Label / Cat No: Music For Pleasure - MFP1414
First Released: 1970
What The Album Blurb Says:
Hits on Parade is an album which incorporates a wide variety of popular tunes. Each has a well defined, bouncy rhythm and lends itself to a march theme, the theme of this record. Puppet on a String proved to be a winner for Sandie Shaw in the 1967 Eurovision Song Contest and the following year Cliff Richard came close to winning the same contest with Congratulations. The Scaffold burst into the pop scene with their jaunty records and their Lily the Pink forms quite a contrast to the delightful tune of Those were the days that took Mary Hopkin sailing into the hit parade. Leapy Lee obtained his first chart success with Little Arrows as did Esther and Abi Ofarim with their Cinderella Rockefella although Esther and Abi were very well known on the continent beforehand. All these tunes, plus many more can be heard on this record, excitingly recreated in stereo by talented studio artists who successfully capture the original atmosphere of each hit in turn.
What I Say...
It's been a while since I took the writer of the sleeve notes to task, but the blurb here irked me because it seems to have been dashed off in the last ten minutes of a Thursday afternoon. Verity Stevens appears to be the 'Music for Pleasure' in-house sleeve note writer, and judging by the output from that label alone (4000+ titles at least), I can't expect her to be an expert on everything and everyone. But why is it that groups 'burst' onto the pop scene, eh? Surely they graft and rehearse and gig and tour and build a following and eventually get a modicum of success. That's not bursting, that's slogging, and it seems to undervalue their achievements. And while I'm at it, if Verity is going to deal in cliches, surely it's burst on to the pop scene, not in to. Grrrr.
I suppose it could be my reading, it could be clumsy sentence structure, but she seems to be saying that The Scaffold are crap in comparison to Mary Hopkin. I think she's contrasting the 'jauntiness' of Lily the Pink with the 'delightfulness' of Those Were The Days, but it looks like she's saying that one is delightful, and therefore the other isn't. Maybe I'm just being fussy. It has been known.
Tunes "excitingly recreated in stereo by talented studio artists who successfully capture the original atmosphere of each hit in turn" is it? What about a somewhat cynical cross market appealing album recorded by a bunch of jobbing musos who sound like they were recruited from a Soho jive club on a promise of a portion of chips and the chance to get jazzy on a couple of tracks. Of course they don't capture the atmosphere. They rob it of all character and transplant an alien structure and instrumentation onto it.
Calm, calm, calm. So, what we have here is a collection of songs which have been shoehorned into a military march arrangement. Is your pop music not formal and regimented enough? Is your military music too stuffy and pompous? Well here's the album for you. To be absolutely honest, when I introduced this album to the very lovely Mrs. ForgottenAlbums, her first comment was 'oh, my Mum would like that', so there clearly was a market out there for this kind of crossover.
Unlike our previous genre-bending experience, this at least makes a bit more sense. Rather than playing one band's songs in the style of another, this at least takes loads of different songs, and corralls them into a singular format. Actually, that's probably not that different from The Beatles and Glen Miller now I come to think of it, but I know what I mean. I think.
I remember as a child, my sister had a magic robot game. You'd point the robot to a question, move it to a circle of answers, and it would give you the right answer. If you don't know what on earth I'm taking about, or you really want to see it in operation, watch this.....
Although I can't be certain, I'm pretty sure that Alan Moorhouse used one of these to arrange the album. On the questions side it'd have Introduction, Verse, Chorus, Middle Eight etc, and on the answers side it would have Drums, Pipes, Drums, Brass, Drums, Loud Drums, Loud Brass and so on. Pick your section, get the answer, bingo, there's another song completed. Loud drums, loud drums, brass, pipes, drums, loud drums, loud pipes, brass swell, end. If you love drums, this album is for you. If you love pipes or brass, this album is for you. If you want subtlety, nuance and variation..... probably not so much.
That's not to say that this all sounds like the Red Army Band circa 1982, although an awful lot of it does. I can just see them goose-stepping on the Mayday parade through Red Square to 'Cinderella Rockefella' in an attempt to prove to the proles that the Communist Government was really very groovy. But there are some tracks which stand out.
'When the Saints Go Marching In' for example is pure Trad Jazz. I'd be happy to have the band play this behind my coffin when the time comes. While the strictly military tunes keep the musicians in check, you can hear the joy in the freedom that this version brings.
And then there's the 'Rock 'n' Roll March', which unlike the other top tunes on here was actually written by Alan Moorhouse. Ahhhh, Alan Moorhouse. I'd actually forgotten until I tried to research him that I used to work with someone called Alan Moorhouse. OK, that may not be that interesting, but at least it's true. Or at best it's true, I don't remember which. Anyway, I'm getting off the point. The 'Rock 'n' Roll March' sounds to my ears exactly like the music a British film of 1966 would play during a scene in a seedy underground club with striptease artistes shaking their tassled brassieres at the camera in red light in close up. Maybe I've given this too much thought, but take a listen below and tell me I'm wrong.
