REVIEW POTPOURRI: Christmas Eve with Burl Ives & G.K Chesterton

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Christmas Eve with Burl Ives

Decca, DL 8391, mono LP, released 1957.

Burl Ives

One very endearing album of the many Burl Ives (1909-1995) left in his discography was this astutely balanced program of 11 Xmas titles, familiar and not so familiar. The six familiars – Silent Night, There Were Three Ships, Oh Little Town of Bethlehem, What Child is This?, It Came Upon the Midnight Clear and – what else!- The Twelve Days of Christmas – are the Yuletide cornerstones.

The other five rarely heard songs – Friendly Beasts, Jesous Ahatonia, Seven Joys of Mary, Down in Yon Forest and King Herod – have special qualities of their own, regardless of any rarely heard status.

In addition to himself on this mid-’50s session, Ives brought along colleagues that included guitarist Tony Mottola, singer/arranger Jimmy Carroll, and the other well-known, but never as famous Ray Charles with His Singers. And, the main reason for its desirability, the arrangements are vibrantly alive, not the cliched, boring once over lightlys that still often infest the seasonal music experiences.

An unattributed quote on the back of the cover summed up the man who was Burl Ives: “He’s a big guy and has a punch like a mule kicking. His smile fills a room and his laugh shakes the chandeliers. But he’s quiet, too, and he can listen. He listened to his mother and his father, who were both singers. He listened to people singing all over the country. And his song-bag is full. He can sing all night and never sing the same song twice. And every song is better than the last one.”

G.K Chesterton

G.K. Chesterton

One of the best qualities of G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936) was his gift at writing a few sentences and leaving readers, such as myself, wanting more. A quote from his 1922 essay, What I Saw in America: “Americans make fun of their own institutions; and their own journalism is full of such fanciful conjectures. The tall building is itself artistically akin to the tall story. The very word sky-scraper is an admirable example of an American lie.”

P.S.: Two unintended, but, for me, very intriguing coincidences between Chesterton and the above Burl Ives that I discovered while writing this column today, November 21, 2018.

Chesterton and Ives shared a very similar height and girth.

Ives was born on June 14, 1909; Chesterton died on June 14, 1936. Of course, neither here nor there!

REVIEW POTPOURRI – Composer: Tchaikovsky; Band: Depeche Mode

Peter Catesby Peter Cates


5th Symphony
Anton Nanut conducting the Ljublana Symphony Orchestra- Point Classics, 265023, CD, released 1994.

The catalog of recordings of this Symphony is teeming with very fine ones. This entry can be added to the honor roll. I have written previously in this column and elsewhere about the merits of Anton Nanut, who passed away after a long illness at the age of 84 on January 13, 2017.

Nanut’s approach is one of architectural balance; intelligence in pacing, phrasing and shaping; understated beauty; and brooding drama. I have listened to this three or four times in the last two weeks and found it wears very well with repeated hearings.

Pyotr Tchaikovsky

When I was 12 during the spring of 1964, a woman residing then down the street from my house gave me four very good 78 rpm sets of classical music. One was the justly famous 1944 RCA Victor album of Koussevitsky and the Boston Symphony of the 5th. She also called it the most beautiful Symphony she had ever heard in her life.

For those who might be curious about the other three sets, as I would be under similar circumstances, I will not stint their very appropriate interest:

The Victor early ‘40s Stokowski/NBC Symphony Stravinsky Firebird Suite and nicely orchestrated Tchaikovsky Humoreske as filler on side 6.

Another Victor, Bach’s Brandenburgs 2 and 5 from the mid to late ‘40s with Koussevitsky conducting BSO members.

The Columbia 1940s two records of Lily Pons singing four arias from Donizetti’s Daughter of the Regiment.

Depeche Mode

Speak and Spell
Mute records, C stumm-5, cassette, released October, 1981.

Depeche Mode is an English electronic band, with a variety of influences in their own music; they have been performing and recording for almost 40 years. Using synthesizers with expressive results, their music is quite listenable and captivating.

Their 1981 cassette, Speak and Spell,was, and still is a beautiful example of their work, with two hit singles, New Life and Just Can’t Get Enough.

Depeche Mode

Critical reactions to the album were mixed. Melody labeled it “a great album…one they had to make to conquer fresh audiences and to please the fans who just can’t get enough.” But Rolling Stone magazine considered it “PG-rated fluff.”

REVIEW POTPOURRI – Novelist: Jim Thompson

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Jim Thompson

Pop. 1280, 1964 crime novel, roughly 217 pages.

Jim Thompson

Vastly underrated during his lifetime, Jim Thompson (1906-1977) wrote over 30 novels mainly set in the “golden triangle” of Louisiana, Texas, and Oklahoma during the 1930s, ‘40s and ‘50s. Most of his characters were clueless misfits, self-serving blowhards and nihilistic villains.

