REVIEW POTPOURRI: Film: Cover Up; Singer: Henry Allen; Composer: Rachmaninoff

Cover Up

starring Dennis O’Keefe, William Bendix, Barbara Britton, etc.; directed by Alfred E. Green; released by United Artists, 1949, 83 minutes.

William Bendix

As obvious from the title, Cover Up is from the film noir tradition of ‘40s and ‘50s black and white movies, imbued with suspense, evil, violence, etc. I have been wanting to see the film for over 15 years since reading about it in one of the Scheuer movie guides and trying unsuccessfully to order the videocassette, now out of print.

Dennis O’Keefe

Then I forgot about it during subsequent years until I spotted it on YouTube recently. It stars Dennis O’Keefe (1908-1968), William Bendix (1906-1964), and Barbara Britton (1919-1980), three stalwarts from this cinematic era with the most well known being Bendix.

An insurance investigator (O’Keefe) is investigating a suicide in a small midwestern town. Clues increasingly point towards murder, which would mean a huge double indemnity payout. However, what is even more disturbing is the lack of cooperation and hostility of the townspeople, including the sheriff, very powerfully portrayed by Bendix. There is also a most attractive single woman (Britton) who distracts the agent for reasons unrelated to the case until she, too, becomes a person of interest there.

Barbara Britton

The otherwise compelling plot is unfortunately marred by the tepid love story, but, all in all, is a good 83 minutes of entertainment.

Henry “Red” Allen

Ride, Red, Ride in Hi-Fi; RCA Victor EPA 2-1509, seven inch vinyl 45, recorded 1957.

Red Allen

Like Satchmo, Henry “Red” Allen (1908-1967) was born in New Orleans. He was praised by many as technically and musically Satch’s equal; some professional competition may have resulted, including a few tacky moments on the part of either of the two. They did work together and, more often, with the same sidemen.

The EP contains only two selections – Sweet Lorraine and Love Is Just Around the Corner — and features a few extraordinary sidemen — trombonist J.C. Higgin­botham, tenor saxist Coleman Hawkins, drummer Cozy Cole, pianist Marty Napoleon, and clarinettist Buster Bailey – delivering rambunctious, swinging renditions. Worth seeking out.

Red Allen died in 1967, at 59, of pancreatic cancer.

Rachmaninoff

Concerto No. 2; Tchaikovsky Concerto No. 1

Felicja Blumental, pianist; Michael Gielen conducting the Vienna Musikgesellschaft Orchestra- Allegro ACS 8020, cassette, 1980 reissue based on a 1959 release.

Rachmaninoff

The 2nd Piano Concerto of Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943) and the 1st Piano Concerto of Petr Ilyich Tchaikovsky are, arguably, the two most popular Piano Concertos of the last 150 years, each having generated enough recordings to fill a good-sized room – As I have stated in past columns, I love duplicates and own several of each, representing pianists of different styles.

Felicja Blumenthal (1908-1991), was a highly accomplished virtuoso with a spontaneous, sometimes splashly style of playing that suited both pieces, while Michael Gielen led his Vien­nese musicians in very enthusiastic orchestral accompaniments. For those beginning to know these Concertos, this cassette is a good starter and always cheap at most music outlets and thrift stores – it is also available in CD and priced similarly.

Recording artist: Duke Ellington; Composer: Johann S. Bach; Marching Band: The Band of His Majesty’s Irish Guards

Peter CatesREVIEW POTPOURRI

by  Peter Cates

Duke Ellington
                    Blue Light

Columbia CL 663, 12- inch vinyl mono LP, released 1955. From nine Brunswick 78 sides recorded between 1934-1939.

Duke Ellington

Duke Ellington

Blue Light gathers several lovely disks of the quieter jazz of which the Duke was a master. One number, Reminiscing in Tempo, not only stood out for several years after its composition and first recording in 1935 as having the longest performance time, but also as a moving commemoration of his mother who had died the same year.

The personnel during these years stood out for their musicianship, discipline, compatibility and relaxed teamwork. They included Cootie Williams, Juan Tizol, Barney Bigard, Johnny Hodges, Harry Carney, etc., and included a few who would stay for two or three decades.