I have a feeling that Mr. Moorhouse may have had a falling out with the sleeve designer. No, not because the young lady on the front is not in regulation military uniform (she's missing her hat, not to mention her trousers), but because the red splash that says 'Alan Moorhouse and his Bond Street Brigade' is not printed on, but is a sticker applied after the event. His name isn't on the spine either. It's clear that this omission was serious enough that the follow up album (oh dear Lord yes, there's another one of these out there) prints his name in almost sarcastically large lettering on the cover.
It would seem that this album was popular enough to warrant a second go, and Mr. Moorhouse's penchant for rearranging other people's work into themed collections doesn't end here, oh no. There are albums called "McCartney, Mendelssohn & Mancini Go Marching With Alan Moorhouse", and yet more intriguingly, "Beatles, Bach, Bacharach Go Bossa". It seems that consistency of genre is less important to our Alan than alliteration. That's obviously the secret to his success.
I seem to have been very harsh on this album, and the truth is that although I hate the conceit, and the constant military style gets on my nerves, musically there's nothing wrong with this album. It delivers what it says it's going to, and just because it's not my thing doesn't mean that it's a bad album. In fact, I've been quite happy to just have this on in the background as I'm driving to work, and compared to some of the drivel I've been listening to lately, it's actually not that offensive. In fact I may take that as my new personal motto - "Actually, not that offensive". Works for me. You'll either like this or you won't, but I think a predisposition to drum and pipe music is a must.
One final thought? Who's that scruffy little 'erbert running along behind these fine marching men? Oh, that'll be the traditional military bass guitarist who is also represented in this brigade.
1. Yesterday Man
2. I Was Kaiser Bill's Batman
3. When The Saints Go Marching In
4. Little Arrows
5. Rock 'n' Roll March
6. Lily The Pink
1. Cinderella Rockefella
2. Hello Dolly
3. A Walk In The Black Forest
5. Those Were The Days
6. Puppet On A String
5 out of 10
Label / Cat No: Music For Pleasure MRP 50179
First Released: 1974
What The Album Blurb Says:
Regular listeners to BBC Radio 2 will be familiar with the infectiously catchy stylings of Chico Arnez, thanks to all year round appearances on programmes such as "Late Night Extra", "Night Ride" and the tony Brandon, Charlie Chester and Joe Henderson shows.
twenty years on the business has brought the ultimate degree of professionalism to Chico's music, and he has a dazzling stage show to back it up, utilising strobe lights, slides, movies and a machine which blows bubbles over the audience!
but the essence of it all is the happy, good-time dance sound itself - ideal party fare as is obvious from one listen to this non-stop collection of some of the best numbers to grace the pop charts in recent years.
Chico carries a 14 piece line-up including a rep-roaring brass section, pulsating rhythm and four voices. their distinctive brand of excitement has carried them around the world, playing in such places as Hong Kong, Japan, Australia and Europe as well as here in Britain.
Chico himself sings, as well as directing the band and playing double-bass and a little piano, while the inventive arrangements stand to the credit of Chico, John Clark and John Osborne.
Over the years half-a-dozen albums have helped carry Chico's talents to the public and each time h has gone one better. On this record there are the soul classics Land Of A Thousand Dances, a hit for Chris Kenner and Wilson Pickett, Do The Funky Chicken, which marked the greatest triumph of Memphis Sound veteran Rufus Thomas, and Pickett's memorable In The Midnight Hour. Sonny and Cher's The Beat Goes On, the infections Resurrection Shuffle, the gospelly Put Your Hand In The Hand and the heavy rocker spirit In The Sky also get a new lease of life.
The fourteen exciting new arrangements on this album make it right for any party - so get ready to dance - non-stop!
Roger St. Pierre
What I Say...
This album has been one helluva ride..... Really. I've had more ups and downs with this record than a Trump Tower elevator. So let me take you by the hand, and lead you through the streets of... Streatham, as I take you on a journey of lies, betrayal and deception.
I picked this album up just a few short weeks ago in a charity shop in Winchester. As ever, it was the gaudy cover that first appealed to me. An early 70s slack-jawed beauty with unnecessary nipplage (yes, nipplage. That really is a word that I haven't just made up...) poking through her chemical yellow tank-top vest type thing. Standard fayre of this vintage, but more usually associated with the studio cover type albums of 'Top of the Pops', or 'Top Hits', it immediately piqued my curiosity that this was for a single artist. Chico Arnez.
I'd never heard of Chico before, but he was clearly a bit of a radio favourite, and as the album notes say, he was a regular on Radio 2 back in the day. Plus we see that man Joe Henderson popping up again. Looks like I'm getting to know far more about Joe's friends than I'd ever imagined.
There's not a lot of information about Chico out there in internetland. Over his career (which apparently is well traveled if you believe Mr. St. Pierre), he only released a handful of albums, of which I can only find this to be the fifth. Often with 'His 'Latin-America Orchestra' or 'His Cubana Brass', the albums were understandably heavily latin-influenced. This group of musicians don't have the benefit of being 'His' anything, but I entered expecting those exciting South American rhythms, but I got more, so much more.
