Composer: Giacomo Puccini; Singer: Burl Ives; Composer: Johann S. Bach; Organist: Robert Elmore


by  Peter Cates
Giacomo Puccini

Giacomo Puccini


Madame Butterfly Selections
Arthur Pryor’s Band; Victor – 31697, 12-inch one-sided black label acoustic shellac 78, recorded approximately between 1905 and 1913.

Several shellacs from the pre-1924 acoustic era feature symphonic bands doing very nice performances of operatic excerpts. Arthur Pryor’s Band left one devoted to the matchless melodies from the opera, Madame Butterfly, of Giacomo Puccini (1857-1924) and is recommended heartily to collectors of early acoustic band disks.

Burl Ives

Burl Ives

Burl Ives

Songs of the West
Decca – DL 4179, mono LP, recorded 1961.

Burl Ives applies his Down Comforter of a voice to a dozen western classics – Home on the Range, Mexicali Rose, Cool Water, Jingle, Jangle, Jingle, Empty Saddles, etc.- and has the arrangements of Decca’s late, great Nashville A t R man, Owen Bradley, and the Anita Kerr Singers, both uncredited on this album.

My absolute favorite, one I have played many times with pleasure, is The Cowboy’s Dream, with its gospel message and the exquisite, separately recorded, different harmonies of Anita and her colleagues added gradually in each of the choruses. Recommended!

Bach on the Biggest

Robert Elmore, organist; Mercury SR90127, stereo LP, recorded 1956.

Johann Bach

Johann Bach

Organist Robert Elmore (1913-1985) was recorded on November 23, 1956, playing the Auditorium Organ of the Atlantic City Convention Hall. To call this instrument a behemoth of Great White

Robert Elmore

Robert Elmore

Whale proportions would most likely be an understatement. Its volume alone is equal to that of 25 brass bands; 225,000 feet of lumber was used in its construction, including 10,000 just for the 12 pipes; and the hall itself is more than 13 stories and occupies four city blocks.

Elmore’s playing of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, Toccata, Adagio and Fugue in C Major and Sleeper’s Awake and In Dulci Jubilo Chorale Preludes is both magnificent and magnificently recorded. A record worth seeking out!

REVIEW POTPOURRI: Dick Kuhn and his Orchestra; Death of a Salesman; Handel


by  Peter Cates

Dick Kuhn and his Orchestra

Wild Flower; Bambalina- Decca -3723, ten inch blue label 78 disc, recorded March 25, 1941.

Dick Kuhn

Dick Kuhn

There is very little information to be gleaned anywhere on bandleader Dick Kuhn, he starting his own band while in high school being about the only morsel uncovered.

It would perform in the tradition of such dance bands as those of Guy Lombardo, Sammy Kaye, Griff Williams and Lawrence Welk, but with more animation, intelligence and nuance. Kuhn was also quite gifted as a saxist.

The orchestra could be seen during the late ‘30 New York City’s Times Square and heard regularly on the very popular radio station, WOR; it recorded a batch of 78s for Decca, Mercury and a couple of lesser known labels in its ‘30s and ‘40s heyday.

The Decca blue label 78 series was spearheaded by company manager Jack Kapp around 1936 or ’37 as a catalog of 35 cent records, as opposed to the dollar records of the major competitors, Victor and Columbia; it soared in sales when the dads all across the country would send their kids to the record shop every week with a dollar for the latest three releases (Within at least two years, Victor would respond by launching its own 35 center, Bluebird, and Columbia, Okeh).

A quartet of popular song lyricists/composers are credited with the above two selections, Wild Flower and Bambalina — Otto Harbach (1873-1963), Herbert Stothart (1885-1949), Oscar Hammerstein II (1895-1960), and Vincent Youmans (1898-1946) . As to why so many talents were assembled for these two songs, anyone’s guess is as good as mine, but this record is quite pleasant to listen to, with an added vocal trio.

When Herbert Stothart visited Scotland in 1947, he suffered a heart attack and later wrote a symphonic piece for orchestra- Heart Attack: A Symphonic Poem, about his tribulations. He started another piece, Voice of Liberation, when he died of cancer at the age of 63, in 1949.