The LP is available with another one, Ellington Uptown, on a single cd and can be ordered through Bull Moose and various Internet sources.

Bach
Two Concertos for Three Harpsichords and Harpsichord Concerto No. 8

Gustav Leonhardt, harpsichordist, and conducting the Leonhardt Consort; Das Alte Werk SAWT 9458, twelve inch vinyl lp, recorded October, 1963.

Johann Bach

Johann Bach

Along with sheer beauty, J.S. Bach’s Harpsichord Concertos are a source of melody, fascinating harmonies and very stately but alive rhythms. And this LP, with the late Gustav Leonhardt’s exceptional playing and conducting, is reasonably priced, in both vinyl and CD formats, and available through the Amazon vendors and local Bull Moose and Barnes and Noble outlets for special ordering.

The Band of His Majesty’s Irish Guards
On Parade

London LPB 16, 10- inch vinyl LP, recorded 1949.

As a rule, marching band concerts and recordings bore me, but this ancient LP may be an exception to the rule. Its players display an unusual flair for nuance while performing in a captivating manner.

There are a couple of Sousa marches; Fucik’s Entry of the Gladiators – better known in its heyday as the theme for Bozo the Clown; Colonel Bogey – a late ‘50s hit for Mitch Miller, the movie theme for Bridge Over the River Kwai, and a most well timed inclusion in the 1961 Disney edition of The Parent Trap; and other less well known musical chestnuts from the British Isles. For interested parties, it is worth the search!

The Band of His Majestry’s Irish Guards

The Band of His Majestry’s Irish Guards

Composers: Prokofiev & Bartok; Country singer: Lynn Anderson

Peter CatesREVIEW POTPOURRI

by  Peter Cates

Prokofiev and Bartok

                          3rd Piano Concertos
Boris Krajny, piano, with Jiri Belohlavek conducting the Czech Philharmonic; Stradivari- SCD-6068, CD, released 1989.

Bela Bartok

Bela Bartok

Boris Krajny (1945-) is a Czech-born pianist who has performed in this country a few times while still being better known in Eastern Europe; also his list of recordings is quite small and in­clude this long out of print and rarely seen gem from the late ‘80s, which – and I mean this in the truest sense of the word – miraculously appeared one day out of the blue at Waterville’s Bull Moose.

Sergei Prokofiev

Sergei Prokofiev

The 3rd Concertos of both Bela Bartok (1881-1945) and Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) are two very good introductions to 20th century piano music, along with the 2nd and 3rd Concertos of Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943) .

All four have a most engaging combination of melody, rhythm and deep, sincere emotion that give pleasure on the first hearing, especially with a great performance and very good recorded sound.

The great conductor, Jiri Belohlavek (1946-), and world class Czech Philharmonic rise to the challenge, giving very satisfying performances; Stradivari’s engineers deliver superb sound.

Unfortunately, since the CD is hard to find, I recommend the very reasonably priced classic DG recording of Geza Anda, with Ferenc Fricsay conducting for a two-CD package containing all three Bartok Concertos and a cheap Sony single CD presenting Gary Graffman and the arch- perfectionist, George Szell, in Prokofiev’s 1 and 3.

Lynn Anderson

Flower Of Love
Pickwick SPC-3267, 12-inch stereo vinyl LP, released during the 1970s as a re-issue of singles from the Chart record label.

Lynn Anderson

Lynn Anderson

Flower of Love brought together 10 of Lynn Anderson’s (1947-2015) singles from Chart records, for whom she recorded between 1966 and 1970 before her move to Columbia records. They include such hits as Joe South’s Games People Play, Merle Haggard’s Okie From Muskogee and Tammy Wynette’s Stand by Your Man, all of whom are sung with spirit and personality, the very traits which rightfully endeared her to many listeners during her more than 40 years of performing.

She was also the daughter of the very talented singer/songwriter, Liz Anderson (1927-2011), who had already been signed also to Chart records in 1965, one year before her daughter, with one of her songs being a megahit for Merle Haggard, namely All My Friends Are Gonna Be Strangers.

Unfortunately, daughter Lynn’s private life was a horror show of difficulties with alcohol and the legal system – blatantly cursing her children in court, DWIs, and punching an arresting cop; one can read more details in her wiki bio.

