REVIEW POTPOURRI – Composer: Schumann; Movie: Boys’ Night Out; Band Leader: Ralph Flanagan

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Schumann

Symphonies and various works for piano and orchestra and solo piano

Robert Schumann

Heidrun Holtmann and Denes Varjon, pianists; Sir Neville Marriner conducting the Stuttgart Radio Orchestra; Stefan Soltesz conducting the Berlin Radio Symphony; Capriccio- LC 08748, 5 CDs, released 2006.

This very generously filled package of five CDs contains some of the most lovable classical music in the world by Robert Schumann, 1810-1856; very nicely performed and blessed with vibrant digital sound; and priced in a range very close to ten bucks.

I especially recommend the sweeping, swash-buckling 3rd Symphony, known as the Rhenish, for its grand depiction of the Rhine River or maybe the Kinderszenen, or Scenes of Childhood, with its fountains of melody. But I will state that every piece of music will reward attentive listeners. An unquestionable recommendation for beginning classical listeners !

Boys’ Night Out

starring James Garner, Howard Duff, Howard Morris, Tony Randall, Kim Novak, Patti Page, etc.; directed by Michael Gordon; MGM films, 1962, 115 minutes.

James Garner

Howard Duff

Four businessmen, three of them married, commute together on the Greenwich to New York City train every day. The husbands persuade the bachelor to find a cheap yet swanky apartment, complete with a gorgeous “housekeeper,” to entertain each of them on their respective nights out. Due to an inscrutable set of coincidences, the digs are found, along with a woman, Cathy, played with fetching allure by Kim Novak, who is doing graduate work on male sexuality and agrees to the deal, fully intending to, using her wiles, avoid the bed.

Kim Novak

Patti Page

One choice example of humor is when Cathy’s professor asks, “Can you look like yes but act like no? This is what a nice girl hasn’t learnt!” To which Cathy replies, “This is what a nice girl has learnt best!”

The comedy is superbly done, as the story builds up to a truly farcical conclusion. Garner as the bachelor and the rest of the cast give a true ensemble performance.

Ralph Flanagan

1001 Nighters
RCA Victor, LPM-1274, mono LP, recorded 1956.

Ralph Flanagan

Ralph Flanagan (1914-1995) began his career in 1935, just as the Big Band era was getting started, and worked for Sammy Kaye, Horace Heidt and Blue Barron; after World War II, he did arrangements for Perry Como, Tony Martin, etc.

However, it wasn’t until 1949 that he really hit the big time with the formation of his own band with its very danceable sound, quite similar to Glenn Miller. He discovered traveling on the road was the real cash cow, although record sales were a close second, and he loved every minute of it. The title of the album refers to the minimal number of evenings chalked up by these journeys over a six-year period.

The selections to be heard here include such oldies as Indiana, Stars Fell On Alabama, Moon Over Miami, etc., with a group of singers joining in for a few titles. Glenn Miller fans would especially enjoy this very pleasant record.

REVIEW POTPOURRI: Singer: Elvis Presley; Movie: Gangster Story; Composer: Brahms

Peter CatesREVIEW POTPOURRI

by Peter Cates

Elvis Presley

Loving You; Teddy Bear
RCA Victor 47-7000, seven-inch picture sleeve 45 rpm, recorded 1957.

Elvis Presley

Teddy Bear was a huge number one hit on the rock, country and rhythm and blues charts for the great Elvis (1935-1977). Both songs here were also part of the 1957 film, with the same name, and its soundtrack LP, consisting totally of Presley performances. Teddy Bear’s lyricist Bernie Lowe (1917-2001) was also a businessman who established Cameo records in 1956, which later expanded to Cameo/Parkway. He would sign an unknown singer, Ernest Evans, to the label, who himself later changed his name to Chubby Checker!

Both are superb songs, performed in a first rate manner.

Gangster Story

directed by and starring Walter Matthau and Carol Grace; 68 minutes; released December, 1959.