Death of a Salesman

by Arthur Miller; written in 1949. Arthur Miller (1916-2005) wrote such classics of the theater as The Crucible,which dealt with the evil of the 1692 Salem Witch Trials; and All My Sons, which confronted the profiteering of the munitions industry.

Arthur Miller

Arthur Miller

The main character, Willy Loman, threw himself into being a salesman who was liked; the problem was that this goal was the only one that truly mattered. Then, when his company started squeezing him out gradually because his sales had gone down, he fell to pieces.

Reading this play, one not only feels the injustice, the anger, the terrors at the heart of our lives that bring us down when bad things happen, but also the flaws in our character, that contribute to it. Finally,

Miller leads us to care for Willy as a fellow human being and to feel his suffering as though he were a long time friend! And it holds up so well with re-reading!

Handel – Semele

Anthony Lewis conducting the English Chamber Orchestra and Saint Anthony Singers with various soloists; L’Oiseau-Lyre OLS- 111-3, three 12-inch stereo vinyl LPs, recorded 1955.

George Handel

George Handel

George Frederick Handel wrote one big beautiful opera here with arias, more choruses than normal in an opera and bracing orchestration; it was premiered in 1744 during Lent and was received with very mixed feelings. After several performances during the remaining 15 years of the composer’s lifetime, it would not be heard again until an English revival in 1925; since then, it has slowly made its way to a significant repertory status.

Its story line features an illicit attraction between the betrothed Semele and the god Jupiter, with tragic consequences.

The above set was its first recording and, to my mind, is very good. I would especially cite two women who gave master lessons in expression, articulation, and breathing – soprano Jennifer Vyvyan (1925-1974) and alto Helen Watts (1927-2009).

Only the LP set is available through Amazon vendors, no CD transfer having ever been made.

REVIEW POTPOURRI: Kodaly, Ella Fitzgerald, & The Pelican Brief


by  Peter Cates


Hary Janos Suite; Respighi: Feste Romane- Arturo Toscanini conducting the NBC Symphony Orchestra; RCA Victor LM-1973, 12-inch vinyl mono LP, released 1956.

Zoltan Kodaly

Arturo Toscanini (1867-1957) was, arguably, one of the four best known conductors of the 20th century, the others being Leopold Stokowski, Arthur Fiedler, and Leonard Bernstein (these three definitely being subjects for later columns.) . That said, it now occurs to me I did a column devoted to the Maestro’s wide influence a while ago. Therefore, I move on to this week’s record.

The featured pieces are the Hary Janos Suite, composed in 1926 by Zoltan Kodaly (1882-1967), and Feste Romane, from 1928 and composed by Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936) . Along with his lifelong friend, Bela Bartok, Kodaly was one of Hungary’s two best known 20th century composers. Hary Janos is a mythical character who proceeds to run off with Napoleon’s wife, Marie-Louise, and unleashes a series of near-lethal events before he miraculously makes things right. The Suite is a colorful piece of orchestral virtuosity.

In 1959, Kodaly’s first wife of 48 years died; he then married a 19-year-old student, with a 58 year age difference, and both were one happy couple (supposedly) until his own death in 1967, one year after a concert tour in the U.S.
Respighi’s Feste Romane evokes the spirit of Roman history from ancient times onwards – the spiritual pilgrimages to the Holy City, the romance of October Festival, the Circuses with their just plain fun-loving folks taking in the feasting of savage lions on the martyrs, etc.

Both works have immense potential appeal for beginning classical listeners and Toscanini’s conducting bristles with excitement.

Ella Fitzgerald

with Nelson Riddle’s arrangements and conducting; Ella Swings Brightly with Nelson; Verve V6-4054, 12-inch stereo vinyl LP, recorded 1962.

Ella Fitzgerald

The words Swings Brightly do not hint at the supremely splendid, vibrant excitement of this album. As far as I am concerned, Ella Fitzgerald sings renditions of the 12 songs contained here that have been rarely surpassed by anyone for power, beauty, elegance and all the other grossly overused synonyms for musical pleasure; and Nelson Riddle’s arrangements are those of once in a lifetime. Simply try Duke Ellington’s I’m Gonna Go Fishing, which I shared on my fb home page from YouTube, where it can be easily heard!