On playing the album, I thought within moments of the frenetic opening number that I'd struck gold. I don't think it's too much of a stretch to compare my job here at Forgotten Albums as being romantically akin to that of a gold-panner. I spend hours in dark, cold places sifting through piles of murk and grime in the hope, the oh so distant hope, that the one shining nugget will gleam through, making my life immeasurably richer. And with this album I thought, at last, that I'd hit pay-dirt.
This album is choc-full of brilliant tunes, amazing arrangements and unexpected choices. This 14 piece band cavorts through 34 minutes (yes, it is quite short) of great music. From the opening duo of 'The Locomotion' and 'Put Your Hand In The Hand', you expect this to be a high-energy, densely musical foray into the mind of the party animal of 1967. The style is so drenched in sixties' tropes that you expect Austin Powers to come bursting through the window at any moment. Swinging London at it's apex.
It's the mix of fast paced bass guitar, wah-wah rhythm guitar, twiddly hammond organ and hi-hat led drum riff that gives this that loving 60s feeling, and the addition of the frankly amazing brass section gives this whole band depth and diversity. And diversity there is aplenty. He doesn't just stick with pop numbers, but we get blues, soul, funk, gospel, country, tv themes, traditional folk tunes, rock, and even proto heavy-metal.
I've listened to this album over and over now, and there's another factor at play here. The non-stop element, clearly designed to prevent the poor over-stretched party host from having to change 45s over on their radiogram every 3 minutes, has thought out the playlist. Fast tracks to get you going, through to solid legitimate tunes to keep you on the dance floor. A couple of slow songs to bring the mood down, then Hava Nagila for the community dance, and then back to the luscious 'Love's Theme' to play you out while you smooch with your chosen special one. It's a whole night's playlist condensed into a well packaged 34 minutes.
And so as you can tell, I clearly have a real affection for this album. It's just fun. That's all, no pretence to anything else, just fun. But then, oh, but then the doubts started to creep up on me...
Firstly, there was the fact that when I looked closer, I realised that the album was published in 1974, probably recorded the same year. This was 7 years later than I would have dated it from the music alone. This means, surely, that rather than being a pioneer of that 60s sound Chico's arrangements were, let's be kind, and call them a homage. Let's be less kind and suggest that maybe he was an opportunist with a talent to copy others' styles.
But what really led me down the path of surprise was reading the album notes again. It's only a small thing, but the arrangements "stand to the credit of Chico, John Clark and John Osborne". I know that Chico was London-based, but for someone with the flamboyance of Sr. Chico Arnez, surely he wouldn't be working with blokes called John, whether it's Clark or Osborne, it just feels to pedestrian.
With a little more digging, I finally found the truth. At least, I think it's the truth - it is repeated in more than a few places, but it seems that Chico Arnez never existed. Chico Arnez was a persona created by a bassist. Called Jackie Davis. From Streatham.
There is apparently a story that does the rounds of the BBC about Chico. I quote here from The Independant:-
I don't know why I felt so disappointed, so cheated. Maybe I cursed myself for being caught up the excitement of those pulsing latin beats. And so I remind myself, Jackie or Chico, it doesn't really matter. The music speaks for itself. And it's bloody brilliant.
Oh, and the engineer on this album, John Kurlander - he was only assistant engineer by request on the Abbey Road album, and has a handful of Oscars and other awards for his music for the Lord Of The Rings trilogy. See, Chico may be a sham, but at least this album has pedigree.
And compare the pace of this Elvis version with the madly frantic Chico one below!
1. The Loco-Motion
2. Put Your Hand In The Hand
3. The Resurrection Shuffle
4. Do The Funky chicken
5. Soul Finger
7. Hawaii Five-O
1. In The Midnight Hour (You Can't Love Me)
2. Spirit In The Sky
3. The Beat Goes On
4. Land Of A Thousand Dances
5. I Had A Sad Dream
6. Hava Nagila
7. Love's Theme
9.5 out of 10 for Chico, 4 out of 10 for that charlatan Jackie.
Label / Cat. No: HIRA HL 8536
First Released: 1972
What The Album Blurb Says...
In the grooves of the record contained within this sleeve is a wealth of talent performed by one family of four people - mother, father, daughter and son.
Don't run away with the idea tha this highly popular family foursome became a versatile show overnight. What they are today is the product of many years experience in the world of entertainment. The mother and father, Ellen and Eddy, were both playing individually in concert parties when they met and married in their early 20's. Ellen is an organist and vocalist and Eddy is an organist, accordionist and pianist.
The musical twosome continued for a number of years but it was a forgone conclusion that their two children, Sharron and Adrian, would follow in their parents' footsteps.
Sharron had just reached the age of 10 when she was considered proficient as an alto saxophonist and was introduced into her parents' well-presented show. As years went by, she added clarinet, soprano and tenor saxophones, bass guitar, vibraphone and her contralto voice and is now a very accomplished young lady - a versatile musician with a charming personality.
Adrian was introduced into the show two years later at the age of eight and his terrific personality showed through in his ability as a percussionist and guitarist. Now he is a young man with a wealth of experience behind him and is a very polished performer.