Walter Matthau

Carol Grace

Walter Matthau portrays a bank robber, Jack Martin, fleeing the police and needing cash. He then pulls a cleverly staged heist of a local bank in the town where he is hiding out, lays low at the library and becomes involved with a librarian, Carol Logan, played by his real life wife, Carol Grace; in fact, the couple married during the production of this film.

The main conflict is not only hiding from the cops but also from the local crime boss who wants a share of the loot.

I liked Matthau’s skilled acting, and directing, along with the shaping and development of the story. The obviously low budget cinematography brought out its own ‘50s small town ambiance – especially the beachside romance .

There are two delightful moments. When Jack is first scoping out the library, he asks Carol the rules. “No talking!” When sparks begin flying during their oceanside tryst, he asks again. “No talking!”

The DVD copy that I own was rather shabby but serviceable and part of an el cheapo three-movie package yet, despite these faults, the film was 68 minutes of captivating escapism.

Brahms

Symphony No. 2
Bruno Walter conducting the New York Philharmonic; Columbia, ML 5125, 12-inch mono LP, recorded December 28, 1953.

As I get older, I find it impossible to pick my favorite of the four Brahms Symphonies. They are all magnificent creations, each with a distinct quality that contributes to the number of times I listen to them again (not to mention the number of different recordings I own and to which I add).

Unlike the 1st Symphony which took ten years of effort before its 1876 premiere, the 2nd Symphony took final shape during a summer lakeside vacation a year later. The music is serene and comforting overall, although it too has its darker and more melancholy moments.

Bruno Walter (1876-1962) recorded it twice, the remake in stereo with members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and free lancers grouped together as the Columbia Symphony and released during the very early ‘60s. It was a poetic approach but lacking a bit too much in muscle and bite.

This week’s record is a different matter. Walter not only communicated the singing qualities throughout but brought to life the lights and shadows of the orchestration that was a major part of Brahms’s genius.He would also impose tempos that might seem too fast but worked in helping the music to sing even more beautifully.

And, despite the New York Philharmonic’s fearsome reputation for chewing up conductors they didn’t like with bad playing and snarky attitudes, they responded totally to Walter’s conducting with their best.

Recommended totally!

REVIEW POTPOURRI: Tahra Story

Last Tahra label

by Peter Cates

Tahra Story

Tah 768, one CD, released 2014.

Tahra was a historical CD label started in 1992 by Myriam Scherchen, daughter of the conductor, Hermann Scherchen (1891-1966), and her late husband, Rene Tremaine, journalist, producer and voracious record collector. They started the label as a means of releasing previously unavailable tapes, recordings that had been out of print for decades and some restored material that had wretched sound in their earlier release but now were much improved.

Hermann Abendroth

Although the catalog had several conductors, pianists and string players of significant interest throughout its availability, the couple’s initial focus would be three important conductors- Myriam’s father, Hermann Abendroth (1883-1956) and Wilhelm Furtwangler (1886-1954). I own a sizable pile of their releases and enjoy them thoroughly.

Unfortunately, the decision to end the label, due to several business considerations in 2014, was made and the above CD was its last release.

It was focussed one final time on the same three conductors – Scherchen, Abendroth and Furtwangler, each of whom was a brilliant interpreter of Beethoven. They were also very personalized and individualistic in their conducting styles and gave frequently exciting performances, of which there are five vibrant examples on this CD:
Scherchen conducted a short instrumental piece by the fascinating French baroque composer, Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764), Sixieme concert en sextuor , from a 1964 broadcast; and a powerful Schubert Unfinished Symphony, from a long, out-of-print 1960 LP.

Wilhelm Furtwangler

Abendroth was a most adept political survivor under two totalitarian regimes. When Hitler came to power in 1933, Abendroth was resistant to, and highly critical, of the regime; thus he lost one conducting post. By 1937, he had joined the Nazi Party and appointed music director of the Leipzig Gewand­haus.