Pelican Brief

starring Julia Roberts, etc.; directed by Alan J. Pakula; Warner Brothers, 1993, 141 minutes.

Two Supreme Court justices of radically different ideologies are murdered on the same day. Thus no common thread is found to launch any type of investigation, until a Louisiana law student, Darby Shaw (played by Ms. Roberts), shows a brief to her professor who passes it along to a friend at the Justice Department.

Julia Roberts

Julia Roberts

All hell breaks loose for her – her car explodes, killing her professor inside who was borrowing it; she is pursued by killers from out of nowhere and doesn’t know who to trust. It’s 141 minutes of cat and mouse paranoia adding up to a most entertaining film. The late Hume Cronym does a captivating turn as one of the two murdered judges.

REVIEWS: Composer: Jean-Baptiste Loeillet; Film: Carousel; Conductor: Gennady Rozhdestvensky


by  Peter Cates

Jean-Baptiste Loeillet

Jean-Baptiste Loeillet

Sonatas; Trio Sonatas; and Lesson for the Harpsichord
Pierre Pouleau, recorder; Andre Chevalet, oboe; and Yvonne Schmit, harpsichord. Music Guild MS-113, 12-inch stereo vinyl LP, released 1965.

One of a select group of baroque composers who wrote truly beautiful music for both the flute and recorder, Jean-Baptiste Loeillet (1680-1730) was born in Belgium, became a very talented player on the flute and harpsichord during early childhood, and traveled to England at 25 years old where he settled for life. He composed mainly for the flute, taught and arranged concerts for the wealthy, through which he became financially quite comfortable.

The performances are superb, and, fortunately for those with a record player, the album is still available through several Amazon vendors for prices starting at six dollars.


starring Gordon MacRae, Shirley Jones, Cameron Mitchell, etc.; directed by Henry King; 20th Century Fox, released June, 1956.

Gordon MacRae

The Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Carousel began as a hugely successful Broadway musical in 1945, but its transformation into a film shot in exquisite living color, and with better singers, superior orchestration by Alfred Newman and, for most of the film, the backdrop of our own Boothbay Harbor, turned it into a true cinematic classic – worthy of the several best film lists it has made. It and the 1945 State Farm are my two favorite R & H films.

Shirley Jones

The manner in which the movie segues at the beginning from a mundane conversation in heaven to the glorious Carousel Waltz is a case in point. Three of the greatest songs in Broadway musical history – If I Loved You, When the Children Are Asleep, and You’ll Never Walk Alone – are given the best performances they have ever received in the most pleasing seaside settings. The choreography along the marina and, later, on a lonely beach are dazzling set pieces of limber, supple virtuosity. And watching Gordon MacRae, Shirley Jones and Barbara Ruark singing in their prime is a singular pleasure!

Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique

Gennady Rozhdestvensky conducting the USSR Radio Symphony Orchestra; Eurodisc 201 984-250, 12-inch stereo LP, recorded 1967.

The conductor, Gennady Rozhdestvensky, is, at 85, one of the more accomplished and interesting conductors to have emerged since the early ‘60s. First, he is accomplished because he was barely 22 years old when he was scoring successes in his appearances with various major Russian orchestras and both the Bolshoi Opera and Ballet through live appearances and recordings. He also has upwards of 1,500 musical works of a wide range of composers committed to memory. Finally, all of the recordings I have heard of his are consistently good, unlike several of the shining stars of the firmament of today. And I own at least a shelf of them.

Gennady Rozhdestvensky

Secondly, he is interesting because of the manner in which he conducts. I once saw him live in Boston’s Symphony Hall back in ’73 when he was on tour with the Leningrad Philharmonic (now, since the fall of the former Soviet Union, referred to as the Saint Petersburg Philharmonic.). That evening, he used very precise but conventional gestures.