In 2015, Lynn Anderson died of complications brought on by pneumonia and a heart attack.

Film: Hangmen Also Die; Rock group: The Crystals

REVIEW POTPOURRI

Peter Catesby  Peter Cates

Hangmen Also Die

starring Brian Donlevy, Walter Brennan, Anna Lee, Gene Lockhart, etc.; directed by Fritz Lang; United Artists; 1943; 135 minutes.

Brian Donlevy

Brian Donlevy

Hangmen Also Die was produced to depict the June, 1942, assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, the Nazi Protector of Czecho­slo­vakia, a major architect of the Final Solution and, in general, a rather loathsome villain of the World War II years.

Walter Brennan

Walter Brennan

Due to the timing of its completion, the production team did not have available the full story of the actual assassins and the reprisals carried out against the village of Lidice; instead it tacked a fictitious hero for the main thrust of the story in that Brian Donlevy portrays a Czech doctor who is Heydrich’s assassin and working with an underground resistance of good citizens, most of whom will be betrayed, arrested and shot by the end of the film. Meanwhile, the doctor and a few good friends set up a treacherous Nazi informer in a spider web of intrigue.

Even though I watched the entire movie through Youtube with cheap headphones, I was riveted – by the ominous black and white sets, the stark cinematography, Hans Eisler’s atmospheric soundtrack and director Lang’s astute pacing and phenomenal ability to draw out one great ensemble performance from the actors/actresses, right down to the bit parts. Highly recommended film noir!

Gene Lockhart

Gene Lockhart

Anna Lee

Anna Lee

The Crystals

He’s Sure the Boy I Love; Walkin’ Along (La La La)
Philles Records 109; seven-inch vinyl 45 record; recorded 1962.

Even though this record was produced under Phil Spector’s supervision, the women are not the same group that was releasing hit 45s for him between 1960 and ’62. In one of his more devious moments, he hired Darlene Love and the Blossoms to replace the original group while using their name. Whatever the ethics of his switch, this is a very good example of the symphonic Wall of Sound he had been utilizing in recording sessions since the mid-’50s, quite often with unprecedented commercial and artistic success.

He’s Sure the Boy I Love is a charmer by the Barry Mann/Cynthia Weil team, who has written more top quality songs than one can possibly count; a couple of examples – We Gotta Get Out of this Place and Somewhere Out There. The inspiring combination of the ladies’ heartfelt singing and the roaring Wall arrangement are, of, course, top notch, while the more sparingly arranged instrumental has a guitar solo worth careful discerning listening.

The Crystals

The Crystals

Since 2009, the 77-year-old Spector has been serving an 18-year prison sentence for second degree murder and his health has been deteriorating since a 2015 hospital stay.

REVIEW POTPOURRI: Composer: Sir Edward Elgar; Singing group: The Mills Brothers; Pianist: Frank Froeba

Peter Catesby  Peter Cates

Elgar

String Quartet
played by Aeolian String Quartet; Violin Sonata, played by violinist Alan Loveday and pianist Leonard Cassini – Dover Publications HCR-ST-7011, 12-inch stereo vinyl LP, recorded early ‘60s.

Sir Edward Elgar

Sir Edward Elgar

Sir Edward Elgar (1857-1934) was perhaps best known as the composer of Land of Hope and Glory, a very much sung World War I anthem, itself based on the First Pomp and Circumstance March, whose tune is still heard at graduation ceremonies and band concerts.

Starting in 1917 when the composer was 60 and at the height of his powers, Elgar wrote three works for chamber forces, which he had never attempted before. Two of them are contained on this LP – the Violin Sonata and the String Quartet, both of them having a quiet thoughtful reserve of both dignity and yet an intimacy of feeling, along with a special beauty.

The performances are superlative. Finally, there are 14 copies of the vinyl LP still available from Amazon vendors, starting at $7, along with other more recent recordings on CD.

The Mills Brothers

Great Hits
Dot DLP 25157, stereo vinyl LP, released 1958.