After the war, he was again dismissed by the recently installed Communist government in East Germany yet within a few short years would be busy doing concerts and recordings mostly in Leipzig and Berlin. After his death, from a stroke he suffered during surgery, he was honored by the East German government with a state funeral.

On this CD, Abendroth conducts the opening Allegro moderato, from Bruckner’s 7th Symphony, in a majestic, truly stirring 1951 broadcast performance.

Hermann Scherchen

Furtwangler is generally the most well-known conductor of the three, even sparking more interest in his many live and studio recordings since his death more than 60 years ago. He had a unique talent for communicating the spiritual essence of whatever musical piece he was conducting, whether it was Mozart or Wagner, and his sizable catalog of CDs is more profitable than that of any other conductor, alive or dead!

He conducts the Beethoven 7th’s joyously jubilant first movement in a 1943 Berlin Philharmonic broadcast and the same composer’s 5th Symphony’s second movement in a 1954 Vienna Philharmonic concert, both renditions typically fascinating Furtwangler tracks.

REVIEW POTPOURRI – Movie: Dark Mountain; Composer: Beethoven

Peter CatesREVIEW POTPOURRI

by Peter Cates

How I started collecting records

My first experience of Mozart came with the beautiful set of his 40th Symphony, three Columbia 78s recorded in 1937, that were given to me in seventh grade – I remember to this day the captivating, rolling rhythms of the opening movement. The conductor, Sir Thomas Beecham (1879-1961), had a knack, at his best, for making music heavenly sounding and he had a greater number of recordings than any other conductor, during the ‘30s and ‘40s, that were first class in both performance and sound.

Beecham was also quite the wit. A colleague of his, who remembered the conductor dismissing the composer, Brahms, as boring during his youth, noticed years later that Beecham conducted Brahms very well and asked if the latter had changed his mind: “No, Brahms still bores me but he bores me less. ”

Dark Mountain

starring Robert Lowery, Ellen Drew, Regis Toomey, etc.; directed by William Berke; Paramount Pictures; 1944; 57 minutes.

Robert Lowery

Regis Toomey

Dark Mountain deals with a newly promoted forest ranger, Don, who patrols the Dark Mountain region in an unnamed western state. At his boss’s insistence, he takes a long overdue vacation to visit his girlfriend, Kay, with a marriage proposal. However, because Don has been away for months, Kay has married Steve, a very successful businessman and exceptionally considerate husband to Kay.

Don returns early to his job, discouraged; meanwhile Kay finds out hubby Steve is a murderous racketeer and escapes to the mountain to hide, with Don’s help. Steve tracks her and the suspense accelerates. A high speed chase in a car loaded with explosives leads to Steve’s fiery death and a happily ever after for the predictably reunited lovers.

Ellen Drew

Zdenek Kosler

Although the story was ho-hum, I enjoyed certain aspects of this B film – the black and white footage of a forest fire at the beginning, with its quite convincing authenticity; and the classy acting and presence of Robert Lowery (1913-1971) as Ranger Don and the skillful sustaining of charm and menace from longtime character actor, Regis Toomey (1898-1991), fresh from his work in the classic Bogie film, The Big Sleep.

Lowery was later a fixture of ‘50s TV. In fact, I have a still vivid childhood memory of him as a friend of Clark Kent in a 1956 episode of Superman, ‘The Deadly Rock’, in which he too has a dangerous vulnerability to Kryptonite.

Beethoven

Symphony No. 3, the Eroica; Zdenek Kosler conducting the Slovak Philharmonic; DM-2-1009.

Ludwig van B’s 3rd Symphony was such an assertive, heroic, rhythmically-aggressive 45 minutes of glorious, at times noble and sublime music, needing a larger orchestra than the Symphonies 1 and 2 and it has received a fine performance from the late Maestro Kosler and his musicians, one of a very large number of quality recordings, of which I own and cherish dozens of them. It often stimulates the best efforts of players because of its monumental grandeur. And this performance is very cheap when available.