Pop. 1280 features a sheriff of one small town in the 1950’s Deep South, being used as the first person narrator of the entire novel. He conveys his questionable integrity best himself via the story’s opening paragraph. “Well, sir, I should have been sitting pretty, just about as pretty as a man could sit. Here I was, the high sheriff of Potts County, and I was drawing almost two thousand dollars a year – not to mention what I could pick up on the side. On top of that, I had free living quarters on the second floor of the courthouse, just as nice a place as a man could ask for; and it even had a bathroom so that I didn’t have to bathe in a washtub or tramp outside to a privy, like most folks in town did. I guess you could say that Kingdom Come was really here as far as I was concerned. I had it made, and it looked like I could go on having it made – being high sheriff of Potts County – as long as I minded my own business and didn’t arrest no one unless I just couldn’t get out of it and they didn’t amount to nothin’.”

This excerpt is one example of how Thompson’s characters were extremely funny yet quite creepy.

An admirer, Stephen King wrote the following accolade:

“The guy was over the top. The guy was absolutely over the top. Big Jim didn’t know the meaning of the word stop. There are three brave lets inherent in the foregoing – he let himself see everything, he let himself write it down, then he let himself publish it.”

REVIEW POTPOURRI – Musician: Louis Armstrong; Composer: Berlioz

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Louis Armstrong

Early Satch
Philips 429739BE, 45 ep, extended play, Holland release. Originally 78s from 1927-1928.

Louis Armstrong

Four sides from the group known as the Louis Armstrong Hot Five are contained in this mid-’50s Dutch Philips reissue. All were recorded in Chicago; two done in May,1927 with the others in December, 1928. Several highest quality instrumentalists joined Satchmo and his second wife, pianist and singer Lil Armstrong (they duet back and forth in the classic That’s When I’ll Come Back to You).

Fatha Hines does piano turns in Chicago Breakdown and Basin Street Blues. Kid Ory’s trombone, Johnnie St. Cyr’s banjo, Don Redman’s alto sax and Baby Dodds’s and Zutty Singleton’s drums blend their unique sounds, adding to the cornet and trumpet notes that leader Armstrong mastered so thoroughly and beautifully. And the 4th track, Tight like This, is in a class of its own.


Harold in Italy
Violist Guenther Breitenbach with Rudolf Moralt conducting the Vienna Symphony Orchestra; Vox Pantheon 6700, mono LP, recorded 1950.

Hector Berlioz

Composer Hector Berlioz wrote this Symphony with viola obbligato for his friend, violin virtuoso and composer Niccolo Paganini. The violinist then rejected the music because it wasn’t flashy enough for him and his constant need to show off his technique. However the work has become a huge favorite since its 1834 premiere.

This oldish, antique performance and recording is very good for its time and one eloquent listening experience in its individual musicality. I bought it in 2002 for $2 at the now gone annex of the NYC Tower records at Fourth and Broadway and played it several times since then. The late Harold C. Schon­berg’s annotations are astute and engaging.


Tom Selleck

I have watched the first three episodes of this show’s 8th season on Netflix, where I enjoyed the previous seven seasons immensely. Tom Selleck, as the New York City police commissioner Frank Reagan, heads a superb cast of regulars who keep the story lines moving along.




REVIEW POTPOURRI – Composer: Bartok; Musician: Sidney Bechet; Comedians: Jonathan Winters & Dean Martin

Peter Catesby Peter Cates


Divertimento; 5 Chants for Children’s Chorus and Orchestra; 12 Miniatures for Orchestra
Vassil Kazandjiev conducting the Sofia Chamber Orchestra, with the Bodra Smyana Children’s Chorus directed by Liliana Bocheva singing the five chants – Balkanton/Harmonia Mundi HMB 103, stereo LP, released early 1980s.

Vassil Kazandjiev

Also a noted Bulgarian composer and now 84, Vassil Kazandjiev conducts these very fine performances and recording of three Bela Bartok compositions, the haunting, eloquent 1939 Divertimento for strings; the earlier Five Songs for Children’s Chorus and Orchestra and the Twelve Miniatures for Orchestra. All of these add up to a solid program of three works of the great Hungarian composer (1881-1945).

I have CDs of Kazandjiev conducting the Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique and Beatrice and Benedict Overture and the Brahms 1st Piano Concerto with Ivan Drenikov, soloist, all three very well-conducted.

The Best of Sidney Bechet

18 sides for Alfred Lion’s Blue Note label, 1939-1953.

Sidney Bechet

The brilliant clarinet and soprano saxophone player Sidney Bechet, 1897-1959, recorded such classic standards as Summer­time, St. Louis Blues, Muskrat Ramble, All of Me, etc., included on this Blue Note CD transfer reissue with guitarist Teddy Bunn, pianists Meade Lux Lewis and Art Hodes, drummer Sid Catlett and trumpeter Jonah Jones among the sidemen working with Bechet.