However, I have seen footage of him not conducting the orchestra at all while it is playing but walking around the stage smiling a lot, yet barely moving his arms. Other times, he has been known to flail his arms without the baton or grabbing it with both hands effortfully, as though it weighed 50 pounds. Still, he gets quality work while being the ham!

The Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique is one of my favorite works to collect in duplicate recordings and, it being a special favorite, I own at least 40. Rozhdestvensky’s LP is good but not great. My absolute favorite is the 1975 recording of Herbert von Karajan with the Berlin Philharmonic has been available through Amazon and its vendors as a CD for years and, more often than not, inexpensive. The third movement, Scene in the Fields, has rarely sounded more serene or sublime while the fifth movement’s Dream of a Witch’s Sabbath is most colorful and ominous.

REVIEWS: Musician: Aladdin; Music Maker: Artur Rubinstein; Recording Artists: Jim Ed Brown & Helen Cornelius


by  Peter Cates

Words of Inspiration

by Aladdin
Dot DLP 3570, mono LP, recorded early ‘60s.


Aladdin Ahmed Abdullah Anthony Pallante (1912-1970) was best known as a regular on the Law­rence Welk Show from 1953 to 1967 and a talented violinist, comic foil for novelty songs and skits and reciter of inspirational verse. This LP features him in some of his most popular recitations – Why Do I Love You?, Deck of Cards, A Cowboy’s Prayer, Windows of Gold and Touch of the Master’s Hand. Each one is accompanied by some of the most beautiful music performed exquisitely by Welk’s instrumentalists.

Five used copies of the LP are available from three different Amazon vendors, ranging from $5 to $20.

Aladdin suffered a heart attack in 1967, resigned from the show and died in 1970 at 57.

Artur Robinstein

Complete Polonaise and 4 Impromptus
Artur Rubinstein, pianist; RCA Victor LM-7037, two mono LPs, recorded 1965.

Artur Rubinstein

Artur Rubinstein (1887-1982) was a great player, not only of Chopin, but also Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, etc., and my shelves bear witness with 78s, 45s, LPs and CDs. His happy go-lucky personality and sociability at more parties than one could shake a stick at belied his purposeful discipline and very high standards.

However, he admitted in his memoirs that, before he turned 42, he caroused most of his days away until he had a very serious inkling that his talent was being squandered. Fortunately, he regrouped and became the much-loved music maker for the remaining 50 years of his life.

The performances are, of course, top-notch, and these pieces, with their infinite range of mood, will repay concentrated listening. A must set for Chopin fans!

Jim Ed Brown and Helen Cornelius

I’ll Never Be Free
RCA Victor APL1-2781, stereo LP, recorded 1978.

In recent years, I have become a fan of the late country singer Jim Ed Brown (1934-2015) and own a batch of recordings covering three major phases of his career and focus-first, with sisters Maxine and Connie as The Browns from the early ‘50s until 1967; then on his own from ’67 until ’75; and finally part of a duo with Helen Cornelius from ’75 until she ended the partnership in ’81.

Jim Ed Brown

At first, Brown was skittish about pairing up with anyone, but RCA A&R man Bob Ferguson prevailed with his idea that Brown and the then unknown Helen Cornelius (1941-) might be a good fit. He proved right; the two blended exquisitely and this album is one lovely disk. The ten selections are new to me but not one of them is a dud.
My absolute favorite, one I have played over and over again, is Lay Down the Burden of Your Heart. It never fails to provoke goosebumps!

Helen Cornelius

On June 4, 2015, country legend Bill Anderson presented Brown with the medallion for inclusion in the Country Music Hall of Fame, in the presence of family and friends, at his hospital bedside as he was dying from cancer; then everyone sang Will the Circle Be Unbroken? Brown passed away on June 11, at 81.

REVIEW POTPOURRI: Baritone: Emilio de Gogorza; Author: Edward Garnett

Peter Catesby  Peter Cates

Emilio de Gogorza

The Holy City
Victor- 74041, one-sided, 12-inch 78, recorded 1906.

Emilio de Gogorza

The baritone Emilio de Gogorza (1872-1949) recorded more discs for Victor than has been documented accurately. Despite this number and his success as a concert artist, he never appeared in any opera on stage due to terrible near-sightednss.