A little quibble. There is no information on the music and, while Kosler’s name is listed in two of the three spots ID’ing the conductor, another gifted maestro, Libor Pesek, has his in the third space. Personally, I believe Kosler is the right name due to its frequency of listing and the driving intensity of the performance while Pesek has a more lyrical poetic approach when he conducts. But I will not be dogmatic here!

REVIEW POTPOURRI: Pop Artists

Peter CatesREVIEW POTPOURRI

by Peter Cates

How I started collecting records:

Gustav Mahler

My first encounter with the music of Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) occurred during the spring of 1963, when I was 11. That year RCA Victor had developed the Dynagroove recording process, initially releasing 10 LPs with both mono and stereo editions, and touting the enhancement as the greatest advance in sound since the electrical microphone in 1924 during the 78 days. I remember salivating over the record ad in the Portland Sunday Telegram advertising the black label pop and red label classical items, wanting all of them and worrying about whether I would like the music later. In those days, I considered any LP from RCA Victor and Columbia as a status symbol, just as I did the huge Magnavox cabinet with radio, phonograph, and color TV and the Thunderbird convertible. I was definitely a crass materialist in those days – money was everything!

Meanwhile, RCA released a $1 album, entitled The Sound of Tomorrow, which was heavily advertised on Sunday night’s Wonderful World of Disney, RCA being its sponsor, but also in Buick ads, as RCA forged a deal with the auto company for its dealerships to be the exclusive venue for purchasing the record. Naturally, one afternoon, Mom drove me to Waterville’s own Buick dealer, then owned by a family friend, Nick Saporita, and located on Silver Street, and I took my copy home to play on the $32 manually operated RCA Victor stereo player. The machine was given to me as a birthday present but I was given to understand that it was the family player. Such double-dealing was then common as part of family sharing.

Side one had the black label, thereby providing the following five pop artists:

  1. Peter Nero, a most agreeable pianist who would sneak in quotes from classical pieces as part of his usual pop program.

    Peter Nero

  2. Marty Gold, a very gifted pop arranger/ con­­ductor who worked for both Victor and Kapp records.

    Marty Gold

  3. Hugo and Luigi, a duo of producers and arrangers for the Roulette and Victor labels, specializing in records of very pleasant chorus and orchestral selections.
  4. Dick Schory, a soft jazz arranger.

    Dick Schory

  5. Sid Ramin, a jazz arranger/ conductor with imagination and taste who helped Leonard Bernstein with orchestration during the Broadway run of West Side Story.
    The second side red label featured the following five fine artists:
  6. Erich Leinsdorf conducting the Boston Symphony in the second movement of the Mahler 1st Symphony. Finally, this joyous Scherzo was my first hearing of the music of a composer who previously had just been a slightly intriguing name in a Columbia Record Club booklet. Leinsdorf at that time was beginning what would be seven years as Boston’s Music Director.

    Erich Leinsdorf

  7. Arthur Fiedler, Boston Pops. This orchestra would make many records featuring both pop and the classics while Fiedler had formidable talent, wide-ranging musical curiosity and taste and astute political and business skills.

    Arthur Fiedler

  8. Robert Shaw Chorale. Like Arthur Fiedler, Shaw was a very gifted orchestral conductor but his fame lay in the many records with his chorus and training choirs all over the world. His Christmas album from the late ‘40s, Joy to the World, is still available on CD and sounds great with its a capella singing.

    Robert Shaw

  9. Charles Munch with the Boston Symphony. Munch spent 13 very exciting years in Boston, made a lot of great records and retired in 1962, being replaced by Erich Leinsdorf.
  10. Leontyne Price was one of the finest sopranos who ever lived and possessed a voice with both power and beauty during her thankfully long prime, giving goosebumps to many, including myself.