Jonathan Winters and Dean Martin

At the Bar: 12-minute comedy YouTube from the 1970s Dean Martin Show.

Dean Martin

Jonathan Winters

The late comedians, Dean Martin as the bartender of his own nightclub, and Jonathan Winters as four characters with different personalities and voices, one of them an 86-year-old lady. Dino works with a script while Winters is totally unpredictable, with nobody ever knowing what he is going to say and do. As the old lady, she comments on her figure as an “uprooted rubber plant.” In the sketch of the grieving relative driving 2,500 miles that day to attend the burial service of a step-cousin dropped in an open grave wearing only poker dot trunks, he laments the inconsiderate behavior of his only heir, a 15-pound tomcat receiving $4,000, as not even bothering to attend the funeral.

REVIEW POTPOURRI – Novelist: John MacDonald; Music: Mozart

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

John D. MacDonald

A Deadly Shade of Gold.
Fawcett paperback, 1965, 287 pages.

John D, MacDonald

Novelist John MacDonald (1916-1986) produced over 70 pulsating examples of the suspense genre. They included the classic thriller Cape Fear which was transformed into the 1962 film starring Robert Mitchum as the villain Max Cady and the 1991 remake with Robert DeNiro portraying the same psychotic fiend. Both actors outdid themselves in one of the most persuasive depictions of evil on the big screen, maybe at the same level as Lee Marvin, Clu Gulager and Ronald Reagan in 1961’s The Killers.

Deadly Shade is one of the 22 novels in MacDonald’s Travis McGee series; McGee is the riveting combination of beachcomber/salvage expert whose particular salvaging involves too many up close and personal encounters with the most dangerous people. Its plot centers on an old friend of McGee’s dropping in one day with a problem and very quickly later found cold-bloodedly murdered. The story is off and running in MacDonald’s unique manner, the only consistent annoyance being his insipid handling of love scenes. A very recommended reading experience!


Duo for solo violin and viola, K423; Sinfonia Concertante K364- David Oistrakh, violist and son Igor, violinist, with Kyril Kondrashin conducting the Moscow Philharmonic in K364, London stereo LP, CS 6377, recorded during the 1960s.

David Oistrakh

Igor Oistrakh

Two of Mozart’s beautiful compositions involving viola and violin are performed by father and son Oistrakh in a very fine collaboration with Kyril Kondrashin and the Moscow Philharm­onic with interesting liner notes by the late record producer Erik Smith. Also available on a CD.



REVIEW POTPOURRI – Music: Classical Journey; Film: The Loved One

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Classical Journey

Volume 4:France;
Laserlight 79 669, cassette, released 1991.


Some of the best of France’s shorter classical works are to be found here – Offenbach La Vie Parissienne, the always riveting Auber Fra Diavolo Overture, Herold Zampa Overture, Boieldieu The Lady in White Overture – quite engaging and new to me, Meyerbeer Coronation March, Delibes Coppelia excerpts, Massenet Meditation, Berlioz Dance of the Sylphs, Chabrier Joyeuse Marche, and the Saint-Saens Danse Macabre.

Conductors Pinchas Steinberg, Tamas Pal, Caspar Richter, Heinz Fricke, Andras Korodi, Adam Fischer, and Rouslan Raychev are not exactly household names, but they are very good. Orchestras are Berlin Radio Symphony, Hungarian State Orchestra, Cologne Radio, Budapest Symphony and Philharmonic Orchestras, and Plovdiv Philharmonic. The lineup of talent and repertoire are very well-matched and the cassette and cd should be very inexpensive. I like this a lot and will keep my copy!

James Coburn

The Loved One

Starring Jonathan Winters, Rod Steiger, James Coburn, Tab Hunter, Dana Andrews, Paul Williams, etc.

Jonathan Winters

Rod Steiger

The 1965 film, The Loved One, is a very funny satire on the funeral industry. Jonathan Winters plays a dual role as the Divinely Rev. Wilbur Glenworthy and his hapless endearing brother Harry; Rod Steiger as the mortician, Mr. Joyboy; and such seasoned stars as Milton Berle, Robert Morse, Robert Morley, Liberache as the casket salesman, Tab Hunter, James Coburn, Lionel Stander, Dana Andrews, Paul Williams etc., are in peak form. There is a five-minute sketch of Liberache’s salesmanship that conveys maximum humor in a minimum of time.

REVIEW POTPOURRI – TV: NCIS; Conductor: Andre Cluytens; Film: Dark Eyes; Music: Liszt

Peter Catesby Peter Cates


Current Netflix 15th season

Mark Harmon

This program featuring naval intelligence stories is one that keeps on giving. I am convinced some viewers watch it for the facial expressions of Mark Harmon alone. The balance of humor and suspense is another factor. The addition of Maria Bello as special agent Jack is a third factor. The series is one special in ways beyond description. Try the first five episodes of the 15th season. They are entertaining.

