The Wayfaring Stranger - His 33 Finest
RETROSPECTIVE RTR4285 [79:20]
Burl Ives (1909-1995) was born in Illinois into a musical family. At the age of four he sang for a soldier’s reunion for his first public performance. He left home in his early 20’s and began traveling the country as an itinerant folk singer, eventually finding his way to the music scene in Greenwich Village in New York City. Burl’s smooth tenor and gentle demeanor gained him immediate popularity with the public, and his career blossomed as he became a radio personality, and took on acting roles in films and on stage. In 1958, he won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in “The Big Country”. Burl recorded hundreds of songs during his forty-plus years of recording. This disc has 33 of his finest tunes, from the years between 1941 and 1961.
In August 1941, Okeh Records produced a debut album of four 10-inch records (78 rpm) featuring Burl Ives accompanying himself on guitar. These are his earliest known recordings. Eight songs on this disc (tracks 3-10) are taken from that album. The tunes are short and simple folk songs, and capture the beauty and range of Burl’s voice in his early 30’s. In particular, Darlin’ Cory is a particularly lovely ballad, simple and elegant, slow and mournful.
Two great numbers, Blue Tail Fly and I’m Goin’ Down The Road were recorded in October, 1947 in Hollywood on the Decca label. Both songs with recorded with the Andrew Sisters and Vic Schoen and His Orchestra. Blue Tail Fly is a light-hearted number with a traditional folk rhythm, while I’m Going Down The Road really swings with a big band arrangement penned by Ives himself. Lavender Blue, Dilly, Dilly and Billy Boy were recorded in December, 1948 by Decca Records. The original version of Lavender Blue first appeared in England in the 1600’s. The song writing team of Larry Morey and Eliot Daniel created their own variation, which Burl sang for the 1948 Walt Disney film “So Dear To My Heart”, which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song. Burl is accompanied here by Captain Stubby and the Buccaneers, an interesting nine piece band specializing in comedy and novelty tunes. The three accordion players helped give the band their unique sound. Band leader Tom Fouts (Captain Stubby) played numerous novelty instruments, including a tuned toilet seat called a “gitarlet”.
A Columbia Records session in August 1949 produced two of the best songs on the disc, Mr. Froggie Went A’Courtin’ and The Worried Man Blues. Talented guitarist Tony Mottola accompanies Burl on both tunes and does a masterful job playing off the vocals in his own witty style. The two gentlemen collaborated on other albums during Burl’s career, with Tony handling arranging duties as well as performing. The last song on the disc is also the latest, A Little Bitty Tear, recorded in February 1961. This tune was written by noted country songwriter Hank Cochran, who wrote for Patsy Cline, Eddy Arnold and many other singers. By this time Burl is 52 years old, and the listener can easily hear how the years have mellowed his voice. He gives the song his own unique gentle touch, and the song turns out to be his biggest hit.
A 12 page booklet is included with the disc. Recording information was compiled by Ray Crick and liner notes were provided by Peter Dempsey. Final audio restoration and re-mastering was performed by Alan Bunting. This is an excellent collection of songs from Burl Ives’s career, and will be of great interest to his many listeners as well as all fans of classic folk songs.
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Blue Tail Fly [2:49]
I’m Goin’ Down The Road [2:37]
Cowboy’s Lament (The Streets of Laredo) [2:36]
Tam Pierce (Widdicombe Fair) [2:13]
Sweet Betsy From Pike [1:39]
The Wee Cooper O’Fife [1:28]
The Riddle Sing [1:29]
I Know Where I’m Going [1:27]
I Know My Love [1:37]
Darlin’ Cory [3:11]
The Ballad Of Rodger Young [3:09]
The Foggy, Foggy Dew [2:33]
Big Rock Candy Mountain [2:41]
Old Dan Tucker [1:17]
The Erie Canal [1:40]
The Fox [2:09]
Go Tell Aunt Rhody (The Old Grey Goose Is Dead) [1:13]
It Makes No Difference Now [2:32]
I’m Thinking Tonight Of My Blue Eyes [3:16]
Lavender Blue, Dilly, Dilly [2:18]
Billy Boy [2:52]
Ghost Riders In The Sky (A Cowboy Legend) [3:06]
Poor Wayfaring Stranger [1:22]
Woolie Boogie Bee [1:30]
Mr. Froggie Went A-Courtin’ [3:00]
The Worried Man Blues [2:37]
The Doughnut Song [2:55]
I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly [2:50]
One Hour Ahead Of The Posse [3:12]
This Time Tomorrow [2:23]
Noah Found Grace In The Eyes Of The Lord [3:03]
On Top Of Old Smoky [2:35]
A Little Bitty Tear [2:02]