The Mills Brothers

The Mills Brothers

The Mills Brothers, consisting of Dad and two sons, began performing in 1922 and recorded a slew of best selling hits for Decca during the 78 era, later re-recording them for Dot records from the ‘50s into the ‘60s with greater success, not to mention the superior stereo sound; this 1958 LP has some of their classics – Paper Doll, Up a Lazy River, Glow Worm, the sweetly poignant You Always Hurt the One You Love, etc., performed with that utterly unassuming style of theirs that was endearing while concealing the years of careful rehearsing and discipline.

About Glow Worm – its composer, Johnny Mercer, recorded it, but with minimal sales. Within five years, the Mills did their own record and made millions.

Frank Froeba

Jazz Piano and Orchestra
Royale 1826; 10-inch vinyl LP, released 1954.

Frank Froeba

Frank Froeba

The jazz pianist and bandleader, Frank Froeba (1907-1981), founded his own group in the 1930s, which employed the likes of Bobby Hackett and Bunny Berrigan, and waxed a number of 78s for the Decca and Columbia labels. This LP contains such familiar tunes as The One I Love Belongs to Somebody Else, A Lover’s Lullaby, My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean and Where Has My Little Dog Gone?, the first two selections are admittedly incompatible as to style and content with the last two; it also has the aptly titled Bee Boogie, which is a boogieish reworking of Rimsky-Korsakoff’s Flight of the Bumble Bee. The entire program is very professionally and enthusiastically performed and makes for very pleasant listening.

Royale was one of several very cheaply priced labels which proliferated from the late ‘40s into the ‘50s and drew its material from both legitimate and questionable sources, often engaging in flagrant bootlegging. However, my copy of the above LP is in wonderful condition and has good sound. Highly recommended for interested listeners and still available on Ebay at a reasonable price under $15.

REVIEW POTPOURRI: Composer: Hector Berlioz; Dance band: The Serenaders; Composer: Sigmund Romberg

Berlioz

Damnation of Faust
Daniel Barenboim conducting the Orchestre de Paris, Chorus, and Children’s Chorus with soloists Placido Domingo, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Yvonne Minton, etc.; Deutsche Grammophon 2709087, recorded 1978, three 12-inch vinyl stereo LPs.

Hector Berlioz

This magnificent, very colorful work of at least two hours is not an opera, because it is unstageable, instead being “in the wind;” nor an oratorio, because it was not inspired by the Bible, but rather a classic literary poem of the great German writer, Goethe. In the end, the term “Dramatic Symphony” became loosely attached to it for all intents and purposes.

This performance is splendidly sung and played and is well worth getting to know with its abundant melodic material, including the supremely riveting Hungarian March, itself the most famous piece in the score.

The Serenaders

The Serenaders

A Kiss in the Dark
Medley Waltz; The Waltz Is Made for Love-Medley Waltz: Victor 18972, ten-inch shellac 78, recorded October 18, 1922.

In looking around, I have been unable to glean anything about the Serenaders, a dance band that recorded several Victor acoustics before disbanding and disappearing forever. The arrangements are very pleasant and not quite as syrupy as other dance records of the era, while the instrumentalists are top notch.

As a rule, I think of Victor Herbert as a more interesting composer than Kalman and The Kiss… bears out Herbert’s gifts; the Waltz Is Made … is pretty but reveals Kalman as a second rate Johann Strauss, Jr.

Sigmund Romberg

Blossom Time
Al Goodman conducting his orchestra and chorus, with soloists Earl Wrightson, Donald Dame, the Mullen Sisters, etc.; RCA Victor WK 5; five blue vinyl seven-inch 45s; recorded mid to late ‘40s at the Lotus Club in New York City.

Sigmund Romberg

This operetta is based on melodies of the Austrian composer Franz Schubert and is one of the loveliest concoctions of singing tunes and sheer fun – Romberg (1888-1953), along with Rudolf Friml and Victor Herbert, formed the great trinity of the best composers in the profession in the U.S.

Al Goodman recorded a sizable batch of these presentations for Victor; I own most of them and treasure dearly, as they were very wonderful performances and make worthwhile listening for adventurous collectors!

REVIEW POTPOURRI: Conductor: Carlo Maria Giulini; Country Singer: Bobby Bare; Duets by Bing Crosby & Mary Martin

Peter Catesby  Peter Cates

Mahler Symphony No. 9

Carlo Maria Giulini conducting the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra; Weitblick- SSS0140-2, 2 CDs, from live concert of February 9, 1973.

