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The Golden Age of Light Music: The 1950s
George and Ira GERSHWIN, Sammy KAHN Liza:David Rose and his Orchestra 1951
Duke ELLINGTON Caravan: Philip Green and his Orchestra 1953
Marshall ROSS Marching Strings: Edmundo Ros and his orchestra 1952
Frank PERKINS Fandango: Hugo Winterhalter and his Orchestra 1953
Charles WILLIAMS Heart-O-London Charles Williams and his Orchestra 1953
Brett WILSON (arr. Trevor DUNCAN) Hey Presto: New Concert Orchestra conducted by Frederic Curzon 1953
Noel GAY The Melody Maker: Robert Inglez and his Orchestra 1950
Robert FARNON Proud Canvas: Queens Hall Light Orchestra conducted by Robert Farnon 1950
Richard ADDINSELL Festival: Mantovani and his Orchestra 1950
Richard RODGERS and Lorenz HART Blue Moon: Paul Weston and his Orchestra 1950
Ray MARTIN Dancing Bells Grosvenor Concert Orchestra conducted by Peder Van Zuider 1952
Augustin LARA Granada Monty Kelly and his Orchestra 1953
Joe HEYNE Petite Waltz: Billy Cotton and his Band 1950
Sidney TORCH Shortcake Walk Sidney Torch and his Orchestra 1952
R. HEYWOOD Flirtation Waltz: Frank Chacksfield and his Orchestra 1951
Angela MORLEY Angel Cake: Dolf Van Der Linden and his Orchestra 1953
David ROSE Waltz of the Bubbles: David Rose and his Orchestra 1953
Robert BUSBY Sportsmaster: Danish State Orchestra conducted by Robert Farnon 1952
Edward WHITE Paris Interlude: Music by Camarata 1952
Charles TRENET At Last, At Last: Ray Martin and his Orchestra 1952
BUSCH and DELUGG Roller Coaster Henri Rene and his Orchestra 1951
AHLERT The Moon was Yellow: Stanley Black, his Piano and his Orchestra 1950
Cyril WATTERS Piccadilly Spree New Concert Orchestra conducted by R. de Porten 1953
Geoffrey HENMAN Champagne March: Queens Hall Light Orchestra conducted by Robert Farnon 1953
Esy MORALES Jungle Fantasy: Percy Faith and his Orchestra 1952
VARIOUS Parade of Film Hits Melachrino Orchestra conducted by George Melachrino 1953.Recorded c.1950-53GUILD GLCD 5103 [77.52]


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 London!

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, please advise!)

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.'

John France

See also Jonathon Woolf's review here



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