The Holy City has been recorded many umpteens of times since the cylinder days. My favorite records of this are the Richard Crooks 1935 Victor 78 and the 1950 Decca ep 45 but Gigorza performed it with intelligence, sensitivitivity and a very polished voice- qualities that have been consistently noted by his fans.

He was married for 25 years to the famed soprano Emma Eames (1865-1952), who grew up in Bath and whose house is still standing!

Letters from Joseph Conrad

Edward Garnett, ed.; The Bobbs-Merrill-Company, 1928, 302 pages.

Joseph Conrad (1857-1924) did not master English fluently until his 20s. Later the Polish-born merchant marine seaman would leave his oceanic livelihood to devote his energy full time to becoming one of a tiny handful of the greatest 20th century writers and a vibrant, multi-faceted individual to those fortunate enough to have met him.

Edward Garnett

I have read and deeply enjoyed Heart of Darkness (the basis for the late ‘70s film classic Apocalypse Now), Lord Jim, the short story “Typhoon”, “Under Western Skies”, and, a huge favorite of mine, “Victory”. Searchers for truth abound in his stories with their exotic and frequently hostile locales in the darker corners of Europe, Czarist Russia, and Africa, and on board the ships travelling the dangerously wide open seas.

This book of correspondence has an insightful introduction and notes by Conrad’s longtime younger friend and editor, Edward Garnett (1868-1937), who was most helpful in motivating the often insecure writer to keep working during their mutually edifying friendship- starting in 1895, just when Conrad began his writing career, to 1924, when the author suffered a fatal heart attack. However, only Conrad’s letters to Garnett make up the bulk of this fascinating volume.

I offer select comments from Conrad to provide a sense of his larger than life personality:

His ability to put pain in its rightful place with an unexpected twist while carrying on about petty matters- “Why am I fooling thusly while there is a pain in my back to which a jab with a carving-knife would be a soothing application?”

His impatience with people – “Don’t you know my dear Edward how stupid people are! They take delight in merest twaddle, they look out for and welcome the obvious. And they understand hardly anything which is not either one or the other.”

His praise of Garnett’s uncanny ability at helping him write his best work – “You are a dear good old critic – you are! You’ve a way of saying things that would make an old sign-post take to writing. You put soul and spunk into me – you, so to speak, bamboozle me into going on – and going on and going on. You can detect the shape of a mangled idea and the shadow of an intention in the worst of one’s work – and you make the best of it. You would almost persuade me that I exist. Almost!”

Reading him at first can be difficult but patience, as I know from my own experience, yields rewards of great worth. I recommend Heart of Darkness for the beginner.

REVIEW POTPOURRI, Week of April 27, 2017

Peter Catesby  Peter Cates

Whether in an urban or rural area, very devoted, if not compulsive, record collectors patrol the Goodwills and other such venues looking for that particular record, whether rare or not, that strikes their fancy and often buy just a few more that just happen to have been put out that day. This week, I am doing little summaries of 78s that might tweak some interest, whenever and wherever they might be found:

