This is in many ways a very different disc to
the 1940s edition from the same Guild series. The first thing
that I noticed is the improvement in the sound quality. Now this
has nothing to do with the fantastic work of Guild Records. It
is quite simply that the 1950s were the era of the 45 rpm disc,
the LP and of course the first forays into stereophonic sound.
Accordingly it makes for very comfortable listening; one does
not need to make allowances for the noisy '78' surfaces.
As to the style of the music, there is a certain
amount of inspiration from 'swing' - not a lot but just enough
to make it clear that its influence has rubbed off. However, we
have no intimation that ‘Rock and Roll’ was invented
in this decade!
Once again the disc is crammed full - 77 minutes
- of magical, racy and inspiring tunes from the great post-war
decade. There are some real treats here. These range from classic
jazz standards reworked for orchestra to well known radio programme
theme tunes that have spanned the generations. There is a splash
of romantic music and lots of fun too. The whole album is epitomised
by the feeling that 'I have heard it all before'; even the numbers
that are not familiar. Now this is the great thing about music
of this era. Much of it was used on television programmes in the
1950s and 1960s. The old 'light' programme featured a vast amount
of this kind of music before they discovered 'pop.' Many of us
in the UK of a certain age remember 'Friday Night is Music Night,'
still going strong on Radio 2. Even as a child this programme
was often 'on' at my grandmother's house. From being knee high
to a grasshopper all this music was slowly sinking into my mind.
There is no need to discuss all these evocative
works. I intend to select a few highlights. Note that the music
is played by orchestras whose leaders were often composers or
arrangers in their own right. They are all here on this disc -
David Rose, Edmundo Ros, Mantovani, Billy Cotton, Frank Chacksfield
and Stanley Black, to mention just a few.
I notice that there is a nice balance between
'tone poems' and arrangements and impressions. Beginning with
the former, Charles Williams is at home both on the conductor's
rostrum and at the composer's desk. His Heart-O-London is a classic
example of the 'Capital' genre, which can be added to those of
Haydn Wood and Eric Coates. This work was commissioned around
the time of the Coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and
has echoes of Big Ben and the ubiquitous street cry, Cherry Ripe.
Whilst on the 'big city' theme I must mention
Cyril Watters' fabulous Piccadilly Spree. This is a fine example
of how light music requires superb craftsmanship to give its best
effect. This is a 'great' piece that fairly bustles along. It
perfectly describes the mood of the place. It makes you feel great
to be alive - and happy and proud to be living and working in
Moving swiftly on to Spain ... We have a fine
version of Augustin Lara's great song 'Granada.' The Monty Kelly
Orchestra brings some of the magic of Chacksfield's moonlight
and sunshine moods to a well-known tune.
Paris is always close to the heart of composers
and Edward White's Paris Interlude is as good as it gets. Of course
he is best known for his Runaway Rocking Horse and Puffin' Billy.
The present piece is an attractive work that gives an impression
of gay Paris in the aftermath of the war. It was composed in 1952.
One of the highlights is Richard Addinsell's
Festival. This is played by Mantovani and his Orchestra. It is
one of those pieces that I have always wanted to hear. I knew
that he wrote this work - presumably for the Festival of Britain,
yet I never managed to catch up with it. Ever since listening
to the Warsaw Concerto, I have been an enthusiast for his music.
We are lucky to have recently enjoyed two discs from ASV and one
from Chandos, so our knowledge of this fine composer is getting
more comprehensive. Festival is quite a big, sweeping piece, that
has the overtones of a film score about it, although it really
is a short 'overture,' with a lovely romantic tune.
There are a number of arrangements on this disc.
David Rose and his Orchestra give a contemporary arrangement of
the Gershwins' Liza. Duke Ellington is represented by a less than
effective arrangement of Caravan by Philip Green. Like the volume
of music from the 1940s, there is a film medley, 'Parade of the
Film Hits.' This has tunes as diverse as Broadway Melody, Laura,
Wedding of the Painted Doll and Over the Rainbow. Richard Rodgers
is represented by an attractive version of Blue Moon.
Proud Canvas by Robert Farnon has little to do
with an artist's studio, but everything to do with the sea. Of
course, Farnon would go on to compose the music for 'Captain Horatio
Hornblower' (starring Gregory Peck and Virgina Mayo). This present
work was often used as a background to any film or programme that
need 'seascape' music. It has a distinctly nautical feel about
it that has often been copied but never bettered.
There are a few 'dance numbers' on this disc
- all of them attractive. Ray Martin does us proud with his Dancing
Bells; one of those little tunes that seems to be so well known.
Of course, another big hit by this composer was the ubiquitous
Marching Strings - better known as the theme to Top of the Form.
However this was written using one of his pseudonyms, Marshall
Ross. The recording of Joe Heyne's Petite Waltz is perhaps the
least well recorded of the entire disc. However, it is played
by the redoubtable Billy Cotton and his Band so it is well worth
preserving even if the sound quality is not at its best. This
is another well known tune by a lesser known composer and with
a little known title. Sydney Torch's attractive Flirtation Waltz
and David Rose's wonderful Waltz of the Bubbles completes this
review of 'dance' music.
My final selection from this album is Robert
Busby's great tune Sportsmaster. This is a excellent, catchy march
that was used as the music for a cigarette advert back in the
’fifties when we were allowed to smoke! I also wonder if
it was used as theme music to a sports programme television. (Readers,
Altogether a fine album of attractive, evocative
and nostalgic music. But never let these adjectives get in the
way of the fact that this is good, well constructed, beautifully
orchestrated and well balanced music. Just because there is a
good tune and a bit of a swing does not invalidate its claim to
be great music. Light music is an art of its own and thankfully
listeners realise that this legacy is of value and worthy of preservation
and propagation. Well done Guild! Let's hope that there are a
few more albums like this 'on the stocks.'
See also Jonathon Woolf's review