REVIEW POTPOURRI: Singer: Dottie West; Composer: Sir William Walton; Author: Charles Dickens

Peter Cates

by  Peter Cates


Dottie West
A Legend in My Time; RCA Camden CAS-2454; 12-inch stereo vinyl LP; released 1971 and consisting of nine selections from 2 previous LPs from 1965 and 1967.

Dottie West

Dottie West

Dottie West (1932-1991) recorded upwards of 28 albums for RCA alone between 1965 and 1975, many with the Jordannaires and the arrangements of Chet Atkins. She had a particular gift for cutting to the agony and ecstasy of a given song, especially when it was the high caliber writing of Don Gibson, Dallas Frazier, Willie Nelson, Mickey Newbury, etc., examples of which are featured here. As stated above, a sampler album but a very enjoyable one.

Copies available from the Amazon site starting at five dollars for the lp and eight for a cd reissue containing both this and her 1965 Sound of Country Music.

Belshazzar’s Feast; Coronation Te Deum; Sir Georg Solti conducting the London Philharmonic Choir and Orchestra; Benjamin Luxon, baritone; Ralph Downes, organ; London OS26525, 12-inch vinyl stereo LP, recorded March, 1977.

Sir William Walton (1902-1983) was one of England’s foremost 20th century composers and first achieved fame with Belshaz zar’s Feast at the very young age of 29 in 1931. This oratorio, a term describing a work for choir and orchestra with a Bib­lical subject as its theme, is probably the most scorching, high-spirited and, in its quieter moments, atmospheric, if not creepy example of the genre, light years different from Handel’s Messiah.

Sir Walter Walton

Sir Walter Walton

The subject draws on the years in Babylonian captivity of the Jews, the evil of Belshazzar the king and the depraved feast that he holds for his court, climaxing in God’s destruction of everyone – there is a passage depicting the hand from out of nowhere scrawling the miraculous writing on the wall – “Mene mene tekel upharsin, thou art weighed in the balance and found wanting !” – just before God’s wrath against these folks is totally vented.

A later, shorter work included on the record is the 1953 Coronation Te Deum, specially composed for the crowning of Queen Elizabeth II. Walton paid numerous visits to Westminster Abbey to check out every possible corner for the best projection of the music. Although not a masterwork, it has a listenable festive majesty .

Solti conducted performances of both works with power, zest and beauty, clarifying and negotiating Belshazzar’s tricky rhythms with suave effect.

CD editions of this recording start at $7.50 on the Amazon site while the LPs begin at $4.89.

Charles Dickens
Barnaby Rudge

Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens

Barnaby Rudge, along with Tale of Two Cities, are the only Dickens novels I have read from cover to cover. Having made this statement, I intend no sort of contempt for his formidable storytelling gifts but merely to convey that too many other activities obstruct my intentions to enjoy the several unread volumes on my shelves.

Written in 1841 when Dickens was only 29, its several hundred pages are a depiction of an assembly of good and bad characters in London during the Gordon anti-Catholic riots of 1780. It has engaging sub-plots of compelling interest and a sinister Dennis the Hangman who loves to editorialize on both the meaningful and humorous implications of his work, praising the gallows as a very practical and most civilized tool of true justice.


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