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The Golden Age of Light Music
Contrasts: From the 1960s Back to the 1920s - 2

Recorded 1928-62
Full track-listing below
GUILD GLCD5223 [78:40]

This is the second volume in Guild’s ‘Contrasts’ marque (see review of Volume 1), a handy peg for running the chronological clock backwards to the 1920s. This we start with Laurie Johnson, Cyril Ornadel and Robert Farnon in 1962 and end with Jack Hylton and his orchestra in an HMV released in 1928.

Indeed what a deluxe start it is, with Johnson’s vibrant, sleek Gala Premiere unleashing a veritable red carpet of rich orchestration dispatched with aristocratic veneer by the Group-Fifty Orchestra. There’s little drop in temperature in Brain Fahey’s sympathetic arrangement of Nino Rota’s music for La Dolce Vita though the lush decoration of Russ Conway’s pianism, accompanied by a celestial choir, do lend Young at Heart a somewhat sugary diet. No matter; this was part and parcel of the Light Music programme of the time and it would be wrong to avoid the populist element.

American recordings are few here but one that assuredly is from the New World is Alfred Newman’s music for How the West was Won, where he conducts the elite MGM Studio Orchestra – a rugged classic. Frank Cordell and his orchestra sound like they’re having an eventful time in Fahey’s Fanfare Boogie, a tune that obediently does what it says – half orchestral fanfare, half keyboard boogie.

The varying styles Light Music colonised are all here; novelty, vapidity, geniality, brassy confidence, filmic, picture postcard, glamour, chic modernity. It’s the last quality that Wal-Berg incarnates in his splendid recording of Avent de Monfred’s Streets, Skyscrapers and Sun, Inc – an opportunity to unleash orchestral panache that is duly taken. Clever programming in this series can be guaranteed and that includes sly little conjunctions. Someone at Guild has chosen to follow Il Fait Des Bonds, played by Christian Chevallier, by a tune called French Fries. This last is actually a rare example of Monia Liter recording with his own orchestra. Does he play the little piano break?

Frederic Curzon oozes class in his contribution, a Boosey and Hawkes disc from 1948, played by Jack Leon and the New Concert Orchestra. There’s also a fine example of a preserved BBC London Transcription Service 78 from c.1945 in the form of Sidney Torch’s arrangement of Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Lady. It’s played by veteran Charles Williams and the Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra. This is a very unusual arrangement, though I’d actually call it a kind of concert paraphrase. The first section rushes by in a blur, then it slows and expands over six minutes. Not wholly convinced I like it, but it’s fascinating to hear Torch’s mind responding to Ellingtonian inspiration.

The self-confident Pasobolero by Mischa Michaeloff is followed by the languorous The Dawn Breaks from the pen of Cedric King Palmer. In both cases Walter Collins, the Paxton King, does the orchestral duties. This is another clever change of mood. From here on things get pre-war. Mario Lorenzi contributes his harp skills, whilst Albert Sandler gives us the doll vogue. Henry Hall’s Wild Ride is subtitled A Study in Fox Trot Rhythm and makes for interesting listening, rather like the Torch. Modernistic tinges are there – hints perhaps of Red Allen’s experimentation, of Cecil Forsyth, maybe even of Erwin Schulhoff’s vernacular investigations into Fox. Certainly it’s a less often encountered aspect of Hall’s talent. But before we get swept up in rhythmic experimentation we have jokers and goblins to encounter, both Germanic, from Otto Dobrindt and his Piano Symphonists on a 1938 Odeon and from the innocuously-named International Novelty Quartet on Zonophone.

All through Spread a Little Happiness I was expecting a vocal, but none came – Carroll Gibbons is the conductor of the New Mayfair Dance Orchestra. Shilkret’s Rhythm Melodists are certainly infrequent visitors to this series and it’s good to be reminded of the nexus between Light Music and Light Classical in the shape of Samuel Gardner’s From the Canebreak, beloved of fiddlers, of whom Gardner was one – and a good one. If you wondered about Walter Collins here he is again, in the final track, with his piece called Dancing Goblin played by the jolly-sounding outfit called Harry Hudson’s Melody Men, featuring xylophone player Max Klein on an Edison Bell Winner 78 from c.1929.

