After suffering for eight days with the worst bout of flu I’ve had in years - and this after having the flu jab which, my vet assured me, would protect me from the dreaded lurgy - I was feeling pretty low and fed up. Then I put this disk in the player and what a tonic! It really perked me up with its bright and breezy feeling. Good tunes, excellent arrangements and, as usual, brilliantly planned programme. The music spans some 100 years from Béla Kéler to Eric Coates and beyond. I suddenly feel much better. Forget LemSip, take The Golden Age of Light Music!
Things get off to a brilliant start with three great swinging arrangements by three of the best arrangers - Sidney Torch, Percy Faith and Len Stevens - and they’re fantastic! I am not usually taken with arrangements of songs but here, with arrangements which have a special verve I am all in favour of them. Claypole’s Ragging The Scales sounds as fresh, if not fresher than it first was, in 1915, in this excellently extrovert version.
All three arrangers re-appear, and their contributions are most welcome. Sidney Torch delivers a sensitive version of If You Please by the great Jimmy Van Heusen. This has a rich and romantic sound and feels like an American arrangement not a British one! Len Stevens’s version of Duke Ellington’s Solitude is a veritable cornucopia of good things from slow melancholy to fast jauntiness. Nice piano and saxophones here. Two more from Percy Faith, including a discovery from Vernon Duke, a sumptuously scored slow dance and a nicely racy version of La Bamba - move over Richie Valens and Los Lobos, this is the real thing!
David Rose wrote a lot of music and here’s a real discovery - The Butterfly and The Alligator, a kind of gossamer scherzo with a curious middle section. Delightful. Pepper Tree Lane is the street which leads to the Hollywood Bowl and only makes one wish to hear the whole suite. Rose was married to Judy Garland from 1941 to 1944 - he was the first of her five husbands - and one must wonder if that is why he made this arrangement of a song from her most famous film. It’s a fun-filled affair, with a nice light touch. I particularly liked his use of harp.
Song of The Flame is a lost film, only the soundtrack remains. This title song is Spanish in flavour and over too soon. Too Romantic, from the first Road film, was a duet for Dorothy Lamour and Bing Crosby and emerges as a lovely middle tempo tone poem, with strings and trombones. Vincent Youmans’s title song for the film Flying Down To Rio, whilst lacking girls on aeroplane wings, is a kind of muzak version of this great tune, with an easy-going lilt and a smile on its face.
For the rest we have original compositions. The Peanut Vendor is highly coloured and warmly rhythmic. Jupe Elders’s Primavera is a romantic wisp of a piece, Anthony Collins’s Jota is a million miles from what one expects from this composer - it’s a wild Manuel de Falla style piece with light music touches added for local, English, colour.
Lamar Stringfield was a Pulitzer Prize winning composer and founder of the North Carolina Symphony Orchestra. Despite being based on the song Frog Went A-Courtin’, Dance of The Frogs would find a happy home in any film set in the wild west; it speaks the vernacular of cowboy film music. Nice stuff. I once read, I forget where, that Armas Järnefelt’s Praeludium appealed to simple-minded music-lovers! I love this perfectly formed miniature, and I suspect that that puts me firmly in my place. I hope that at some point Guild can find Henry Wood’s delicious recording of this piece for issue.
Three big pieces to end. Don Gillis, he of Symphony No.5½ fame, wrote quite an amount of music, and some of it is being newly recorded. Here is yet another rarity. These Three Sketches are well proportioned brevities and marvellously unpretentious in scale and outlook. I am so pleased to have made their acquaintance. Eric Coates’s The Three Men Suite is more robust and a very pleasant and varied suite. Indeed, it’s one of the best I have heard from Coates. The Man From The Country has a freedom about it - wide open spaces are evoked. The Man About Town has a suitably relaxed, and cosmopolitan, air. The Man From The Sea is a rollicking fantasy on Follow Me Down to Hi-Lo and Three Blind Mice! This is a very clever piece of work and very entertaining. Finally, Béla Kéler’s Romantic Overture, a big work - it’s a Verdi or Rossini overture with slightly more obvious jokes. It makes a suitably exuberant conclusion to a stunning disk. Great sound and good notes contribute to the success of this issue.