My second Mahler record wouldn’t be added to my then very small collection for three years due to very limited cash and the distractions of other composers!

REVIEWS: Bandleader: Spike Jones; Composers: Telemann & Maurice Ravel

Peter CatesREVIEW POTPOURRI

by Peter Cates

How I Started Collecting Records, Part 7

As I slowly edged into liking classical music, via cartoons and storybook records, I remember Beethoven being the first composer to grab my attention, through two symphonies – the 5th and 6th, better known as the Pastoral. The great conductor, Bruno Walter (1876-1962), would be the first to give me the intensive exposure to both pieces. Mom owned a 78 set of Walter’s 1941 5th, a very satisfying performance full of conviction and spirit.

My Uncle Paul Cates owned an LP of the sublime Bruno Walter/Philadelphia 1946 Pastoral that he left at the family homestead along with a pile of other interesting disks while he lived in West Berlin for much of the ‘50s and ‘60s. I played that record many times while visiting Grammie Cates. My introductions to the beauties of the composer’s Emperor and Violin Concertos followed within the year.

Spike Jones

Spike Jones

Thank You, Music Lovers
RCA Victor, LPM-2224, recorded 1960.

A dozen of Jones’s wacky, weird 78s, featuring spoofs and putdowns of musical classics, such as Der Fuehrer’s Face, William Tell Overture , You Always Hurt the One You Love, My Old Flame, etc.; have been re-recorded in better sound and provide fun similar to Frank Zappa’s shenanigans from the ‘60s and ‘70s.

Telemann

George Telemann

Concertos for Oboe, 2 Flutes and Orchestra; Suite for Recorder and Orchestra
Kurt List and Zlatko Topolski conducting the Austrian Tonkuen­stler Orchestra; various soloists; Musical Heritage Society, MHS 743, recorded 1967.

George Philip Telemann (1681-1767) was quite the prolific composer, much of his music, whether sacred or secular, very pleasurable. This assortment of works are the most beguiling listening experiences I have encountered in a very long time, and receive top notch performances. During his lifetime, he achieved far greater popularity than his friend, Bach.

Maurice Ravel

Bolero, Rhapsodie Espagnole, La Valse and Scheherazade Overture
Jean Martinon conducting the Orchestre de Paris; Angel, S-37147, recorded 1975.

Maurice Ravel

Most every recording of Jean Martinon (1911-1976) that has come my way has given enduring pleasure, whether Beethoven or the Rus­sian, Sergei Prokofiev. His career as the conductor of the Chicago Symphony after succeeding the phenomenally brilliant Fritz Reiner was cut short mainly by hostile music critics.

However, he returned to Paris and recorded a series of LPs devoted to the complete works of Debussy and Ravel that were superbly balanced, tasteful and yet musically alive examples of really great conducting. And the above record was every bit as fine as the others I have heard.

REVIEWS – Musicians: Gene Krupa & Anita O’day; Album: Christmas with the Lennon Sisters

Peter CatesREVIEW POTPOURRI

by Peter Cates

How I Started Collecting Records, Part 6.

A chance encounter during the summer of 1962 led to a consuming fascination with classical music that still prevails today. I came into the living room late one warm August afternoon where I found Mom in conversation with a door-to-door salesman. Somehow the talk turned to books, which still didn’t grab my attention – my interest in collecting and intensive reading was sparked later in eighth grade, but then he commented on having some nice records as well. By 11, I was interested in records in general and enjoyed pawing through people’s collections, when given permission.

The gentleman was Leslie Davis; he invited me to his house that night, which is still located directly across the street from the East Vassalboro Grange Hall; he had recently moved there from North Carolina with his wife, Annette, who was a native of here and whose parents had owned and lived in the house several years earlier before they both passed away; and he then owned about 125 classical LPs, to my mind a humongous collection. We began a friendship of 20 years, ending with his death in 1982, at 66.