It was at this point that "The Kaye Family" was born and Sharron and Adrian soon proved their worth by helping to obtain rave notices in "The Stage" and other newspaper media.
The family went on to appear at many top venues throughout the country in every field of the variety entertainment industry - theatres, halls, commercial studios, clubs, cabaret, restaurants and the like.
success followed success and now HIRA RECORDS place The Kaye Family before you to perform at your command in your own home. This high quality long-playing record shows clearly some of the many facets of this fascinating family.
Sit back and relax and dwell in the wonderland of sound that the Kaye Family presents to you - and you alone!
Drift along on clouds of romance, feel philosophical, hear the swirling colours of sun-drenched Spain, linger upon lonely seashores, fly amongst the stellar constellations, go for a trolley ride, swing with the up-tempo big band style beat.
yes, all this comes to you everytime you fall under the magical spell of the sound of The Kaye Family.
What I Say...
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand we're back. Hello. Sorry for the delay.... The real world took over for a while. I'll try not to let it happen again.
And what a way to come back, a return visit to The Kaye Family everyone's favourite family musical combo.
After hearing the 'Live!' album, I just had to go back to the charity shop where I'd bought it to see if there were any others there, and Bingo!, this little beauty was in my hands in a matter of moments.
Pre-dating 'Live!' by a couple of couple of years, this album is so much more fulfilling. The production values here are vastly superior, and we have a clear sound rather than the somewhat muddy live recording. Having said that, I'm not sure if that's entirely a good thing. After all, you can actually hear Sharron (note, two 'r's - very showbiz) and Ellen's arch vocals, combining to provide a sound that I find slightly scary. Listen to 'You're Just In Love' and tell me you haven't been even slightly traumatised.
The album is of course worth every penny, if only for the sleeve notes. At last I get to know all their names. Ellen and Eddy - what a pairing. A partnership made in the stars, names that chime together. And let's not forget the second generation, Adrian and Sharrrrrron, virtuoso musicians in their own right. And please note, I've been very realistic here, and made sure that I didn't run away with the idea that this highly popular family foursome became a versatile show overnight. Only a fool would do such a thing.
Musically there's not much of a surprise - I can't see that they took any major direction changes between this and 'live'. I mean, I would love to have found that this was their forgotten psychedelic masterpiece, or they'd made an experimental jazz album. But this is again simply a series of standards set to a bontempi bossa nova beat.
Which takes me back to Adrian. I may have suggested in my last review that he was conceived just because Ellen and Eddy needed a drummer for the band. I take it back of course. After all, he's not exactly prominent - throughout the whole of side one I couldn't tell if it was Ade or the organ's built in rhythms that were providing the percussion - some of the fancier fills during Telstar testify to a human hand. His playing is subdued, almost unnoticeable. If only Keith Moon had been more like Adrian Kaye, things would be very different today. Ah, the benefit of hindsight.
The choice of songs seems to show their club roots - a couple of 'modern' tracks, and plenty of old favourites for the mums and dads. Of course, with Sharrrrrrrrrrrrrrrron being a clarinettist, 'Stranger on the Shore' was a given - I suspect she'd just taken her Grade 5 exam, and that was one of the set pieces, so the family recycled it into their set, chuck in a bit of an inappropriate fancy rhythm and Bob's your uncle. You know, Bob Kaye. Everyone knows Bob.
So, er.... yes. This was pretty much as I'd expected. I'm glad I revisited this fine family. I can't decide if it's a good or a bad thing that this kind of act isn't around any more. Or maybe it is - maybe I should've been watching 'Britain's Got Talent' to discover the 21st Century's 'Kaye Family' rather than listening to 35 year old oddities. All I know is that my world is marginally richer thanks to Ellen, Eddy, Sharrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrron and Adrian. Thanks guys, you've been great.
1. The Wonder Of You
2. Blowin' In The Wind
3. Stranger On The Shore
4. You're Just In Love
1. Trolley Song
2.You Don't Have To Say You Love Me
4. The Wedding
5. Ticket To Ride / 'A' Train / Chattanooga Choo-Choo
7 out of 10
Label / Cat. No: PYE - NSPL41005
First Released: 1971
What The Album Blurb Says...
Every now and again in show-business an exciting piece of talent comes to the surface - it happened with Tom Jones and Barbra Streisand, but it doesn't happen often.
Stars are not made by managers or impresarios, they are made by the public - sure, managers or agents recognise a star quality and then groom it, but most stars are there because of that contact with an audience, because they are selling the goods the public wants and because that public wants them as people.
I first saw Rostal and Schaefer perform to a live audience in Johannesburg; they were closing the first half of a bill I was appearing on. From my dressing-room I heard shouts from the auditorium of 'encore!' and 'more!' - it sounded sweeter than the music they had been playing. On this night I witnessed not one but two stars being born and to watch them blossom over the past twelve months has pleased me more than I can say.
No wonder they have been booked for television shows, concerts, and asked to record sounds like you have here on their first major disc.
Although in their early twenties, they have somehow packed twenty-odd years between them in practising at the keyboard - no wonder the powers that be decided to include them in the 1970 Royal Variety Show, some entertainers work a life time for this honour - they achieved it in twelve short months.
