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The Golden Age Of Light Music -The 1940s
Byron LLOYD, arr. Sidney TORCH, Music In The Air: Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra/Sidney Torch
Cole PORTER, Just One Of Those Things: Billy Ternent and His Orchestra
Clive RICHARDSON, Melody On The Move: Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra/Charles Williams
Richard RODGERS and Oscar HAMMERSTEIN II, Out Of My Dreams: The Geraldo String Orchestra
A. OREFICHE and R. CONNELLY, Linda Chilena: The Stanley Black Orchestra David RAKSIN Laura: , Morton Gould and His Orchestra
Claude DEBUSSY, arr. DOUGLAS, Golliwog’s Cakewalk: Mayfair Orchestra/Walter Goehr
David ROSE, Manhattan Square Dance: David Rose and His Orchestra
Edward WHITE, Runaway Rocking Horse: Orchestre Raymonde/Robert Preston
George MELACHRINO, Woodland Revel: Melachrino Orchestra/George Melachrino
Manning SHERWIN and Eric MASCHWITZ, Music for Romance: Albert Sandler and His Palm Court Orchestra
Robert FARNON, Canadian Caravan: Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra/Charles Williams
Eric COATES, Waltz from "The Three Bears”: Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra/Eric Coates Jack BROWN, Metropolis: New Century Orchestra/Sidney Torch
Allan GRAY, Gorgeous Hussy: The Harmonic Orchestra/Hans May
Peter YORKE, Ascot Enclosure: Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra/Charles Williams
Trad. arr. Ronald HANMER, Ten Green Bottles: BBC Variety Orchestra/Charles Shadwell
Sidney TORCH, Wagon Lit: Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra/Sidney Torch;
Haydn WOOD, Roving Fancies: The Regent Classic Orchestra
Nicolas BRODSZKY, “The Way To The Stars:" – Film Themes Two Cities Symphony Orchestra/Charles Williams
Jack STRACHEY, Theatreland: New Concert Orchestra/Jay Wilbur
POLLA, arr. Morton GOULD, Dancing Tambourine: Robin Hood Dell Orchestra/Morton Gould
Irving BERLIN, "Blue Skies" – Selection: Blue Skies, Always, Heat Wave, Getting Nowhere, A Pretty Girl Is Like A Melody, You Keep Coming Back Like A Song, Blue Skies – Louis Levy and His Music From The Movies Recorded 1943-1947

This is an excellent compilation of contemporary renderings of British light music of the nineteen-forties. Most of the pieces come from the second half of the decade – and are therefore post-war although being played in a land where rationing and austerity were still the order of the day. It is not necessary to comment on all twenty-three of these evocative numbers. However a few words on, what to me are, the highlights will be appropriate.

The pieces which strike me as most evocative of the age are the ‘impressions’ or miniature tone poems. We have at least a dozen on this recording – all of which show considerable resources of melody, instrumentation and invention.

Edward White’s Runaway Rocking Horse is one of my absolute favourites. If any piece proves that the light music composer was often a superb musical craftsman it is this piece. It is an attractive nod to a toy that most adults remember about their childhood – even if they never actually had one. I can easily imagine the wooden horse cantering off into some romantic English landscape. We hear the little horse playing and then beginning to tire. A last frolic and then, as if by a magic wand, he is back on his wooden frame.

One of the ‘urban tone poems’ that were so popular with light music composers is Jack Brown’s Metropolis. It does not matter if this is Manchester or Manhattan – it has all the hallmarks of a city that does not sleep. Theatreland by Jack Strachey makes us want to get into that black taxi cab or get on the Central Line and head off to where the footlights are blazing and the curtains going up on the very latest musical.

Wagon Lit is a well-loved number by Sidney Torch that gives an impression of a bouncy trip on French Railways. Whether the service was better on the trains in 1947 is a matter of conjecture – but one thing is for sure the post-war, austerity travellers in those days were trailblazing the way to the continent by sleeper; soon the hordes that would follow by jet plane. Of course, another wonderful ‘transport’ image is presented by Clive Richardson’s perfectly scored Melody on the Move. Now I do not know what mode of ‘movement’ he has in mind – but to me it is a jaunt through the Surrey Hills on a lovely summer Saturday. Perhaps we enjoy a brief Woodland Revel with George Melachrino - one of those tunes that seem to have been at the back of my mind all my life.

Ascot Enclosure moves the imagery away from the city to the country and the excitement of a day at the races. It is rather strange that I tend to see all these ‘place’ images in terms of contemporary London Transport Posters.

Another thread throughout this disc is that of arrangement. Now this does not move me in quite the same nostalgic manner as the tone poems. However, all of them are attractive renderings of well known tunes. For example, Ronald Hanmer’s evocative version of the traditional tune Ten Green Bottles shows what can be done without simply repeating the tune - louder. As another reviewer has pointed out – it is not lemon squash or ginger beer that was in the bottles but possibly Boddingtons or Bass. I am not so sure about the arrangement of the Golliwog’s Cakewalk – but I suppose it was for some people their only venture into the world of Claude Debussy. Cole Porter is represented with an ‘end of the pier’ arrangement of ‘Just one of those things’.

One of the features of that long-running BBC series on the ‘Light Programme’ was Friday Night is Music Night. This programme usually had at least one medley from the ‘shows’ or one of their composers. On this disc we have a lovely selection of tunes by Irving Berlin including A Pretty Girl is like a melody and Heat-wave and a medley of film tunes put together by Nicholas Brodszky.

It is not possible to comment on all the performers on this disc. Suffice to say that they are all contemporary with the music; many of the names of the orchestras are enough to give British listeners of a certain age a huge nostalgia trip. A glance at the track-listing above shows a glittering array of light music stars. Some of the works are conducted by the composers themselves and this gives us an opportunity to see how an Eric Coates, David Rose or George Melachrino approached their own music.

The sound quality is excellent, bearing in mind that all these tracks are derived largely from the original 78s. This is a nicely presented CD with some six pages of closely written programme notes.

John France

NOTE (1..) On a personal note I wish to say that I never really bought into the Harold Wilson government’s changes to the BBC Radio network. I cannot forgive them for getting rid of the ‘Pirate’ Radio Stations, especially Radio Scotland and London. I still refer to the Third Programme or the Light Programme in conversation. Call me a Luddite if you will.

See also Jonathon Woolf's review here


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