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The Golden Age of Light Music - The 1950s - Volume 2 Midnight Matinee
Len STEVENS
  Midnight Matinee: Danish State Radio Orchestra conducted by Robert Farnon (1954) [2:45]
Leslie Julian JONES  Postman’s Knock: Wally Stott and his Orchestra (1954) [1:54]
Bernie WAYNE  The Magic Touch: Hugo Winterhalter and his Orchestra (1954) [2:39]
Cyril ORNADEL  Moonlight Fiesta: Winifred Atwell, piano with Cyril Orandel and his Orchestra (1954) [2:56]
Belle FENSTOCK, Irving CAESAR  Simonetta: Richard Hayman and his Orchestra (1953) [2:17]
Theo MACKEBEN  Tales of Munich: Hamburg Radio Orchestra conducted by Harry Hermann (1953) [3:19]
Jack BEAVER  Holiday Funfair: Dolf Van der Linden and his Orchestra (1954) [3:17]
Paul DUBOIS  Shadow Waltz:  Nelson Riddle & his Orchestra (1954) [2:51]
Bernie WAYNE  Veradero: Geoff Love and his Orchestra (1953) [2:58]
Ronnie PLEYDELL  On Fifth Avenue: Ronnie Pleydell and his Concert Orchestra (1954) [3:07]
HILLIER, HILLIER & NEWMAN Boulevard Waltz: Reg Tilsley and his Orchestra (1954) [2:32]
Laurie JOHNSON  Frenchman’s Creek:  Laurie Johnson and his Orchestra (1954) [3:04]
Jose BELMONTE Ecstasy: Edmundo Ross & his Orchestra (1952) [2:52]
STEGGARDA  Bahama Buggy Ride: Hugo Winterhalter and his Orchestra (1954) [2:55]
Robert FARNON Poodle Parade:  Danish State Radio Orchestra conducted by Robert Farnon. (1954) [3:23]
Ray MARTIN  Ballet of the Bells: Johnny Douglas and his Orchestra (1954) [2:15]
David GREER  A Girl called Linda: Jeff Morley and his Orchestra (1953) [2:39]
Philip GREEN  Park Plaza:  Philip Green and the Cameo Players (1954) [2:04]
Charles STROUSE  Ditto: Michael Fredericks and his Orchestra. (1954) [2:31]
Philip GREEN  Follow Me Around: Dolf Van der Linden and his Orchestra (1954) [3:12]
Trevor DUNCAN Panoramic Splendour: New Concert Orchestra conducted by R. de Porten (1954) [3:29]
Charles E HENDERSON & Edward HEYMAN Carefree: Axel Stordahl and his Orchestra (1954) [2:45]
George SIRAVO Palsy Walsy: George Siravo and his Orchestra (1954) [2:33]
Eric SPEAR  Midnight Blue: Ron Goodwin and his Concert Orchestra (1954) [3:01]
Anthony COLLINS  With Emma to Town: London Promenade Orchestra conducted by Anthony Collins (1954) [3:15]
Charles CHAPLIN Limelight: Wally Stott and his orchestra. (1953) [5:41]
[Recordings re-mastered from a variety of recorded sources]
GUILD GLCD 5111 [76:29]

 

 

This is a strangely difficult CD to listen to. Now this is not caused by the profundity or any incipient modernistic characteristics of the music. Anything but! Each and every piece on this recording is a pleasure to listen to. However there is a snag. I played a portion of this CD to a friend whose only comment was that it all sounded alike. There is a distinct tendency to concentrate on the first three tracks and then the rest is just a hazy mix of happy ’fifties memorabilia. And that is my problem. As an avid listener to Bach and Barber and Bridge (and The Grateful Dead!), I tend to select a work, put it, metaphorically, on the turntable and listen. When that piece is finished I think of something else to do. Each of the pieces on this disc is basically limited to one side of an old 78 rpm or perhaps 45 rpm disc. So one minute we are listening to Winifred Atwell and the next to Hugo Winterhalter and his Orchestra. It is very difficult to listen to objectively. The pieces all have somewhat picturesque titles and evoke varying responses in our mind: much of this music was written to be used with cinematic images or even early television programmes and interludes.  So how should we approach this CD? Well perhaps the best way is to make use of the stop and skip buttons.  My personal approach was to pick out the titles that appealed to me first. Then I chose the composers whom I recognised and finally the ‘rest.’ Perhaps this is not the ideal way of reviewing a CD. But somehow I had to a) keep up concentration and b) think of some objective comments.

Now the first really positive thing to say is that this CD is packed with good tunes. Taken as individual moments of musical imagery they evoke a number of things – beautiful women (sorry for being sexist), happy days at the the seaside, nights in London or New York and other pleasures of life.  Some of the titles were presumably witty in their day, although I wonder if such gems as Poodle Parade, Bahama Buggy Ride and Palsy Walsy would appeal to the ‘Gameboy’ Generation.

Music of this era always seems to be immensely happy. I asked my father about this once and his argument was that after the war and the Atlee government (he, my father, was a staunch Tory) the public were so happy to be largely free of rationing and utility and ‘regimentation’ that they responded to the fantasies of these composers. It did not matter that they may not walk down ‘On Fifth Avenue’ or even dance the Boulevard Waltz or have any Panoramic Splendour[s]. The music was sentimental and played to their dreams and perhaps more importantly, their aspirations. And utility or not, all of them had affairs of the heart – they knew The Magic Touch, they had attended a Midnight Matinee and perhaps had ‘A Girl Called Linda or went With Emma into Town.  And who knows, perhaps they had played Postman’s Knock and won a kiss!

And then came Rock and Roll and much of this music was passé. The pirate radio stations and then Radio 1 swept away the many Nelson Riddles and their orchestras. Even the Light Programme became Radio 2 and gradually stopped playing much of this carefree music.  The demise of the pier head orchestras took their toll. However it is a general rule that any music that is popular or light is bound to create a vast number of forgotten names. We need only think of the ‘one hit wonders’ in the pop music scene of the ’sixties.

So what of the composers? Some are famous such as Robert Farnon, Trevor Duncan and Anthony Collins. Others seem to ring bells in the mind such as Jack Beaver and Laurie Johnson (Avengers music). There are a number of arrangements such as Chaplin’s ‘Limelight.’ However the vast number of these composers seems to be a bit lost in the mists of time. I had never heard of Bernie Wayne, Paul Dubois or Cyril Ornadel to name three. Yet a study of the CD liner notes reveals a number of interesting details. For example, Paul Dubois was in fact a pseudonym for Clive Richardson, whom I have heard of and surprise, surprise Eric Spear wrote the theme to Coronation Street!

The programme notes are extensive, and provide considerable insight to most of these composers and their work. In fact, David Ades modestly excuses himself from being even more prolific with his annotations by citing ‘space’ limits on the size of the CD booklet. 

However these notes are essential. There is little enough information available on many of these musicians far less detailed studies. Of course Musicweb’s own British Light Music Index is a vital and far ranging piece of scholarship which commands huge respect.

Alan Bunting has done a fine job in restoring the sound quality of these works – so much so that I was hardly conscious of listening to anything but a ‘new release.’

All in all, this is a great CD. Do not be put off by the fact that some of the composers are unknown or that some of the works have somewhat dated titles. Every one of these works is a period piece and should be listened to in that context. There is no need to try to invest deep meaning in any of these works: they are quite simply written to be enjoyed. My only caveat is to pick and choose tracks. Do not fall into the trap of listening to all 76 minutes and 26 tunes in one sitting.

For the record my favourite piece is Ditto by Charles Strouse.

John France

see also Review by Jonathan Woolf

 



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