Fly away Peter, fly away Paul and keep delighting us with your magic. It is a privilege to have this record, almost a first edition, I shall treasure it.
Most sincerely, Max Bygraves.
What I Say
I bet that Paul Schaefer rues the day he met Peter Rostal. Fine, they share interests, they work together well, and conveniently enough, they both play the piano. But in the wake of 'Peter, Paul and Mary', Paul was only ever going to get second billing. 'Paul, Peter & Pianos' just sounds wrong, even though it's in lovely alphabetical order. I bet Paul is still kicking himself that he didn't change his name to something with three syllables - Francisco, maybe. Anything to make him stand out head and shoulders above Peter.
Yet it wasn't to be. I notice that in later years they became known as 'Rostal and Schaefer' which is infinitely more exotic than 'Peter & Paul', but it means that Peter still gets top billing. The swine.
Max Bygraves seems to be pretty taken with these two young men. And who wouldn't be? Look at the pair of them with their sensible haircuts and dinner jackets. Fashionable pink shirts, and bow-ties that you just know, you just know are made of velvet. The wry smile on Paul's face, the confident 'trust me' grin on Peter's. yes, these are clearly the kind of young men that you could take home to mother. And even when they're not in their concert finest, they clearly know how to dress to impress.
Why, just look at them in their casual fineries. Cravats, Crew-necks
and Crimplene trousers. What more could a girl ask for!
But I'm being unfair. Those were wonderful clothes in 1971 and I'm judging them harshly purely because fashions have changed. This is supposed to be all about the music.
Ah! The music. I have a small confession to make - I recorded this album to review ages ago - months and months, and had the file kicking around. On listening to it this week, I loved the frantic, furious opening number - only to hear my past self go back and switch the album from 45 back to 33 1/3. It didn't seem quite so lively after that. Bum. But still and excellent opener showing these two lively guys at their best. It has a bit of an Eastern European feel, Balkan possibly.... though of course, I could be talking out of the back of my head.
The rest of side one is an odd mix. Popular standards, arranged to show off the pianists virtuosity make this album the audio equivalent of a doily - all frills and fluff, but with little obvious purpose. I mean, you could put a cake on it I suppose, but what's the point of that? And it would leave crumbs in the grooves.
Anyway.... I digress. Despite the knockabout between the two pianists, there's no killer punch. The version of 'Tonight' from 'West Side Story' is actually an arrangement of the quintet (For once I know what I'm talking about - I was two (count 'em, two) of the Jets in an amateur production in 1989, so I'm completely qualified and everything....) is artfully done, but has none of the aggression that the song should have.
Maybe that's the point though - Paul and Peter (as I shall refer to them in an effort to restore the balance) aren't in show-business to break new territory, or to threaten the Status Quo. Though that's a fight I'd pay to see - Rostal & Schaefer vs Rossi & Parfitt. Hmmm... I feel a celebrity tag boxing blog coming on... where was I? Oh yes, they don't offer anything new, but why should they. Like Max says, they give the public what they want.
And sometimes the public don't know what they want. I went into this album thinking I was going to hate it. Pre-packaged, bland cover-versions, I thought. But if you don't expect anything more from this album than a few nice tunes, then you won't be disappointed. I mean, I doubt this is going to make it onto any playlist, but it's pleasant enough. And for today (and probably only today), I'll settle for 'pleasant enough'.
1. Hejre Kati
1. Love Story
2. As Long As He Needs Me
3. Love Is Blue
4. Ritual Fire Dance
5. Clair De Lune
7 out of 10
1. Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye
2. Nights In White Satin
3. Sugar, Sugar
4. Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head
5. House Of The Rising Sun
6. Everybody's Talkin'
2. Come Together
3. Bridge Over Troubled Water
4. Lay Lady Lay
5. United We Stand
6. Proud Mary
3! out of 10
Label / Cat. No: Stereo Gold Award MER 336
First Released: 1971
What The Album Blurb Says...
Here's a dance party with two favourite ingredients - the great, nostalgic sounds of Glenn Miller and hit songs by The Beatles.
These sweet and swinging arrangements were written by Bill Holcombe (an old T. Dorsey sideman), who has taken these British bred hits and written the inimitable Glenn Miller style around them.
The Hiltonaires under the baton of Stan Reynolds are joined by the vocal stylings (a la Modernaires) of Tony Mansell and his group.
Here's big band at its best - with familiar hit songs.
What I Say
I apologise for going highbrow for a moment, but Samuel Johnson once wrote of women preachers, "Sir, a woman’s preaching is like a dog’s walking on his hinder legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all." If the great Dr. Johnson were alive today, I am convinced that he would have felt the same way about this album. Well, maybe 'convinced' is putting it a bit strongly, but I can understand this attitude entirely when applied to 'the big band beat of the Hiltonaires'.
Come with me for a moment into the future. The year is 2013, and someone decides to release an album of Coldplay songs performed in the Mel & Kim style. There'd be uproar, rioting in the streets and possibly the end of civilization as we know it. But back in 1971 this kind of evil alchemy was not just thinkable, it was actually happening.
