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GEORGES METAXA
WAKE UP AND DREAM
Love Songs From a Lost Troubadour

23 original mono recordings 1926-1932
Compiled by Ray Crick & Peter Dempsey
Transfers and restoration by Peter Dempsey

LIVING ERA CD AJA 5449 [76.07]

 

 

Crotchet



  1. WAKE UP AND DREAM (1929)
  2. WHAT IS THIS THING CALLED LOVE? (1929)
  3. MANDRULLITA (1926)
  4. A GARDEN IN THE RAIN (1928)
  5. SWEET SUE, JUST YOU (1928)
  6. I KISS YOUR HAND, MADAME (1928)
  7. MY BELOVED (1929)
  8. IíLL SEE YOU AGAIN (1929)
  9. PAGAN LOVE SONG (1929)
  10. WHO CARES/ (1929)
  11. AN OLD ITALIAN LOVE SONG (1930)
  12. WITH A SONG IN MY HEART (1930)
  13. UNDER A TEXAS MOON (1930)
  14. BLUE PACIFIC MOONLIGHT (1930)
  15. OH, DONNA CLARA! (1930)
  16. TELL ME IíM FORGIVEN (1930)
  17. IF I COULD BE WITH YOU ONE HOUR TONIGHT (1930)
  18. LADY, PLAY YOUR MANDOLIN (1931)
  19. ON A LITTLE BALCONY IN SPAIN (1931)
  20. YOUíRE JUST A LOVER (1931)
  21. TRY TO FORGET (1932)
  22. A NEW LOVE IS OLD (1932)
  23. GOODNIGHT SWEETHEART (1931)

 

I was intrigued when I received this CD as I confess I had never heard of Georges Metaxa. However on looking down his list of recordings, itís not surprising. I was still at school when he made his first recording. Though even at that age and living close to London I usually managed to hear news of artistes performing in West End shows. Yet as I gazed at the picture of this young man with the faraway look in his eyes I knew that with his dark, handsome looks he must have been quite a heartthrob in his day in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Metaxa was born in Romania and came from Bucharest where he had worked as a civil servant becoming principle private secretary to the Rumanian Ministry of Agriculture, no less. In spite of financial security he couldnít have been happy there so with an interest in singing his mind soon became set on a career in musical comedy. So he came to England in 1926 and when he was 25 recorded an attractive Romanian folk song "Mandrullita" the recording of which shows what a finely controlled, operatic high-baritone he had even then. After Anglicising his Christian name to George he went on to have success in revue and cabaret and from 1927 onwards was in demand at HMV where he recorded versions of the dance-hits of the day.

The earliest recording on the disc is that Romanian folk song "Mandrullita" where he is accompanied by "Madame Adami". Itís a fascinating song that demonstrates Metaxaís early background and what a pleasant song it is too, sung in what sounds to me the perfect voice for it. His next recording was "A Garden in the Rain" with composer Carroll Gibbons at the piano and the New Mayfair Orchestra. Georges sings this very simple number with the kind of voice that can charm you into really believing you are indeed gazing into a garden full of flowers and feeling that shower of rain in the words. This one was followed in November of the same year with Victor Youngís "Sweet Sue, Just You", again with Gibbons and the orchestra. Another deceptively simple song, but again Georges sings it with genuine feeling and he and the orchestra combine to make this a real pleasure to listen to. The following month brought "I Kiss Your Hand, Madame" which Georges sings again with that special brand of charm he so obviously had. Once again Carroll Gibbons and the orchestra change pace at just the right times matching perfectly Metaxaís unhurried manner.

Metaxaís first big chance on the London musical stage came early in 1929 with his engagement by the great C.B.Cochrane for the John Hastings Turner revue "Wake Up and Dreamí where he created the tenor-lead and recorded several of the songs. The show had a prestigious cast with music and lyrics by Cole Porter and Georges recorded "My Beloved" from it in February 1929 with Carroll Gibbons. I found nothing particularly notable in this number, though and was quite disappointed. Then in April that year he recorded the title song "Wake Up and Dream" and this certainly demonstrates what a fine voice Georges had even though I had some difficulty hearing all the words clearly. Perhaps the New Mayfair Orchestra could have been reduced slightly in volume. Even so the excellence of the melodious Metaxa voice shines through and when it is time for Georges to pause the orchestra and Carroll Gibbons at the piano come into their own. This is a passage well worth waiting for. In that same month he recorded another song from the show, the well known "What Is This Thing Called Love?" Gibbons and the orchestra play softy as Georges sings with true pathos. After a long run the show was transferred to New York but Georges stayed in London having being signed by Cochran for another, more prestigious venture. This was Noel Cowards "Bitter Sweet" at His Majestyís in July 1929. The debonair Metaxaís colleagues included many well-known names of the time such as Billy Milton, Ivy St Hellier and Betty Huntley-Wright. With Peggy Wood he made "Iíll See You Again" accompanied by Ray Noble and his orchestra. They sing with plenty of charm so essential to this great number with Peggy Wood especially good. Iím sure you will appreciate this track and realise why this song has survived so well down the years.

