Reviews

GLCD 5200 – A Glorious Century of Light Music

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Memory Lane 179 – Summer 2013

Way back in April 2004 some CDs from a new issuer arrived for review in Memory -Lane. I listened, was extremely impressed and I typed the opening sentence of my review thus: “Three extremely well presented and packaged CDs have been received giving a splendid overview of the world of light orchestral music.” Now here I am, nearly nine years on, spinning the 100th CD in the series and agreeing with every word of the Brief statement adjacent to the playlist: “The World’s most comprehensive collection of Light Music on Compact Disc.” I have listened to all of those 100 CDs and this one, like the others, is packed with good things. But although it is tempting to tell you that The Party’s Over is one of Mantovani’s best recordings or that Andre Kostelanetz turns a familiar Pop tune, Tea For Tea, into a work of art, I would rather concentrate on the basics of this series. Each CD is compiled with great skill by David Ades. His own liner notes tell you all you need to know about the music and the performers, the glossy paper used is of high quality and the cover pictures are tastefully selected using the work of top artists. There is always a near 80 minutes of superb music uninterrupted by a vocal chorus and rematered to perfection by Alan Bunting. If you have not sampled any of these CDs yet it is probably time that you did! I am now looking forward to the next 100.
GH

Journal into Melody – December 2012

It seems scarcely possible that it is eight years since the first GUILD Light Music CD made its debut – but if you Look at GLCD 5101 the date definitely says 2004! I doubt if anyone involved – the proprietors of GUILD, together with David Ades and Alan Bunting – could have foreseen that the series would be the unparalleled success which it certainly has become. Much less that in 2012, it would reach its hundredth edition! And yet here we are, and I have been given the honour of reviewing these two new releases.
The Great American Light Orchestras (GLCD 5199) features three of the best conductors in the business – Canadian-born Percy Faith, English -born David Rose, and someone whose work is perhaps slightly less well-known in the UK – Paul Weston, who hailed from Springfield, Massachusetts, USA. The CD contains 24 tracks, neatly divided into three sections of eight, each representing one of the three orchestras. The programme ‘kicks-off’ with the orchestra of Percy Faith, in a selection of recordings made between 1950 and 1961, all from American Columbia (CBS or Philips in Britain) label. Five of these are in stereo including a very early (1958) track featuring a Victor Herbert composition Italian Street Song. All of the compositions are delivered in Faith’s usual faultless style and it is not difficult to see why this consummate musician had, and still has, such a devoted following. David Rose’s contribution features tracks from the MGM label – I imagine that he was a permanent artist in that company’s ‘stable’ – and like the Percy Faith selection, all of the arrangements (in fact all but one of the tracks) are by Rose himself. The recording dates range from 1953 to 1961, with three of the tracks being in stereo. Paul Weston’s main claim to fame (in the UK anyway) is the work he did with his wife, the Binger Jo Stafford, and also for their ‘spoof’ performances as “Jonathan and Darlene Edwards”. Originally a clarinet player, he began studying arranging whilst recuperating from a near-fatal train crash, and eventually became chief arranger for Tommy Dorsey. He worked in radio and TV and acted as MD to many top American stars. Over the years, Weston recorded for both Capitol and CBS, and examples of both are included on the CD. The dates range from 1954 to 1961, with five of the tracks being in stereo. One item, There Will Never Be Another You, features the conductor on piano. As a final bonus, on track 25, Paul Weston talks about his 1958 Jerome Kern recordings which were made for a special promotional feature album for Columbia. (This recording was kindly supplied by our good friend Kevin Stapylton in Australia). It is difficult to pick out specific items for special mention because they are all so good, in terms of the quality of the arrangements, the performances, the recordings, and, of course, Alan Bunting’s digital transfers. As I have remarked before in these reviews, I find myself running out of superlatives! This is a great addition to the GUILD series, and both David and Alan deserve many congratulations.
And so we come to number 100 ….
A Glorious Century of Light Music (GLCD 5200). The task of this Landmark collection is to feature some of the very best conductors and composers who created such a wealth of Light Music during the 20`h century and to recognise that the GUILD series is dedicated to the preservation of all that is best from the `Golden Age of Light Music’. It was decided to concentrate on conductors who became household names’ through their recordings and broadcasts, and the 26 tracks include some of the very best orchestras from the UK, the USA and Continental Europe, with 12 being in stereo. They span the years 1939 to 1961 excepting the final `bonus track’ which is a Jack Hylton recording from 1929, although you would hardly know it from the amazing sound quality! AB has worked his usual magic and has also seamlessly edited-out a small vocal section, in accordance with GUILD’s ‘instrumental only’ policy. The programme starts with a great Brian Fahey arrangement of the Jerome Kern number Look For The Silver Lining, by the Starlight Symphony conducted by Cyril Ornadel; this sets the tone for the whole disc. There is a good mixture of great orchestral arrangements of popular favourites, together with some excellent library pieces – in short, something for everyone. A couple of points to mention – track 17 – Butantan – by the Melachrino Orchestra is credited to ‘Wood’. This is neither Arthur nor Haydn, but Guy Wood (1911-2001), the Manchester-born but USA-domiciled composer, who is mainly remembered for his songs, including Till Then, My One And Only Love and The Wedding- a popular song from the ’60s. I have not come across any other orchestral compositions by him, but they may exist. Track 7 features some great ballet music by Leroy Anderson from his musical Goldilocks, which will be new to most people; this is an almost unknown piece – where has it been hiding all these years? Every single itemon this CD can be described as truly excellent, and the whole selection, which was arrived at after a great deal of careful consideration, is more than worthy of comprising the hundredth edition. The total tally of tracks so far is in excess of 2500; I understand that there is plenty more material in the pipeline waiting to be released, and I would like to wish this wonderful series continued success.
TC