It's of little surprise then that this was released on the 'Stereo Gold Award' label. To be fair, I was as much drawn to this album by the very fact that it was a Stereo Gold Award offering as I was by the fine bevy of 1970s lovelies on the cover. You may recall that Stereo Gold Award have already given us Big Dave who I exposed as a fraud and a charlatan. It seems that the label was owned by a chancer who just made cheap, cash-in rubbish, and this album certainly fits into that category.
There's just so much wrong with this album it's difficult to know where to begin. Well, for a start I'm confused as to why they actually included some Glenn Miller / Big Band tunes. After all, the album's called 'Dance to the Beatles Hits...) Does that mean you have to stop dancing when Moonlight Serenade comes on? It's preposterous I tell you. Is this a Beatles album? Is this a Glenn Miller album? Frankly I'm confused, and I suspect it shows.
And then there's the fact that these are two entirely different genres of music that simply do not fuse well together. I accept wholeheartedly the fact that the Beatles, and in particular Lennon & McCartney wrote classic, timeless songs which can withstand reinterpretation and have been covered, reasonably successfully many thousands of times. Which then begs the question how did they make these Beatles songs sound so crap.
I think the answer lies in the fact that the Hiltonaires (or at least Bill Holcombe's arrangements) concentrate on the style rather than the substance of the song. There is no sensitivity to the mood or the lyrics of the Beatles numbers, it seems to have been rattled off a checklist of Big Band stylistic hooks regardless of the order or original speed of the songs.
The very worst culprit (if you can get past 'Hey Jude' without waves of nausea welling up) is the butchering of 'Let It Be'. Not only does this start with the most awful Barbershop Quartet style prologue, but is the possessor of possibly the worst guitar solo ever, both in tone and tune. Really, it's that bad. Just listen. See? There's 20 seconds you're never having back.
I didn't expect to enjoy this album, and I wasn't disappointed. In the past I've commented that the brevity of an album often makes up for its awfulness. Not in this case. It may only be 24
minutes long, but you try sticking cocktail sticks in your thighs for 24 minutes, and believe me, it will seem like an eternity. This is the aural equivalent.
The good news however is that this isn't the last Stereo Gold Award album in my collection. Let joy be unconfined!
1. Moonlight Serenade
3. I Want To Hold Your Hand
5. Bird Cage Walk
6. Londonderry Air
1. Hey Jude
2. Let It Be
4. Diamond Rock
5. A Hard Day's Night
1 out of 10 - for using the term 'vocal stylings' unselfconsciously.
1. His Name Is Wonderful
2. Every Moment Of Every Day
3. He Lifted Me
4. When I Kneel Down To Pray
5. I Would Be Like Jesus
1. Sweet, Sweet Spirit
2. His Gentle Look
3. Take Up Thy Cross
4. He Touched Me
5. Beyond The Sunset
2 out of 10
There's one thing that the Scots are very good at. Actually, before I get myself into trouble, I should point out that I'm sure that there are lots of things that Scots are good at. Lots and lots. Really. But one area in which they excel is being Scottish. I mean proper, professionally Scottish. How many 'professional' Welsh or Irish people can you think of? Max Boyce, Daniel O'Donnel, Terry Wogan maybe... People for whom one of their distinguishing features is their nationality. OK, now think of professional English people. I'll give you Steven Fry, and I'll accept David Niven, even though he's dead. Any more...? No, see. And yet without putting any real effort into it, the Scots can proudly boast The Proclaimers, Billy Connolly, Moira Anderson, Harry Lauder, Sean Connery, Carol Smillie, and of course, the Krankies. OK, that may be stretching the definition of 'proudly boast', but I hope you get my point.
They say that the most Scottish part of Scotland is just over the border from England, where the difference between countries is clearly marked. Tartan and Saltires everywhere. It seems that the Scots have a very clear cultural identity, and the business nous to translate that into profitable entertainment. Our Robert Wilson (or Bob, as we must call him) falls strictly into this 'Professionally Scottish' category. You only have to look at the album cover to know what you're getting. A burly man in a skirt, sorry, a kilt, his face red from the harsh highland wind rolling off the moors and the whisky he has on his porridge. His pose is also extremely Scottish, though I can't quite figure out why. I assume it's meant to reflect Bob about to launch into a Highland Fling - right hand tucked in his belt, left knee slightly raised. Tunic and tie making him look like a policeman about to knee some poor suspect in the knackers. Delightful.
And the songs don't disappoint. Well, they do if you don't like maudlin songs about your wet, dour homeland, but let's assume for a moment that they're the very reason you bought this album. The choice of songs is absolutely perfect. It's 'The Greatest Scottish Songs In The Whole World Ever' for our parent's generation. Some of the arrangements however are... well, on the camp side of traditional, shall we say. When I first listened to 'Scotland The Brave' (which you'd expect to be the standout track here), I was transported back to a Saturday evening in the 70s, with the Two Ronnies about to do their musical number dressed as a pair of Highland Infantrymen making suggestive songs about Gay Gordons. The arrangement is pure Ronnie Hazlehurst. Actually, it is the standout track on the album, because it's the only one that sounds vaguely happy or interesting. The rest conjure up a wet Wednesday in Aberdeen with incredibly clarity.
