Reviews

GLCD 5185 – The Golden Age of Light Music: Christmas Celebration

Various

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Journal Into Melody December 2011

It is highly probable that, since the very inception of the recorded music industry, there have been records specially made for Christmas. Over the years hundreds, if not thousands, of titles must have been produced in both single and album format, and these have been extremely popular with the record-buying public. For performers and record companies alike, they have been a perennial and very lucrative money-spinner. But just like that famous brand of yeast extract spread, or the even more famous Irish beer, you either love ’em or hate ’em! Well now, if you happen to be in the latter category, you might just find this new CD to be the perfect antidote. In keeping with established Guild policy, all of the tracks are non-vocal featuring large orchestras fronted by some of the finest conductors in the business. The programme consists of fine arrangements of traditional carols and hymns, together with a selection of popular Christmas songs and a couple of other “seasonal” compositions. Much of the material has been taken from two 1958 LPs featuring the conducting and the arranging talents of Percy Faith and Billy Vaughn with their respective orchestras. They are joined by the orchestras of George Melachrino, Angela Morley, Annunzio Mantovani, and Arthur Fiedler with the Boston `Pops’ Orchestra. With the exception of the Mantovani items, which were issued on British Decca [London in the US], all emanate from US labels [Columbia, Dot, RCA, and Warner Bros.] They were obviously targeted at the enormous North American market; this style of big orchestral production was very popular over there at the end of the ’50s. I have not been able to establish whether they were actually released in the UK, or were only available as imports. They nevertheless found their way into the vast collections of David Ades and Alan Bunting; the latter has done his usual superlative job of digital restoration. A further bonus is that all tracks are in stereo. As David’s booklet notes state “…In the hands of the top arrangers and orchestras assembled on this CD, there is every chance that the discerning listener will discover some new sounds that add a welcome vibrancy to old familiar friends”. I was able to give the album several hearings on a recent lengthy car journey and, in my opinion, this is a very enjoyable compilation and a most worthy addition to the Guild series.
Tony Clayden