  1. John Charles Thomas – Smiling Eyes; Roses of Picardy, Brunswick 10274, recorded 1924.
    The genial John Charles Thomas (1895-1961) sang with much gusto and sincerity, whether opera or, as on this disk, favorite songs of the day; his records were consistently enjoyable, this one a really choice example. He appeared a few times on Groucho Marx’s TV show, You Bet Your Life, which can be viewed on YouTube.
  2. Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers – Blue Shadows on the Trail; Pecos Bill, RCA Victor 20-2780, recorded December 1, 1947.
    The Sons of the Pioneers blended nicely with their former King of the Cowboys (1911-1998) colleague in these two songs from Walt Disney’s 1947 animated feature, Melody of Love.
  3. Eddy Howard – Someone Like You; When the Angelus Is Ringing, Mercury 5254, recorded 5/49.
    A few years ago, I was going to tell my brother, who is a blues fan, with such favorites as B.B. King, Albert King and John Lee Hooker, about my favorite white blues singer, when he interrupted me with “Eddy Howard!” And, yes, I was dumb-founded. But this singer/bandleader (1914-1963) had a gift for turning the above pop novelties into delectable vocal miniatures, unlike any other of his generation, but was tragically taken from us at the horribly young age of 49.
  4. Les Brown – Robin Hood; Sleigh Ride in July, Columbia 36763, recorded 11/18/44.
    Whatever Les Brown (1912-2001) may have lacked in imagination or taste, he made up for with solid musical leadership. Robin Hood is a funny swing number with lyrics by Louis Prima while Sleigh Ride in July, a classy Burke/Van Heusen ballad, has some very lovely woodwind/brass sonorities.
  5. Julia Lee – A Porter’s Love Song; Since I’ve Been With You, Capitol 40008, recorded 8/9/46.
    A blues singer/pianist from 1927, when she made her first 78, Julia Lee (1902-1958) recorded 78s for the then trail-blazing Capitol Records from 1944 until her hits dried up in 1949. For the rest of her life, she was popular locally in Kansas City until her death from a heart attack. These two songs are feisty crowd pleasers, while her backup, labelled as her Boy Friends, includes Benny Carter, Nappy LaMarre, Vic Dickensen, Red Norvo, Red Nichols, etc.
  6. Perry Como – If You Were My Girl; I Cross My Fingers, RCA Victor 20-3846, recorded 1950.
    I have already proclaimed Perry Como (1912-2001) as one of my top five or six favorite male singers. I agree with a local church choir director who felt that Como had a set of pipes during his prime that were unsurpassed in her experience for the sweet, sincere beauty of sound, phrasing, projection and charisma, which I amen whole-heartedly. Unfortunately the two songs were clunkers – they went in and out my ears with no effect, emotional or otherwise. And Como’s long term conductor and arranger, Mitchell Ayres, despite his best efforts, could do nothing to breathe any life into them !!
  7. Chuck Foster – Dardanella; Who Put that Dream in Your Eyes, Mercury 5125, recorded 12/47.

Dance bandleader Chuck Foster (1912-2001) experienced several peak years of popularity when his very well-liked group was constantly in demand, mainly during the World War II years through to the early ‘50s, and it recorded a few sides for Mercury from the mid- to late ‘40s.

Meanwhile, singer Tommy Ryan (1921-2007), who had spent most of the war years as one of Sammy Kaye’s leading vocalists, would join Foster and his ensemble at least for the above two sides. The results were pleasant without being particularly moving.
Ryan pretty much ended his showbiz career in the mid-’50s, during which he began pursuing other careers and hobbies with abundant success. However, he remained the entertainer to his family, friends and some fortunate customers and, according to his son, had a beautiful voice up to his eighties, singing at Bar Mitzvahs and other similar social events.

Foster continued leading dance bands until the early ‘80s but his recording career would end after the release of one LP in 1959 for the Phillips International label.

REVIEWS: Conductor: Walter Susskind; Orchestra: Melachrino Strings; Film: Charley Varrick


by  Peter Cates

Handel’s Messiah

Walter Susskind conducting the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus; Musical Heritage Society MHS 582/ 583/ 584, three LP set, recorded September 22-24,1958.

Walter Susskind

Being in the Easter spirit, I offer comments on this Messiah set since the music is appropriate to both Christmas and this week’s observances. Con­duc­tor Walter Susskind (1913-1980) delivered a performance of superb quality with a crackerjack quartet of singers – my special favorite being the late contralto Helen Watts (1927-2009), whose rendition of He Shall Feed His Flock gives me the thickest goosebumps every time I hear it. Harpsichordist George Malcolm (1917-1997) did beyond superb playing with the orchestra and revealed especially exquisite details in certain sections such as the Pastoral Symphony.

My first Messiah record was a 99-cent highlights disk from this same performance. A CD edition of this recording is priced starting at 2 or 3 bucks by various Amazon vendors.

Melachrino Strings

April in Paris
RCA Victor LSP-2739, recorded 1963, stereo dynagroove LP.