He opened my ears and heart to many beautiful symphonies and concertos, via his Motorola monaural console, but disliked opera because it contained, in his own words, “too much screeching.” I used to put his records in order very often and for free because I loved the covers, titles and labels- red seal Victors, Angels, Capitols, Columbia Masterworks, etc.

Even though I went away for periods of a few years, I always gravitated to the Davis home for spirited talk about books, records and other subjects, and a few shared meals. Annette died in 2005 and willed the records to Vassalboro Historical Society, who, in turn, made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. Thus the coming full circle!

Gene Krupa – How High the Moon; Tea for Two

with singer Anita O’Day; Columbia, 38345, ten-inch shellac 78, recorded 1945.

Gene Krupa

Drummer Gene Krupa (1909-1973) gave the instrument new depths of musical expression with his extended solo in Benny Goodman’s megahit Sing Sing Sing! during a big band era tenure with the clarinettist. By the early ‘40s, he had his own orchestra and hooked up with Anita O’Day (1919-2006), with whom he would record 44 sides.

Her rendition of Tea for Two is intelligently sung, nuanced but still swinging, a true classic which straddles the fence between big band and post-World War II bop. The purely instrumental How High the Moon is one pulsating beauty.

Anita O’Day

Although both Krupa and O’Day were musically very accomplished and popular with their fan base, they had their own individually private struggles with alcohol and drugs. Coincidentally on separate occasions, they were each arrested for marijuana possession and sentenced to 90 days in the lockup.

Christmas with the Lennon Sisters

Dot DLP 25343, 12-inch vinyl stereo LP, recorded 1961.

The Lennon Sisters were talented, whatever one’s individual opinion might be, and their performances of the 14 carols contained herein are consistent in quality with the girls’ records elsewhere. Although I am not their biggest fan, I do enjoy them in small doses, and find their singing here of Adestes Fideles beautifully arranged and nuanced, thanks to the conductor, Milt Rogers.

Unfortunately, I was only able to hear six songs complete, two abridged but missed out on the other six due to a large piece of the record missing.

REVIEWS: Record Album – Atlantic Rhythm and Blues 1947 – ‘74; Conductor – Ernst Schrader

Peter CatesREVIEW POTPOURRI

by Peter Cates

How I Started Collecting Records, Part 5.

I began receiving Golden Records as early as my fourth year, more often than not in the six-inch yellow record format. Many of the selections were from the Great American Kiddie Songbook – such captivators as Pony Boy, Pony Boy; Skip to My Lou; Get On Board Little Children; I‘m Getting Nothin’ for Christmas. There were tie-ins from TV shows – Maverick, Wyatt Earp, Leave It to Beaver. Finally Bing Crosby told stories and occasionally sang, always illustrated with hat, pipe in mouth and Golden book in hand.

My first encounter with Mitch Miller’s name occurred via these little discs. I would be caught up, at the age of 8, in the rousing Sing Along LPs when my Aunt Margaret played her copy of the Folk Songs album – I fell in love with the sounds of his male chorus and guitar/banjo rhythm section lifting my spirits with Listen to the Mockingbird, Aunt Rhody and Goodnight Irene, and, within three years, would own all of the Sing Alongs. Part 6 next week.

Atlantic Rhythm and Blues 1947-1974

Atlantic, A1 81620,
14 LPs, released 1985.

Before I encountered this admittedly very bulky set, I don’t believe I had ever seen a better one in all of my years of listening and collecting. It has assembled almost 70 singers and instrumentalists- Wilson Pickett, the Coasters, Aretha, Clyde McPhatter and the Drifters, Ben E. King, Otis Redding, La Vern Baker, Roberta Flack, Tiny Grimes, Brook Benton as well as lesser knowns, Eddie Floyd, Joe Morris, Don Covay, Tommy Ridgley, Chris Kenner, Doris Troy- oh well, the list goes on and on. And each is represented by one or more tracks, every one of them at the very least ranging from quite good to beyond superb.

