Reviews

GLCD 5186 – The Golden Age of Light Music: Light Music While You Work – Vol. 3

Various

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MusicWeb International October 2011

The radio programme ‘Music While You Work’ was first broadcast on the BBC in June 1940. This morale-boosting aid to wartime factory production spawned another arm via the necessity to produce recordings when radio programmes — provided live by studio bands — were not available. Thus it was that Decca, using mostly their own contracted artists, filled the breach and produced, starting in 1942, their popular ‘Music While You Work’ (MW) label. All the 26 cuts in this third volume of Guild’s series come from MW discs made between 1943 and 1946.
So no Mahlerian soul searching, no Brucknerian organ swell, no Renaissance polyphony. What was wanted was Ronnie Monro and Casino Tanz or Nacio Herb Brown’s Doll Dance — things peppy, toe-tapping and topical. These light tunes in dark times lifted the spirits. They still do today if you’re not too high-minded to enjoy the fare on offer. Harold Collins was a Decca regular and a frequent presence in this volume, and he brings a deal of badinage, with piano and accordion to the fore, in Flapperette. The lady concerned was clearly good fun. His performance of Rag Doll is delightfully dapper. Harry Fryer and his orchestra are here too, offering a somewhat saucily orchestrated Samum. Reginald Burston and his London Coliseum Orchestra offer up plenty of March brio in Step Lightly. He also serves up an Empire March of resounding panache in the shape of Flash of Steel — it reminds me of Colour Sergeant Bourne’s sardonic riposte in the film Zulu; “And a bayonet, sir, with some guts behind it”. The theme is reprised via the Wellingtonian Up Guards and at ’Em played by Harry Fryer’s band. The tune is by Gordon Mackenzie, the spirit Churchillian.
Wynford Reynolds brings drollery to Twinkle-Toes. There’s a dose of popular Lehár courtesy of Harold Collins in The Gold and Silver Waltz — many of these tunes are inevitably dances, waltzes and marches, and there is a surfeit of Fairies too. There’s a Fairy on the Clock and also Fairies on the Moon. Cripes. In this context it’s engaging to hear the near exotica of pieces by Louis Ganne whose light classical status was not ignored by elite instrumentalists. Here we have two of his postcard genre works — Marche Tartare and Marche Russe.
So, even within a necessarily circumscribed series there’s enough variety to keep ennui at bay, and interest to the fore. When backs were to the wall, Decca got the toes tapping.
Jonathan Woolf
When backs were to the wall, Decca got the toes tapping.