GLCD 5199 – Three Great American Light Orchestras
Memory Lane 179 – Summer 2013
Three Great American Light Orchestras is the title chosen by Guild for their recent release in The Golden Age of Light Music series and what you read an the packet is what you get on the CD. The featured maestros are Percy Faith, David Rose and Paul Weston, each getting eight tracks apiece. As well as being talented conductors and arrangers all three wrote some superb music and examples of their work is included here. In truth there are too many good things to pick out favourites but I did enjoy the subtle Latin rhythms in Percy Faith’s ‘My Shawl’, the atmospheric ‘Lonesome On Main Street’ from David Rose and a sumptuous ‘Whispers In The Dark’ from Paul Weston. There is a bonus track by the latter in the form of a most interesting spoken introduction for an album of Jerome Kern classics. Great sound, great music, great CD.
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.
MusicWeb International – December 2012
The focus here is narrower than usual, though by no means uniquely so in this long running Guild series. Guild takes three maestros: Percy Faith, David Rose and Paul Weston and lines up twenty-four tracks, equally distributed between them. As David Ades notes, only one of the musicians was actually born in America. Paul Weston, who was born Paul Wetstein, came from Massachusetts.
Canadian Percy Faith starts off with his brand of fulsome romantic balladry, a richly voiced Somewhere and a silken Petite followed by the cowboy pokery of his own rather vapid The Last Dance, complete with glutinous sax solo. Note that there is no resemblance to the Floyd Cramer song of the same name. Much better is the languorous cantilena of La Mer and the Francophile theme is reprised in Mon Oncle, the theme from the Tati film. The last Faith contribution, Go-Go-Po-Go is a downright swinger. Remember that if not everything here is top drawer Percy Faith, this Guild series is littered with his contributions.
David Rose’s own patented brand of lusciousness is on display too in I’ve Got The World On A String and in The Happy Bow, his own song, he feints for one moment toward a fugato. Now that would be unusual in the Light Music genre. I can’t remember many fugues in this series. Strings get a bluesy working during Lonesome On Main Street and then Ray Turner arrives to parade a pocket piano concerto in The Mask Waltz. You’ll know Ponderosa, as it’s the music from Bonanza. On no account overlook It’s A Most Unusual Day, film music performed with true class and a palette of intriguing colours.
So finally to Paul Weston who starts with a fruity version of Whispers In The Dark (more shouts than whispers from the sound of it) and calms down with the reflective My Darling, My Darling. Weston encouraged rather ripe brass playing from time to time, and his trumpet principal had a decidedly effusive, Harry James-like tone, but his own piano playing was enjoyably cocktail in orientation. At least that’s the score on There Will Never Be Another You, where the pianism is decidedly on the decorative side. He’s heard at his best in Folks Who Live On The Hill which is beautifully done. As a real bonus there’s a final track which lasts six and a half minutes. It features Weston discussing his 1958 Jerome Kern album. This was a special promotional feature issued by Columbia, and it’s well worth a listen to get an idea of how composers and lyricists work.