The annotations, photos, art work and biographical details are wonderfully spread out on seven sets of 2 lps each and stored in a slipcase covered with the red and black Atlantic label trademark. I found my vinyl copy reasonably priced at a local outlet. But it could prove elusive and pricey, whether in used outlets or on the Internet. But interested listeners will find this true treasury of so much great music well worth the search!

Dvorak

Symphony No. 2
Ernst Schrader conducting the Berlin Philharmonic; Avon, AVS 13015, 12-inch LP, originated from late ‘40s German radio broadcast tape and Urania LP.

There is nothing else to be known about conductor Ernst Schrader other than he is, or more likely, considering the time frame of this recording, was a real person – a legit label has stamped his name on one or two releases nobody has stepped forward to stamp him as a pseudonym. And the Berlin Philharmonic is most definitely for real.

Although the mono radio sound of this record is adequate, the performance is spontaneous, and expressive, reserving all out drama until the last of the four movements.

Dvorak actually composed nine Symphonies but his first four were unnumbered until the 1960’s, when they became 1 through 4, the old 3 became 5, 1 then 6, 2 7, 4 8 and the New World 5 then 9. The re-numbered 7th was greeted enthusiastically at its London world premiere on April 22, 1885, with the composer conducting while his publisher paid him $1500, a huge sum in those days.

I own a batch of very good recordings and, elsewhere, have not heard a single dud. The ones on my shelves- Anguelov, Mata, Valek, Bernstein, two Giulinis, Kubelik, Leitner, Colin Davis, Sejna, Talich, Ancerl, Kertesz, Dorati, Monteux, Neumann, possibly a few others, in addition to the above Schrader.

REVIEWS: Singer: Pat Boone; Guitarist: Jim Hall; Book: Roosevelt and Hopkins

Peter CatesREVIEW POTPOURRI

by Peter Cates

How I Started Collecting Records, Part 4.

Pat Boone

Around 1957, I discovered the resounding voice of the then 23-year-old Pat Boone and the beginning of a spurt of hit 45 singles that sustained him until 1960. The first one that I heard from off the radio was the riveting Don’t Forbid Me (although I would not own a copy of this record for at least another 30 years).

During the next six years, I would assemble a batch of 45 singles and extended plays; and LPs, featuring both the top 40 moneymakers and selections that didn’t sell as well. Among the hits were There’s a Goldmine in the Sky; April Love, which is arguably one of his three finest; A Wonderful Time Up There; With the Wind and Rain in Your Hair; For My Good Fortune; I’m Walking the Floor Over You; Speedy Gonzalez; Dear John; etc.

There were also two LPs that perhaps weren’t mega sellers but, for me, are still worthy of the occasional spin – Star Dust, which is devoted to the classic Great American Songbook and has such standbys as Deep Purple; Ebb Tide; St. Louis Blues; Autumn Leaves, and the title song; and Hymns We Love, an album easily equal to the sacred music ones of George Beverly Shea and Tennessee Ernie Ford. Finally, Boone had the arrangements of the gifted Billy Vaughn.

The black label with the rainbow colored letters was also an attractive feature and a reason why I have gathered an array of 45s, LPs and one 78 by Dot artists from various rummage sales over the years, as well as specimens of the earlier maroon label. Part 5 next week!

Jim Hall

Concierto
CTI- ZK 65132, cd, recorded April 16 and 23, 1975.

Jim Hall

The very superb jazz guitarist, Jim Hall (1930-2013), brought together a who’s who of jazz talent to create one of a handful of truly beautiful, mellow and, most importantly, musically substantial albums to be heard anywhere. The standouts are trumpeter Chet Baker, who had almost a decade left of concerts and recordings before he self-destructed from his drug addictions at an Amsterdam hotel in 1988; alto saxist Paul Desmond, who died in 1977 from lung cancer but would especially be remembered for his over 15 years with the Dave Brubeck Quartet; and bassist Ron Carter, still alive and well at 80.