The Melachrino Strings were the creation of English-born George Melachrino (1909-1965), an all-around musician skilled at playing violin, viola, clarinet, oboe, etc., and composer of movie soundtracks. This orchestra landed a contract with RCA Victor in the very early fifties, sold easy listening records by the millions and were the biggest rival to Mantovani. The albums had such titles as Music for Relaxing, To Sleep By, For Dining and To Study By; and ones devoted to the songs of Rodgers and Hammerstein, Irving Berlin, and, one special favorite, Jerome Kern. To me, their arrangements were tasteful, very pleasant and, as a rule, less sugary than those of Mantovani.

April in Paris also has a group of three accordionists, the Trio de Musette, which provides charming instrumental contrasts to the larger orchestra within each selection. The program consists of French-styled pop classics such as C’est Si Bon, I Love Paris, the Bobby Darin hit Beyond the Sea, Song from Moulin Rouge, Autumn Leaves, the title song, etc. The LP shows up often on Amazon sites and in various thrift stores along with other Melachrino titles.

Charley Varrick

starring Walter Matthau, Andy Robinson, Joe Don Baker, John Vernon, Sheree North, etc.; 1972.

Walter Matthau

A mostly forgotten film of possible interest.

With respect to bank heist flicks, this movie remains one of the best ones I have ever seen. Matthau plays the title character who is thrown unwittingly into one nasty situation after he and his friends pull off the typically every day bank robbery. Their proceeds are not the common ten or, if lucky, $20,000 for their well-planned hard day’s work but a roaring six digits when

Sheree North

the gang coerces the employees into handing over certain cloth bags seen behind the counter. They have obviously hit a money laundering outfit. And become the target of some individuals, portrayed with captivating aura by Joe Don Baker and John Vernon, who pursue them with scorched earth determination. Quite fun and delightfully unpredictable at moments!

Joe Don Baker

Film Review: Human Desire; Composer: Bizet; Singer: Nelson Eddy


by  Peter Cates

Human Desire

starring Glen Ford, Gloria Grahame, Broderick Crawford, etc.; directed by Fritz Lang; Columbia Pictures, 1954, 91 minutes.

Human Desire was directed by the German-born Fritz Lang (1890-1976), whose fame in his homeland with a few classics, examples – M and Metro­polis, preceded his highly successful career in the U.S.

Gloria Grahame

This gritty, gripping thriller deals with a romantic triangle that becomes as ugly and deadly as one can get. Broderick Crawford (1911-1986) plays, with formidable authority, a railroad yard supervisor, Carl, who has lost his job. However, his very young, pretty and spoiled wife, Vicki, portrayed with vampish swagger by Gloria Graham (1923-1981), used to be the boss’s secretary and thus is asked by Carl to intervene on his behalf. Carl gets his job back but Vicki sleeps with the boss to seal the deal.

Carl, of course, loses it and kills the man, forcing Vicki to help; unfortunately, a fellow employee, Jeff, (who is rendered with professional presence by Glen Ford, 1916-2006) stumbles into the situation, impulsively becomes attracted to Vicki and exacerbates the perilous nature of this chain of events for everyone.

The footage of early ‘50s trains adds much to the suspense of the film, a tribute to Lang’s imaginative cinematography.

Columbia Pictures was run by, arguably, the nastiest, meanest studio boss, Harry Cohn (1891-1958), in a business where such individuals frequently thrive. When he died, crowds attended his funeral – a possibly apt confirmation of Cohn’s own observation that when one gives the public what it wants, it will turn up.


Symphony in C
Roland Douatte conducting the Radio Symphony Orchestra of Luxemborg; Musidisc 30 RC 628, 12-inch disc, release unknown.


I know little of conductor Douatte but do own an LP of him performing Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, it being a very fine performance of a work with at least 100 recordings available.

That philosopher of darkness, Friedrich Nietzsche, called Bizet’s music, especially the opera Carmen, “a return to nature, health, gaiety and youth.” Bizet supposedly had his black moods, but his symphony, which lay unheard until 1935, 60 years after this composer’s death in 1875, is a joyful, positive piece, one very listenable.

