Saturday, May 01, 2010
This is as arty as sacred music gets, in this blogger's opinion. The crème de la crème. Superb without let-up (always wanted to type that), and, for all that, two tracks manage to stand out from the rest--quite a feat in a line-up like this. Those two selections being God Is Working His Purpose Out (which just might be my favorite hymn, ever) and I Vow to Thee My Country, with music by Gustav Holst from the Jupiter section of The Planets. I'm great at tracking down copies of hymns in old collections, but the Holst, so far, has refused to show up. What a treat it would be to play that in church.
MAGIX, under my direction, did a great job turning a crackly disc with mild high-freq. distortion into B+ audio. I love the you-are-there aspect of the fidelity. Fine mono recordings can have as much you-are-there-ness as the best stereo. Meanwhile, Google turns up 3,930 matches for "you-are-there-ness." I just made it 3,931. I'm proud to do my part.
This is sublime, brilliantly performed choral music, and the aforementioned two tracks are what Sunday morning gospel is all about.
Oh, and, in case I forgot to mention it, I love this album.
To the music: St. Paul's Cathedral Choir--Anglican Hymns (1961).
O PRAISE YE THE LORD
COME LET US JOIN
O SACRED HEAD SORE WOUNDED
THOU WHOSE ALMIGHTY WORD
O LOVE THAT WILT NOT LET ME GO
GOD IS WORKING HIS PURPOSE OUT (Tune: Millicent T. Kingham, 1894)
I VOW TO THEE MY COUNTRY (Tune: Gustav Holst)
JESUS GENTLEST SAVIOUR
THE KING OF LOVE MY SHEPHERD IS (Tune: John B. Dykes)
GLORY BE TO JESUS
SUNSET AND EVENING STAR
PRAISE MY SOUL THE KING OF HEAVEN
O MY SAVIOUR LIFTED (Tune: Timothy R. Matthews)
YE SERVANTS OF GOD
COME DOWN O LOVE DIVINE
MAY THE GRACE OF CHRIST OUR SAVIOUR
St. Paul's Cathedral Choir--Lance Hardy, Conductor and Organist, 1961. (Strand SL-1012)
Ah, yes--"The American Symphony," conducted by "Eugene Davis," w. "Kumiko Okinaka" on the piano. From "1974." Label: Peerless Classics.
Well, actually, this is the 1960 Everest label recording featuring the Rochester Philharmonic, conducted by Ferde Grofe, with Jesus Mario Sanroma on piano. I'd read on-line that the Peerless Classics label pirated Everest's catalog, and it sure looks that way. Seeing as how this LP is identical to Everest SDBR-3044, save for the assumed names.
Now, I could swear there's yet another Grand Canyon/Concerto combo out there under another name (this recording, again?), but I've yet to establish same. I could swear I had the suite and concerto played by a German orchestra on a cheap-label cassette, but maybe I simply had the cassette version of this LP. It's possible. Unfortunately, I didn't keep the cassette.
Confused? Me, too. Anyway, here's the pirated Everest recording of Grofe's 1958 concerto, which I love for 3/4 of its length. Then it stalls, pretty much. My theory is that Grofe had three big finishes written but couldn't decide which one to use--so he used all three strung together. But, until it loses its focus, this is one entertaining piece of light music. Maybe I'll make my own edit, cutting out three or four minutes. I'll keep you posted.
My folder of Grofe-review clippings is still hiding on me, so I can't quote the negative review that appeared in Hi Fidelity or Stereo Review (one of the other), in which the reviewer called the concerto several names, none of them nice. The Billboard review, however, was much nicer. "With exposure, it could create some demand," they wrote, calling the piece "lush and attractive."
Update: I just found two more Grofe folders, one containing review clippings. Apparently, there's another set hiding on me (It can't elude me for long). Pulled out an October, 1960 American Record Guide review of this record, and it's not too hard on Grofe: "The concerto, made up of one movement, was, according to the notes, written very recently, and it is a hodgepodge of Liszt, MacDowell, and movie music. As such, it is effective, but in spite of Sanroma's exciting pianism the score is not very monumental. It may, however, have a great popular appeal."
Anyway, to the pirated Grofe:
Concerto for Piano and Orch. in D minor (Grofe)
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Of course, if you're someone who doesn't like cheap-label sound-alikes, the phrase "to end all covers" may have a different meaning than intended. Anyway, these covers are more unusual than usual, even by MY(P)WAHE standards, unless Music Masters, Avenue Recordings Ltd., and Wheaties Red Record aren't news to you. They were to me. The Internet, however, informs me that Avenue was a familiar cheapie outfit to people in the U.K. It also tells me that I was correct when, listening to the Avenue version of Cottonfields, I knew I just had to be listening to Elton John. I was. Elton is also on the Avenue label's In the Summertime and Travellin' (sic) Band, also in our playlist.
Cottonfields was a huge hit for the Beach Boys in 1970. Not in the U.S., but just about everywhere else. Hence, the Avenue label's cover version, which is quite good.
I know zilch about JEB Records of Chicago, except that they made Tops label-style cover records. This one, Come on to (sic) My House by Jean Ryan, is a very imaginatively conceived and tightly performed no-budget effort.