The gem in this program is the 20 minute Don Sebesky arrangement of Rodrigo’s already exquisite Guitar Concerto, one in which everyone in the group plays their heart out. Totally recommended and available for listening on youtube !!!

Roosevelt and Hopkins

An Intimate History
by Robert Sherwood; Harper and Brothers, 1948, 934 pages.

I am in the process of reading this magnum opus on Franklin Roosevelt’s closest personal advisor, Harry Hopkins (1890-1946 , who was pulled out of the New Deal bureaucracy to serve at the President’s beck and call for most of World War II. Whatever Hopkins lacked in any real background in the diplomatic or military spheres, which his boss supplied on a personal level, he made up in the intuition department- truly knowing when to speak and when not to, skills FDR prized above everything else. The President so valued Hopkins that he moved him and his family into a suite in the White House so as to have instant access.

The fascination of this relationship is written with storytelling prowess by Robert Sherwood, a playwright who served on Hopkins’s team and was a close friend. The inevitable panorama of five to six very tumultuous years in the White House, ones not matched since, are presented in a comprehensive manner. Many famous players such as Churchill, Stalin, and others; the endless intrigues; the horrific decisions and their context – are all served up in such a compulsively readable manner that may lead to at least a month of all-nighters!

REVIEWS: Composer: Johannes Brahm; Film: Hitch, starring Will Smith, Eva Mendes, Kevin James

Peter CatesREVIEW POTPOURRI

by Peter Cates

How I Started Collecting Records — Continued!

Along with the Burl Ives records, there were others given to me. Numerous titles from such labels as Golden Records, Peter Pan and Children’s Record Guild abounded. I remember a Johnny Ray Columbia 45 hit — Just Walkin’ in the Rain – that I heard a lot on the radio. One day Mom bought me a copy of it — my first example of owning a record I had already grown to like from listening to the radio but far from being the last one.

Although I didn’t add any more of Ray’s records until more than 40 years later, I continue to regard him as an intriguing singer with a very individualistic style of delivery. I would also recommend watching the Jack Benny skit on YouTube, in which the comedian visits the singer’s home, as one of the funniest ever produced! (To continue next week…)

Brahms

Piano Quintet
Leon Fleisher, piano, with the Juilliard String Quartet; Odyssey Y 35211, 12- inch stereo vinyl LP, recorded early ‘60s.

Johannes Brahm

This composition was originally scored and performed as a Quintet for five string players and a Sonata for two pianos but Brahms and his two closest friends, violinist Joseph Joachim and Clara Schumann, widow of the great composer, Robert Schumann, felt something was missing. It was then rescored for piano and four string players and became a success that continues to be performed to the present day, with a large number of fine recordings.

It has a kind of special beauty, rhythmic power and sense of tragedy that combine into a unique musical experience. The pianist Leon Fleisher and his Juilliard colleagues gave their all, making this recording one that will reward numerous hearings.

Hitch

starring Will Smith, Eva Mendes, Kevin James, Allegra Cole, etc.; directed by Andy Tennant; Columbia Pictures; 118 minutes; 2005.

Will Smith

Eva Mendes

This film deals with the activities of a matchmaker, Hitch (Will Smith); his would-be girlfriend, Sara (Mendes), who is also a gossip columnist; a paunchy, klutzy stockbroker, Albert (James) ; and Albert’s girlfriend of a lifetime, Allegra (Valletta), who is beautiful, filthy rich, and very down to earth, an unusual combination. The stars do magnificent work in a very funny film, my favorite being Eva Mendes, who, as Sara, does a wonderful scene of emotional vulnerability in opening up to Hitch about her childhood when she felt really hurt – the kind of honesty in acting that is so rarely seen at anytime in a film of today without the hysterics.

In other words, one superb film!