting impact on the music of the twentieth century, and although by the rise of digital recording most traces of that revolution were gone forever, it is a part of music well worth studying, understanding, and enjoying. Thanks to Guild’s “Strings and Things Go Stereo!” you don’t need to paw through a stack of LPs as tall as you are to find the good bits that represents the birth of stereo at its best.
Uncle Dave Lewis