This recording is both hard to find and out of print but many other good ones exist and are available for ordering in most music venues.

Nelson Eddy

By Request
with Robert Armbruster conducting; Columbia 2037, ten-inch vinyl LP, released, 1949.

Nelson Eddy

Nelson Eddy (1901-1967) started out as a news reporter in Philadelphia before his love of singing led to training and work on stage and radio and in the movies, all of which led to huge success.

The LP contains his sincere effusive singing, best listened to one track at a time, applied to various old favorites like Danny Boy, Without a Song, I Love You and Because.

REVIEW POTPOURRI: Composer: Dvorak; Film: Cry, Danger


Peter Catesby  Peter Cates


Symphonies 4, 5, and 6; Overtures
In Nature’s Realm, My Country and Carnival; Istvan Kertasz conducting the London Symphony Orchestra; Vox Box SVBX 5138, three 12-inch LPs, recorded 1967.

Back in my early classical record collecting days during the ’63-’64 years, a peak listening experience was the 9th Symphony, better known as “From the New World;” followed within three years, as I could afford the records on my dollar a week budget, by the uniquely sweet goose-bumpish beauties of Symphonies 8, 7, and 6 and the Cello Concerto. My records of these were pretty torn up, mainly from the tone arm of my 32 dollar RCA Victor manually operated three- speed player. But, even with such crude reproduction, this music stood the test of time and still does with much better home reproduction and a variety of different recordings of each piece.

The above set features Symphonies 4, 5, and 6, via recordings leased from the Decca/London label of the late, exceptionally gifted conductor, Istvan Kertesz (1929-1973), one Maestro from whom I have not heard a single record that was never less than very good. During the spring of 1973, he was appointed music director of both the Cologne, Germany, Orchestra and Opera, the kind of challenge that Kertesz relished and, in the opinion of many, would have made a very good fit. Unfortunately, within two or three weeks while on a much-needed vacation to Israel with his wife and two children, he was caught by an undertow while swimming in the Red Sea.

The three symphonies and companion overtures are, in typical Dvorak style, a feast of dramatic excitement and charming melody, and performed in a superb manner. A highly recommended trio of LPs !

Cry, Danger

starring Dick Powell, Rhonda Fleming, Regis Toomey, William Conrad, etc.; directed by Robert Parrish; RKO Radio Films, released February 3, 1951, 79 minutes.

Dick Powell

Dick Powell (1904-1963) portrays, with commendable presence, Rocky Mulloy, a man freshly released from prison after serving five years of a life term for a robbery and murder he didn’t commit and then exonerated by a man who comes forward suddenly with a much-needed alibi for Mulloy’s whereabouts the day of the crime. The justly popular, alluring siren of fifties melodrama, Rhonda Fleming (1923-), is Nancy Morgan, Mulloy’s ex-girlfriend and now wife of his good friend Danny, who is still imprisoned unjustly for the same crime. Regis Toomey (1898-1991) weighs in as Lt. Gus Cobb, an investigator who’s still convinced Mulloy is not only guilty but knows where the unrecovered loot is; but he is also fair with people under investigation and keeps an open mind, just the type of role Toomey did so well in The Big Sleep with Humphrey Bogart.

Finally, William Conrad (1920-1994), best known as a radio actor, a narrator, a director of numerous episodes for various TV shows and star of the ‘70s hit series, Cannon, is Louis Castro – a bookie, another suspect for Mulloy’s crimes yet untouchable, and a leader of his own formidable gang, a character he deploys with commendable professionalism.

Rhonda Fleming

The story has its share of false leads, double crosses and violence but the events contribute to a pretty decent climax as Mulloy’s life is finally relieved of one bad monkey on his back. And 1951 Los Angeles is revealed in all of its pulsating ambiance – the train station and tunnel; the sleazy and semi-sleazy bars; a quaint yet sinister trailer park with year-round balmy weather; the majestic thoroughfares glutted with now-vintage automobiles, trucks and city buses; and the old hotel/apartment buildings with tobacco shops and newsstands. One solid 79 minute piece of newly-remastered black and white entertainment in its DVD incarnation.