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July 2022

John Luther Adams Houses of the Wind
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June 2022

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The Golden Age of Light Music - Strings in Rhythm
see end of review for details
rec. 1953-59
GUILD GLCD 5167 [77:59]

Experience Classicsonline

The Guild Golden Age of Light Music series has excited and entertained me for some time now and I always look forward to each new issue with great anticipation. For me, the most interesting light music is the perfectly turned miniature orchestral piece of 3 or 4 minutes duration which is full of sparkling instrumentation and has a good tune. I am less interested in orchestral versions of songs for songs are meant to be sung and shorn of their words many such pieces seem somewhat empty and forlorn.
This new issue - Strings in Rhythm - is unusual in that although there’s lots of strings, and an amazing amount of rhythm, the two don’t seem to marry together too often. Also, there are too many song arrangements and not enough original orchestral compositions. Indeed, it is this very lack of original pieces which creates a lack of focus on the disk, there is no real high point. There’s still lots to enjoy - Ronald Binge’s arrangement of Sweetheart Of All My Dreams, with a cheeky reminiscence of Sailing By, Ray Martin’svery tongue in cheek Tango Of Regret (aren’t all tangos regretful in some way?) and Gerardo H Matos Rodriguez’s symphonic treatment of La Cumparsita. Marvellous stuff.
Of the song arrangements Roland Shaw’s version of Swinging On A Star really swings and has some delightfully piquant sounds, Peter Yorke’s version of Noel Coward’s Poor Little Rich Girl is perfect 1950s laid back, smoothly gracious, and Jerome Kern’s In Love In Vain is a great arrangement of a little known masterpiece.
For the rest there’s a mixture of arrangements and original compositions, Gershwin’s I Got Rhythm is very exciting, Jacob Gade’s Glamour - Tango proves that he was a one-work composer with the Tango Jalousie/a>. Robert Farnon’s arrangement of Johann Strauss’s Fireworks Polka is gloriously over the top.
But overall I am left with a feeling of a lack of direction and purpose in this compilation. There’s also the problem of the original LPs used for the transfers. The sound is quite harsh on occasion and the high violins really cut into your ears. The transfers are nowhere near as satisfactory as those on the disks which derive from a 78 source.
I am afraid that, for once, Guild hasn’t reached its own exceptionally high standards in both transfers and choice of repertoire. Less song please, more of what we love about light music - the orchestral miniature created purely for enjoyment. But whatever way you look at it, this disk is entertaining, just as light music should be.
Bob Briggs

(see footnote below)

see also review by Jonathan Woolf 

Track listing & performers
Victor HERBERT (1859 - 1924) Habanera (from ‘Natoma’), arranged by Percy FAITH [2:47]
Jimmy VAN HEUSEN (1913 - 1990), Johnny BURKE (1908 - 1964) Swinging On A Star, arranged by Roland SHAW [2:41]
Cole PORTER (1891 - 1964) You Do Something To Me [2:01]
Gordon JENKINS (1910 - 1984) In The Heat of The Day [2:40]
J George JOHNSON Greenwich Village [3:27]
Eros SCIORILLI La Colpa Fu [1:45]
Irving MILLS (1894 -1985), Manny KURTZ (1911 - 1984), Edward Kennedy (Duke) ELLINGTON (1899 -1974) In A Sentimental Mood [2:58]
Georges BOULANGER (1893 -1958) Da Capo [2:07]
Jerome KERN (1885 -1945) In Love In Vain (from Centennial Summer) [2:48]
Noel COWARD (1899 -1973) Poor Little Rich Girl, arranged by Peter YORKE [2:27]
Dave DEXTER Sunset On The Tiber [2:44]
Gerardo H Matos RODRIGUEZ La Cumparsita [4:57]
Harold (Hal) MOONEY (1911 - 1995) Cancer [2:59]
Ernesto LECUONA (1895 - 1963) Maria La O [2:23]
Franz LEHAR (1870  -1948) You Are My Heart’s Delight (from Land of Smiles) [2:57]
Art and Kay FITCH , Herbert C LOWE Sweetheart Of All My Dreams, arranged by Ronald BINGE [2:27]
ZAMECNIK, KERR Neapolitan Nites Mambo [3:08]
Eugene FORD Rain arranged by Nelson Riddle [2:25]
TRADITIONAL La Cucaracha [1:51]
Otto CESANA Let’s Beguine [2:37]
Ray MARTIN (1918 - 1988) Tango Of Regret [2:09]
Joseph François HEYNE La Petite Gavotte [2:38]
LARA Horizonte [2:44]
Ralph RAINGER (1901 -1942) I Wished On The Moon [3:02]
George GERSHWIN (1898 - 1937) I Got Rhythm [2:52]
Jacob GADE (1879 - 1963) Glamour - Tango [3:49]
SAFVRANSKI, LOWE Sugar Loaf [2:10]
Johann STRAUSS (1825-1899). Fireworks Polka, arranged by Robert FARNON [2:52]

Hans Georg Arlt (Boulanger), Ronald Binge (Sweetheart Of All My Dreams),
David Carroll (Sugar Loaf), Otto Cesana (Let’s Beguine), Frank Chacksfield (Swinging On A Star), Percy Faith (Victor Herbert), Robert Farnon (Johann Strauss), Jackie Gleason (I Wished On The Moon), Pépé Gonzalez (La Cucaracha), Philip Green (In A Sentimental Mood), Gordon Jenkins (In The Heat Of The Day), Bert Kaempfert (Horizonte), Monty Kelly (Neapolitan Nites Mambo), Andre Kostelanetz (I Got Rhythm), Dolf van der Linden (La Petite Gavotte), Geoff Love (Franz Lehár), Ray Martin (Tango Of Regret), Hal Mooney ((Hal Mooney), Werner Müller (Jacob Gade), Nelson Riddle (Rain), Paul Weston (Jerome Kern) all with His Own Orchestra. Norrie Paramor (Sunset On The Tiber) and Peter Yorke (Poor Little Rich Girl) with their Concert Orchestras. Carmen Dragon and the Capitol Symphony Orchestra (La Cumparsita), George Melachrino conducting the Orchestra of the 6th Sanremo Festival 1956 (La Colpa Fu), New World Theatre Orchestra (Greenwich Village), Victor Sylvester and his Silver Strings (You Do Something To Me), Helmut Zacharias and his Magic Violins (Maria La O)

Bob Briggs quite rightly mentions the harsh sound on some tracks but this is a problem that afflicted many LPs in the 1950s, so perhaps it is a little unfair to blame the transfers when they are accurately reproducing what was on the original recording. In particular, certain American labels seemed to go out of their way to over equalise the top strings in the name of “Hi-Fi”. One of the worst offenders was Mercury, which always seemed odd to me as many of their classical recordings set the standard by which others were judged. Some of their Richard Hayman recordings we have used are so bad in this respect that, believe it or not, even removing everything above 8kHz had very little effect on the harshness of the sound.

I have lost count of the times when, having sent a listening copy to David Ades (the other half of the Guild Light Music team), on which I have already considerably tamed the high end, he e-mails me back saying “can’t you do anything about those screeching strings on track so and so?” We go to an immense amount of trouble to ensure that there aren't any jarring changes in sound quality from track to track and that the sound throughout the CD is as uniform as possible but, for various reasons, we don't always succeed.

Alan Bunting




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