Carlo Maria Giulini

I have already commented at length on the late great conductor Carlo Maria Giulini in this column. He displayed a very high level of power, beauty and clarity in most of the recordings that I have heard on my shelves and elsewhere, even with his sometimes overdone slow tempos.

This live broadcast of Mahler’s very accomplished and achingly beautiful 9th Symphony is very good without the annoying hyper intensity that often spoils other recordings.

The Weitblick label has also released a number of other live concerts by other great conductors of the past- names like Eugen Jochum, Georges Pretre, Sergiu Celibidache, Yevgeni Svetlanov, etc., every one of them synonymous with quality; these often reveal more excitement in the heat of the moment than the studio note – perfect records glutting online inventories and all too often selling at higher prices. Berkshire Record Outlet stocks a number of these and charges lower prices more frequently than Amazon and the other retailers in cyberspace. It has frequently been my main source because of its large stock of quality product and price.

Bobby Bare

Constant Sorrow

Bobby Bare

RCA Victor LPM-3395, mono edition, recorded 1965, 12-inch LP.

Now 81, country singer Bobby Bare has recorded almost 38 albums and giving superb performances of both his own and other people’s songs. Every record I own of him is a pleasure; this one is no exception and features his own Times Are Gettin’ Hard and I’m A Long Way from Home; Bob Dylan’s Blowin’ in the Wind, Willie Nelson’s One Day at a Time, and several others. Chet Atkins provided the usual A-plus production while Anita Kerr worked up several exquisite arrangements.

Bing Crosby & Mary Martin

Lily of Laguna; Wait Till the Sun Shines, Nellie; Decca 18278, 10-inch shellac 78, recorded March 13, 1942.

Bing Crosby

The truly great Bing Crosby (1903-1977) is paired here with Broadway star Mary Martin (1913-1990).

Although Bing recorded with a large number of musical celebrities during his 50 years of more than 4,000 sides, I never knew of this coupling, as his assured, relaxed singing style with nearly perfect phrasing and timing and Martin’s elegantly poised, polished, refined and aloof vocal craft would seem to me totally incompatible and one major reason why her stage successes with South Pacific and Sound of Music could never translate to the movie screen.

Mary Martin

They sang the above songs with their commendably professional best but left me cold ! However, other folks might respond differently

REVIEW POTPOURRI: Film: Nightcrawler; Singer: Big Joe Turner

Peter Catesby  Peter Cates

Nightcrawler

Jake Gyllenhaal

Jake Gyllenhaal

starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Bill Paxton, etc. Directed by Dan Gilroy, Open Road films, released 2014, 117 minutes.

The story line of Nightcrawler involves a night drifter/loner, Lucas Bloom, who stalks the mean streets of Los An­geles and stumbles onto a major source of income as a photographer of particularly gruesome accident scenes. As portrayed quite skillfully by Jake Gyl­lenhaal, Bloom exudes an unsettling, bleak, nihilistic lack of any moral compass; in another time, he would have been a perfect recruit for Hitler’s Einsatzgruppen.

Rene Russo

Rene Russo

This film draws much of its suspense from the unwavering foreboding of the Los Angeles night as distilled through the masterful cinematography, a quality that riveted my attention more than Bloom’s personality or the well-honed chain of events. And the solid acting of Rene Russo and Bill Paxton enhanced the film a lot.

Joe Turner

I’ve Been to Kansas City; Decca/MCA Records MCAD-42351, CD, consists of original Decca 78s recorded between 1940-41.

Big Joe Turner (1911-1985) was a roaring grizzly bear of a singer/ blues shouter who performed for the better part of 60 years and made many records. Born in Kansas City, his early years working as a bartender/ singer led to becoming known as the Singing Barman.

Big Joe Turner

Big Joe Turner

His musical colleagues on these sides include a Who’s Who of American jazz – Hot Lips Page, Don Byas, Pete Johnson, Willie “The Lion” Smith, Art Tatum, Edmund Hall, Billy Taylor, etc. All 13 sides are first rate, particularly Corrinne, Corrina and Piney Brown Blues.

The most truly successful song he may have composed is Shake, Rattle and Roll.