MusicWeb International – December 2012

This is the 100th release in Guild’s Light Music series. It feels as if I’ve reviewed them all. To celebrate they have compiled a disc that praises the conductors and composers of the genre, and have done so in style. Most of the first 20 tracks date from the 1951 to 1961 decade but the final few go right back to the 1930s and, in one case, to 1929, this last being Jack Hylton’s Toymaker’s Dream which is included as a ‘bonus’ track. I have to admit I never really know what bonus tracks mean in this context but I’m glad it’s been included.
The parade of the great starts with Cyril Ornadel playing Jerome Kern in punchy fashion, complete with some snazzy orchestration courtesy of Brian Fahey. Amidst the celebrations for the conductors and composers we must also remember the arrangers. I don’t recall much of Paul Mauriat in this series but he essays April in Paris well, on a Bel Air LP of 1961 and this contrasts well with the typical lush, plush cushion Mantovani provides for The Party’s Over.
There’s concert orchestra charm from Hans Carste on a 1960 Polydor and a snappy offering from Guild ever-present Roger Roger in Beach Parade. Billy Vaughan gives Climb Every Mountain The Treatment — very little is kept in reserve — but it’s rather better to discover Morton Gould playing Villa-Lobos’s The Little Train Of The Caipira. For sonic allure and delicious string tone you need not look any further than David Rose in Stringopation – awful title though. The classy Hans Georg Arlt and Stanley Black are both wisely represented, and they’ve been long-time charter members of this series too. Over-modish percussion, a bit of an occupational hazard at the time rather mars Melachrino’s Butantan.
Charles Williams was an old time maestro of the genre, a fiddle player who had had long experience of the London scene. Playing Delius under Beecham must have left its mark because The Starlings is an evocative piece of nature painting, not quite Delius’s Last Cuckoo but a near avian relative; Delian harmonies abound. Maybe one day we can have an all-Williams album.
Sidney Torch and Robert Farnon sit side by side in this disc, and then we move to the pre-war kings: Marek Weber in 1939, Eric Coates playing The Jester at the Wedding march in 1934, and then finally the Hylton, which provides a genial envoi.
The notes are excellent. The post-war transfers are first class, but the 78s are too treble filtered. This is a splendidly selected tribute. Here’s to the next hundred.
Jonathan Woolf