More delights here from Guild.

Jonathan Woolf

Full track-listing
Gala Premiere - Laurie Johnson; GROUP-FIFTY ORCHESTRA Conducted by LAURIE JOHNSON 2:49
La Dolce Vita - Nino Rota, arr. Brian Fahey; CYRIL ORNADEL AND THE STARLIGHT SYMPHONY 2:48
Travel Topic - Robert Farnon; QUEEN’S HALL LIGHT ORCHESTRA Conducted by ROBERT FARNON 2:24
"Young At Heart" - Theme from the film - Johnny Richards, Carolyn Leigh; RUSS CONWAY, piano, with TONY OSBORNE AND HIS ORCHESTRA and THE RITA WILLIAMS SINGERS 3:07
"How The West Was Won" - Main title music - Alfred Newman; MGM STUDIO ORCHESTRA Conducted by ALFRED NEWMAN 1:34
Fanfare Boogie - Brian Fahey, Eric Winstone; FRANK CORDELL AND HIS ORCHESTRA 2:39
Nobody Loves You Like I Do (from the operetta "Paganini") - Franz Lehár, arr. Joseph Kuhn HARRY HERMANN AND HIS ORCHESTRA 3:29
Absinthe Frappé - Earle H. Hagen, Herbert Spencer; THE SPENCER-HAGEN ORCHESTRA 2:33
Streets, Skyscrapers And Sun, Inc - Avent de Monfred; WAL-BERG AND HIS ORCHESTRA 4:43
French Fries - Ray Hartley, Eddie Cassen - real name Edward Kassner; MONIA LITER AND HIS ORCHESTRA 3:18
Nostalgia - David Rose; FREDDY MARTIN AND HIS ORCHESTRA 3:05
Prelude To Glamour - Frederic Curzon; NEW CONCERT ORCHESTRA Conducted by JACK LEON 3:08
Sophisticated Lady - Edward Kennedy 'Duke’ Ellington, arr. Sidney Torch; QUEEN’S HALL LIGHT ORCHESTRA Conducted by CHARLES WILLIAMS 6:07
Pasobolero - Mischa Michaeloff; LONDON PROMENADE ORCHESTRA Conducted by WALTER COLLINS 2:26
The Dawn Breaks - Cedric King Palmer; LONDON PROMENADE ORCHESTRA Conducted by WALTER COLLINS 2:41
Everything’s Been Done Before (from the film "Reckless") - Harry Adamson, Jack King, Edwin H. Knopf; MARIO 'HARP’ LORENZI AND HIS RHYTHMICS 3:18
Portrait Of A Toy Soldier - Montague Ewing; ALBERT SANDLER AND HIS ORCHESTRA 2:46
Wild Ride (A Study in Fox Trot Rhythm) - Henry Hall; BBC DANCE ORCHESTRA Conducted by HENRY HALL 3:05Jolly Joker - Ernst Fischer; OTTO DOBRINDT AND HIS PIANO SYMPHONISTS 2:37
Pan And The Wood Goblins - Otto Rathke; INTERNATIONAL NOVELTY QUARTET 2:47
Spread A Little Happiness - Vivian Ellis NEW MAYFAIR DANCE ORCHESTRA Conducted by CARROLL GIBBONS 2:59
Sweet Nothings - Milton J. Rettenberg SHILKRET’S RHYTHM MELODISTS 2:42
From The Canebreak - Samuel Gardner NEW LIGHT SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA2:09
Little Boy Blues - Vivian Ellis, Desmond Carter; JACK HYLTON AND HIS ORCHESTRA 2:28
Dancing Goblin - Walter R. Collins; HARRY HUDSON’S MELODY MEN featuring Max Klein, Xylophone 3:07