The problem is that I don't think Bob sings very well. His voice, described elsewhere on this internet of ours as a 'rich baritone' sounds to my uneducated ears as a thin, weedy and reedy baritone. That doesn't even always hold the tune particularly well. This album was released after he'd died. I have to wonder if it was also recorded then too....
This man was called 'The Voice Of Scotland' which is a bit worrying. I could accept 'The Voice of Arbroath' which would allow for bigger and better voices to represent the nation. So don't judge the Scots too harshly. Though I do wonder who's the 'Ears of Scotland'.
However, I do have one small niggle. From 1997 to 1999 I lived in Galway, and I'm sure, absolutely positive that it was on the West Coast of Ireland, and not in Scotland. It seems therefore that this song is an IMPOSTER, and should be removed immediately. Unless they're playing the Celtic card, in which case of course, everything is fair game.
By the way, our Bob Wilson, is not this Bob Wilson, one time goalie for Arsenal...
Nor is he this Bob Wilson, who's an English Lecturer, and posessor of one of the finest hair confections known to man...
And this is the Krankies. I think the Scottish Government should apologise immediately.
1. Westering Home
2. Scotland The Brave
4. Down In The Glen
5. Bonnie Mary Of Argyle
6. Marchin' Thru' The Glen
7. The Black Watch
1. The Gay Gordons
2. The Road To The Isles
3. Hills O' The Clyde
4. Galway Bay
5. My Love Is Like A Red, Red Rose
6. The Gathering Of The Clans
7. My Scottish Homeland.
4 out of 10
Label / Cat. No: Cambrian MCT 219
First Released: 1972
What The Album Blurb Says...
Maralene Powell made her first record as a solo artiste. Her second recording was in comapny with Gareth Edwards who for a brief moment exchanged the rugby field for the sound studio.
In this, her first album, Maralene presents a collection of songs which are as varied in subject as they are melodic in nature.
Family music at the fireside has been usurped in past decades by radio and television, but these technical wonders are now commonplace and making one's own music is becoming a rediscovered pleasure. This is indeed a talented family for in this record Maralene is joined by her brother and sister, Aubrey and Denise and her brother in law - John. The quiet mid Wales valley of Pantydwr must often echo to their songs.
"Amazing Grace" cannot be too frequently recorded for each singer brings something new to the listener. The Gentlemen Songsters who join Maralene in this version with such effect are too well known to need introduction. "Morning has Broken" is an old melody which lingers in the mind long after the echoes have died away.
This is a collection of ballads and folk songs, some old and some new. "Love is Teasing" is from the distant past while "Deportee" underlines how cheaply human life is sometimes held in the modern world.
Together they are a collection without a theme - unless what ordinary people feel and experience is thematic. Maralene is already well known on record and in concert, but this is the first recording of the Four P's and it must widen even further their circle of admirers.
What I Say
In light of the fact that the Taffs had a lucky victory on Saturday, I thought it only right we should look at one of their countryfolk for today's outing. And so we have the lovely Maralene Powell, a farmer's daughter from Pantydwr in Radnorshire. I'm not sure Radnorshire even exists any more, though there is a pub just a stone's throw from here called the Radnorshire Arms. See, a little background colour for you there.
Although it's ostensibly a Maralene album, the full title is Just For You - Maralene Powell and the Four P's sing a selection of folk and country songs for your pleasure. And I thought Script For A Jester's Tear was enough of a mouthful. These 'Four P's' confuse me though. There's a picture of them on the front, matching Salmon pink tops, flares armed and dangerous, and rolling Welsh landscape behind. And I think Maralene is one of the Four Ps. It certainly looks like her, and the sleeve notes refer to how Maralene is "joined by her brother and sister, Aubrey and Denise and her brother in law - John". That makes three other people, Maralene being the fourth. So why is it Maralene AND the Four Ps. Surely it's either 'The Four Ps' or 'Maralene and the Three Ps'. Surely Maralene is being counted twice. I shouldn't let it bother me, but this is exactly the kind of thing that keeps me awake at night.
I've just noticed that on the back of the album it says it's called 'Maralene Powell with the Four "P's" and the Gentlemen Songsters present a selection of Folk and Country songs for your pleasure. Seems like everybody's getting in on the credits. Good job they didn't put that on the cover of the album, or there wouldn't have been enough room for that lovely picture of Maralene looking foxy.
The songs are a bit of an odd mix. Understandably, given the nature of the Welsh, there are a few religious songs on here - 'Tramp On The Street' stood out for likening the treatment of Jesus to the death of an unloved Tramp. On The Street. A strange comparison to make, but at least I remembered it! Amazing Grace is handled well, and the Male Voice Choir, sorry, the 'Gentlemen Songsters' make sure you know this is a Welsh record. But the version of Morning Has Broken struck me as a little... off. The pianist and the guitarist seemed hesitant, and not quite sure when to come in to best compliment the vocals. It leads me to believe (though I may be completely wrong) that the song was recorded 'live' in the studio.