In September of 1929, again with Ray Noble and The New Mayfair Orchestra, Georges recorded "Pagan Love Song", one of my long time favourites. I wasnít disappointed when I heard this arrangement of it either. Georges sings with just the right caress in his voice as he tells someone to linger with him where moonbeams linger in the sky. The band plays along softly and the Hawaiian Guitar adds to the atmosphere superbly as George sensuously sings of his love. I wallowed in it, as his voice swept over me, I assure you. In December that year came "Who Cares?" followed in January 1930 with "An Old Italian Love Song". These are two very simple love songs, both of lost love, but Georges sings each in a different style and you hear every word clearly. Ray Noble accompanies with The New Mayfair Orchestra and, as usual, he complements in each song excellently. Two small gems well worth listening too. February of the same year brought the Rogers and Hart hit "With A Song in My Heart" and Georges sounds so happy whilst he sings this one as the orchestra wraps themselves around him beautifully. You will like this version, I am sure. I also loved "Blue Pacific Moonlight" which Georges recorded in August 1930 again with Ray Noble. Once again we have a straightforwardly simple love song yet when Georges sings it he can make you see what itís like to have a girl in your arms by that blue Pacific moonlight. In fact this is a mood Georges excels in - the gift of portraying a picture in your mind just by singing to you. Though Len Fillis on the Hawaiian guitar adds that touch of exotic romanticism.

I could hardly believe when I saw the next track on the disc was "Oh Donna Clara!" another of my great favourites from long ago and one I have never forgotten. I must say it made me feel a little sad as it now brings back memories of when I was able to get up and dance to this lively, happy song. No longer, Iím afraid. Donna Clara is a fascinating Spanish dancer who Georges sings he has fallen in love with. You can hear the castanets come into their own here and imagine this lovely Spanish dancer with flashing eyes and long black hair swinging as she tosses her head.

In March the following year Georges recorded "Lady, Play Your Mandolin" with Ray Noble and his orchestra and Mario di Pietro on the mandolin. The words are clear, and Georges uses his distinctive voice to match this delightful song. There are times when he changes to a faster tempo, but when he pauses you hear the strings of the guitar and mandolin twanging a few chords in reply too. I have always loved the sound of a mandolin and wish more were played now. A delightful melody this one and the same applies to Georges next recording, "On a Little Balcony in Spain", yet again with Ray Noble and his Orchestra and Mario di Pietro. In fact these two were recorded at the same session. In both tracks the words are simple and Georges sings as he always does with great warmth and charm and the accompaniment of the orchestra and mandolin adds a real something to both these two songs which does make them extra special.

These were among the last recordings Georges made in London. That year appeared to bring many changes to his life. After his success in "Bitter Sweet" he was then either badly advised or so oblivious to other male leads that he had no idea his portrayal of the exotic middle-European noblemen might not be in demand. He decided to try his luck in New York but was soon replaced in "Bitter Sweet" there by George Nodin. He then appears to have been unlucky in being cast in the wrong roles though he did make sporadic appearances in films for Paramount and RKO. In March 1932 in New York, for example, he recorded two songs from the show "The Cat and The Fiddle" with Leonard Joy and his orchestra. The lively "Try To Forget " is first followed by "A New Love Is Old" and Georges sings both with such conviction. From then on he appeared in supporting roles in films for various companies and with many famous stars making his final screen appearance in 1945, five years before his early death.

This disc ends with the very last recording Georges made in London in March 1931. Itís "Goodnight Sweetheart" with Ray Noble and the New Mayfair Orchestra. I have said on many occasions that this too is one of my many long time favourites. I have heard it played and sung by many people over the years, most recently by Al Bowlly whose recording I reviewed here recently. However, I can honestly say I have never heard anyone sing it quite like Georges Metaxa. The arrangement is to me perfect. You hear a church bell then Georges quietly singing. His voice is in perfect accord with the orchestra as it gradually goes drowsy although it retains a real caressing tone too. Softy he says he will see someone in the morning and you can really imagine him turning a light out as the church bell chimes the hour. Then, as the bell softy fades, so does Georges voice and you get the impression he is slowly falling asleep. Finally there is a slight pause with the orchestra playing very softly just a few bars of the refrain and Georges whispers "Good night sweetheart" and you know he has fallen asleep. So, goodnight "Forgotten Troubadour". Wake up and dream.

George Metaxa died in Monro, Louisiana on December 8 1950, aged just 51.

My thanks to Living Era for once again producing excellent transfers of these old 78rpm recordings. I do highly recommend this and honestly say I enjoyed every one of the songs Georges Metaxa sings. A "forgotten troubadour" he may be, as the title of this disc tells us, but once you hear him sing you will wonder why he was forgotten at all.

Joan Duggan

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