On the other end of quality, the Variety label version of I Walk the Line (making its second appearance here) announces each key change with a sloppy tape splice--apparently, the guitarist had to regroup with each modulation. Meanwhile, the vocals on Gateway's Rock and Roll Music and Peggy Sue simply don't make it--somewhat better are the singing jobs on Gilmar's School Days and Little Darlin', though are we supposed to take the credits seriously (Stevens Mark and Steve Marks, respectively)?
The musicianship on the two (likely 1954) Music Masters titles provides a nice break from Variety's, Gilmar's, and Gateway's, even if my 78 copy is in BR (Barely Rescuable) shape. The big band treatment given to Oop Shoop works quite well, and the Skokiaan cover (of Ralph Marterie, no doubt) is well above the junk-label average. Wish this label showed up more often. Maybe there weren't too many in the first place?
The three Wheaties Red Record titles were big Bob Merrill hits of the day (early Fifties), though the lyrics of Sparrow in the Tree Top, which concern a sparrow returning home late and trying to persuade his wife that he hasn't cheated on her, have been altered for a younger audience. These have a Golden Records/Mitch Miller sound, complete with poor-quality pressings. The music is fun, though.
Mambo Rock, from a 7" vinyl 78, is a typically excellent Bill Haley cover from Prom/Promenade, whose Rock Around the Clock, Burn That Candle and R-O-C-K are also cheap-label gold.
Click here to hear: Covers to end all covers
GIMME DAT DING--Avenue 93 (1970)
COTTONFIELDS--Elton John, uncredited--(Avenue 94) (1970)
TRAVELLING BAND--Elton John, uncredited--(Avenue 93) (1970)
IN THE SUMMERTIME--Elton John, uncredited (Avenue 94) (1970)
MAMBO ROCK--Bob Daily w. the Prom Orch. (Prom 1109)
I WALK THE LINE--Famous Western Stars and Full Orch. (Variety 1802)
ROCK AND ROLL MUSIC--Happy Harris w. Herbie Layne's O. (Gateway 1233)
PEGGY SUE--Bob Allen w. Herbie Layne's Orch. (Gateway 1233)
COME ON TO MY HOUSE--Jean Ryan (JEB 5005)
SCHOOL DAY--Stevens Mark (Gilmar 208)
LITTLE DARLIN'--Steve Marks (Gilmar 207)
OOP-SHOOP--Peggy Lawrence w. Neely Plumb (Music Masters 2020)
SKOKIAAN--Neely Plumb and His Orch. (Music Masters 2020)
SPARROW IN THE TREE TOP (B. Merrill) (Wheaties Red Record GM 1)
WALKIN' TO MISSOURI (B. Merrill) (Wheaties Red Record GM 1)
FEET UP (Merrill) (Wheaties Red Record GM 2)
Monday, April 26, 2010
That's me, about 1917. Actually, it's not me, though it is from 1917. We'll be hearing my newly-composed Prelude in F Major, which I wrote on (and for) our church organ. Not coincidentally, I just officially switched from piano to organ in my job as church musician, making the learning of the organ pedals a must. My fingers will thank me. (My feet, who knows?)
Pedals make the difference between playing all the notes with both hands or playing all the notes minus the bass line with both hands. I'd gotten to where I can play the chromatic scale up and down at a pretty fast clip, but I have a ways to go. Unless, of course, I stick to music with a bass line in up and down half-steps. Assuming such music exists.
My Prelude was my attempt to copy Samuel Scheidt's chorale-writing style, which it halfway, sort of, somewhat does. Missing is a build-up to a big ending. Which is fine, since there's no big ending to build up to. So, things worked out dandy in that regard.
This piece ended up in two versions--4/4 and (mostly) 6/4. I rejected the 6/4, then changed my mind this morning, deciding to go back to it. This meant reading some of the quarter notes as eighth notes, which created much potential for getting lost, meter-wise. Which I did. Sounded pleasant enough, anyway. Hopefully, no one in the congregation was counting.
These feature me on my Casio, counting correctly. The first, fast version is in 4/4, the second in (mostly) 6/4. I should recorded the miscounted version, if I can remember everything I did wrong.
Samuel Scheidt told me not to quit my day job. Thanks, Sam.
Prelude in F Major (Lee Hartsfeld)--Fast 4/4, Moderate 6/4.
Sunday, April 25, 2010
A group photo so badly staged as to merit a spot on Jay Leno's "Headlines." The singing, however, is great. This is the Apostolic Bible Institute Quartet of St. Paul, Minn. (with the A.B.I. Trio and Brass Ensemble getting one number apiece), and they sing the gospel of Or Else. None of this namby-pamby "God loves all" stuff like I preach. Well, maybe a little. To be sure, some of the numbers are reassuring, gentle ballads (He Touched Me) or reassuring, upbeat marches (Send the Light), but the opening tracks set the pace and the tone--a tone best described as not negotiable.
But what joyous and entertaining Or Else gospel. Bluegrass (and Bluegrass gospel) is frequently written about in as something partly African-American influenced in part, but sometimes I think Southern quartet singing is even more so. I'm almost sure, in fact.
One track (by the female trio) was unsalvageable--hence thirteen, instead of fourteen, tracks. Which is to say, it didn't arrive with its unlucky-number playlist.
To the music: A.B.I. Quartet--Something Within
Ol' Brother Noah
Lovest Thou Me
If Heaven Was a Fantasy--A.B.I. Trio
In the Upper Room
New Born Feeling
Send the Light (Gabriel)--A.B.I. Brass Ensemble
He Touched Me
It's Worth More Than Anything
What a Precious Friend