George GERSHWIN (1898 - 1937) Strike Up The Band
(probably arranged by Sidney TORCH (pseudonym for
Sidney TORCHINSKY) (1908 - 1990)) [1:45]
Jerome KERN (1885 - 1945) Swing Time Selection (The Way
You Look Tonight, Pick Yourself Up, A Fine Romance, Waltz In
Swing Time) (probably arranged by Len STEVENS (full name
Herbert Leonard STEVENS) (d 1989) [4:43]
Edward B CLAYPOLE Ragging The Scales (1915) (arranged
by Percy FAITH) [1:58]
David ROSE (1910 - 1990): The Butterfly and The Alligator
Jimmy Van HEUSEN (1913 - 1990) If You Please (from the
film 'Dixie') (arranged by Sidney TORCH) [3:23]
Jupe ELDERS Primavera [3:07]
David ROSE Pepper Tree Lane (from Hollywood Bowl Suite)
Vernon DUKE (1903 - 1969) Balboa Barcarolle (arranged
by Percy FAITH (1908 - 1976)) [2:24]
Mexican Traditional from Vera Cruz La Bamba (arranged
by Percy FAITH) [2:18]
George GERSHWIN, Herbert STOTHART (1885 - 1949) Song
of The Flame (from the musical Song of The Flame) George Gershwin,
Johnny BURKE (1908 - 1964), James V MONACO (1885 - 1945)
Too Romantic (from Road to Singapore) (1940) [2:40]
Edward ELISCU (1902 - 1998), Gus KAHN (1886 - 1941), Vincent
YOUMANS (1898 - 1946) Flying Down To Rio [1:21]
Edgar DeLANGE (1904 - 1949), Irving MILLS (1894 - 1985),
Edward Kennedy ‘Duke’ Ellington (1899 - 1974)
Solitude (arranged by Len STEVENS) 3:47
Harold ARLEN (1905 - 1986), E Y “Yip” HARBURG
(1896 - 1981) Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead (from 'The Wizard
Of Oz') [2:53]
Moises SIMONS (1889 - 1945), Marion SUNSHINE (1894 - 1963),
L Wolfe GILBERT (1886 - 1970) The Peanut Vendor (El Manisero)
Anthony COLLINS (1893 - 1963) Jota (from 'Spanish Dance
Don GILLIS (1912-1978) Three Sketches' (Enchantment,
Whimsy, Day Dreams) [6:42]
Lamar STRINGFIELD (1897 - 1959) Dance of The Frogs
(based on Frog Went A-Courtin) [3:40]
Armas JÄRNEFELT (1869 - 1958) Praeludium [2:31]
Eric COATES (1886 - 1957): The Three Men Suite (The Man
From The Country, The Man About Town, The Man From The Sea)
Béla KÉLER (1829 - 1882) Romantic
Overture (Overture Romantique) [7:25]
Carmen Dragon (Flying Down to Rio), Percy Faith (Claypole, Duke, Vera Cruz), David Rose (Rose, Wizard of Oz), Leith Stevens (Road to Singapore), Sidney Torch (van Heusen), Dolf van der Linden (Elders) and Lewis Williams (Stringfield) all conducting “his own” Orchestra
Phil Spitalny and his All Girl Orchestra (Song of the Flame)
Army Salon Orchestra, conducted by Eric Robinson (Jarnefelt)
Hollywood Salon Orchestra, conducted by Harry Bluestone (Gillis)
The Orchestra in Khaki conducted by George Melachrino (Peanut Vendor and first movement of The Three Men Suite)
The Orchestra of HM Royal Marines (Portsmouth Division), conducted by Captain F Vivian Dunn,MVO ARAM RM (second and third movements of The Three Men Suite and Kéler)
RAF Concert Orchestra, probably conducted by Sidney Torch (Gershwin, Kern, Soitude)
World Concert Orchestra conducted by Philip Green (Collins)