Andre Cluytens

The Complete Concerto and Orchestral Recordings
Erato. 65 CDs.

Andre Cluytens

The conductor Andre Cluytens (1905-1967) was one very gifted individual. I have been collecting his recordings for about 20 years. They are the gift that keeps on giving as far as I am concerned. Beethoven Concertos with Solomon and Oistrakh. Debussy, Ravel, Franck, Bizet, Gounod, Rimsky-Korsakov, Rossini, etc…

The best approach would be to sample the various YouTubes and decide if he is for you. There are videos as well.

Dark Eyes

Nikita Mikhalkov

Dark Eyes is the 1987 film of Nikita Mikhalkov. Francis Lai’s soundtrack is a mixture of Mozart, Strauss, Rossini, Lehar and Francis Lai himself, most famous as the composer of A Man and a Woman. It is a mix most suitable for pleasant ambiance at dinner parties and very listenable. The soundtrack is on the DRG label, a cassette with the catalog number SBLC 12592. The actor Marcello Mastroianni.


Piano Concerto No. 2; Sonata in B minor.

Franz Liszt

The Concerto has Walter Susskind conducting the Philhar­monia Orchestra and the Angel lp is from the ‘50s – Angel 35031. Again this Polish pianist, Witold Malcuzynski, knew how to make the kind of music making that wore well, much like the conductor Andre Cluytens. His Liszt recordings had the combination of musicality and virtuosity that elevated my fondness for this composer, the 2nd Concerto and Sonata being cases in point.

YouTube is a good place to sample these selections mentioned above.

REVIEW POTPOURRI – Singer: Laura Nyro; Director: Yannick Nezet-Seguin

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Laura Nyro

Laura Nyro

Smile, Columbia AL 33912 LP ,1975.

The late Laura Nyro was one very gifted singer, songwriter and pianist. A number of songs, Stoney End, Stoned Soul Picnic, Wedding Bell Blues, etc. have been covered by such artists as Barbra Streisand and the Fifth Dimension.

The 1975 Smile is a sterling example of the searing beauty and power of her on-going themes – life in the Bronx. Sexy Mama, Children of the Junks, Money, I am the Blues, Stormy Love, The Cat-song, Midnite Blues, and the title song mirror the drug addictions, needs to survive, and the moments of joy and love that preoccupy and sustain us. An album highly recommended.

Yannick Nezet-Seguin

Yannick Nezet-Seguin

The Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra Collection
Deutsche Grammophon 4835345, 6 CDs, live concerts 2008-2018.

Presently the music director of the Metropolitan Opera and other orchestras, Yannick Nezet-Seguin conducts the Rotterdam Philhar­monic in works by Beethoven, Shosta­kovich, Mahler, Tchaikov­sky, Bruckner etc. The performances are good, especially the Bruckner 8th Symphony, and would fit the needs of anyone wanting a set of choice basic repertoire.

REVIEW POTPOURRI: Yellow Rolls Royce/Umbrellas of Cherbourg Excerpts

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Yellow Rolls Royce/Umbrellas of Cherbourg Excerpts

Cinema Sound Stage Orchestra, Somerset records, LP, 1965.

Rare photo of D. L. Miller

The 1964 films, Yellow Rolls Royce/Umbrellas of Cherbourg generated original musical sound tracks. The above release had no connection with the originals. The Cinema players were hired by D.L.Miller, a fascinating businessman worthy of a biography while the group consisted of Hamburg Philharmonic musicians.

The Ray Charles Singers

Miller created Somerset because of the huge demand and success of of other labels’ low priced LPs. He then scouted for talent among a variety of superb musicians – conductors Sir Adrian Boult, Horst Stein, Hugo Rignold, singing group the Ray Charles Singers etc. His arguably most well known 101 Strings, recorded a pile of albums that sold millions and are still popular.

Riz Ortolani

Film composers Riz Ortolani (1926-2014, Yellow Rolls Royce) and Michel Legrand (1932, Umbrellas) have left sizable legacies. Their music on this record is imbued with charm and carefree gaiety. Interestingly, Ortolani plagiarized a passage from Alexander Borodin’s Polovtsian Dances for one of the Yellow RR tunes. While I generally like Le­grand’s music better for its consistently beautiful qualities, I was eager to hear Ortolani’s excerpts because of my previous lack of any familiarity with him. What I heard was okay but with a few bland moments.

Michel Legrand

All in all though, the record can be heartily recommended to film music connoisseurs and any other interested collectors.

It has been out of print for many years yet copies are listed for sale on Amazon.