I do have a few concerns though with the choice of songs. Firstly, there is a tendency on this side of the Atlantic to believe that Country songs hold some meaning for us. They don't. Really. It's nice to listen to, and I've learned over the last few years to love Country music, but there is something so very wrong about a singer from North Wales telling me about her Louisiana home, and how the cotton crop has done this year. I'm not saying you have to stick to what you know and sing about daffodils and leeks, but there is only a certain degree of credulity I can muster, and it stops short of believing you're a prairie flower.
What causes me more of a worry are the two songs that start side two - 'Love Is Teasing' and 'I Will Never Marry' - they both carry the same message, which is that men are feckless bastards who will get what they want from you, then cast you aside. You can't trust them, so don't waste your time on them. I shant comment further, only to suggest that maybe Maralene had one or two boyfriend issues at the time....? Mere speculation....
We also have a rendition of 'Nobody's Child', a song last seen on Tony Best - By Request, and of such awful sludgy sentimentality that it makes me nauseous just to think about it. It's a song about how the narrator goes to an orphanage and finds a blind boy who nobody wants (because he's blind, obviously), and how said blind orphan believes he'd be better off dead because at least in Heaven he'd be able to see. This really is the most unpleasant song I think I've heard since No Charge. Yes, it's really that bad.
Maralene's voice is rather lovely. It has that pure, clean tone that was so favoured in folk circles in the 60s and 70s. That may however have been her downfall in that while the voice is technically good, it doesn't ( to my ears at least) stand out above the other recording artists of the time. There's absolutely nothing wrong with it, but it lacks that distinctive edge that could elevate it into wider public recognition.
Equally, the album doesn't have a focus - had it been an album of religious songs or an album of standards, it might have fared better, but it seems to lack identity as one or the other, and so ends up a bit of a hodge podge. That's not to say I won't be listening to it again. But you can be sure I'll be skipping Nobody's sodding Child.
(This is, by the way, the first album that I have ever seen that listed it's tracks a, b, c.)
(a) Amazing Grace
(b) Morning Has Broken
(c) See That Little Boy
(e) There But For Fortune
(f) Tramp On The Street
(a) Love Is Teasing
(b) I Never Will Marry
(c) Nine Hundred Miles
(d) Country Girl
(e) Cotton Fields
(f) Nobody's Child
6.75 out of 10
2017 Bonus - More album art of Maralene looking even foxier. Wowsers.
Label / Cat. No: Golden Hour (Pye) GH511
First Released: This Compilation 1970
What The Album Blurb Says...
John Schroeder, the brilliant young producer and creator of Sounds Orchestral has come a long way since 1962, the year that first saw him thinking about a musical concept that sprang to triumphant fruition three years later when "Cast your fate to the wind" sets Sounds on the international chart trail.
But while the years since have been filled with hit sounds for a multitude of artists, Sounds Orchestral continues to occupy a very special place in John's affections. For time and again, in the company of those other Sounds Orchestral veterans, Johnny Pearson and engineer Ray Prickett, John Schroeder returns to the studios to make fresh albums, yet albums that still retain the ingredients that keeps Sounds Orchestral a best-seller all over the world.
This, his latest contribution to the Sounds success story starts, appropriately enough with the Vince Guaraldi classic that began it all. But complementing it are a string of familiar and enduring melodies that have found their way into many hit parades and into the affections of millions of people. Johnny Pearson has arranged them with the brand of perfection that has become his trademark and because the musical performances that graces them maintains the Sounds Orchestral formula, the result is sheer enjoyment for anyone who loves good music.
Arranged, Conducted by, and featuring the Piano of, Johnny Pearson
Produced by John Schroeder
Engineer: Ray Prickett
What I Say
When I was a sweet young thing of 13, I recorded a copy of 'Waiting' by Fun Boy Three from one of my sisters friends. Shhh, yes, I know, home taping is killing music. It's a great album, and one I still own. But my over-riding memory is that it managed to fit on one side of a C60 tape, all except for the last word of the last song ('that' of 'well fancy that'). If I'd bothered, I probably could have edited out the silence with judicial use of the pause button and made up those few precious moments to allow the final song in its entirety to fit on the tape. As it was, I didn't bother, and I quite liked the way the album just hung in the air, not quite resolved.
The point in all this reminiscing is that clearly the album, if it could fit on one side of a C60 only really lasted about 30 minutes. Pretty short for albums which in those days, you'd reckon to get on one side of a C90. 45 minutes was pretty much the norm until CDs came along and stretched things out. So to have an album with a guaranteed 'Golden Hour' of music would've been quite a bargain. Mind you, you're not getting any more than that. This album runs to 1 hour, 1 minute and 13 seconds. That's about as close as you can get, though I wouldn't set your watch by it. Well, I might set your watch by it, but not mine.
I have to tackle the cover. I can understand that with the butterflies, the fish and the logs / rocks you're getting a pretty literal depiction of 'The Earth, The Sea & The Sky', but whoever thought it would be a winning formula to stick a dead fish on the front of an album cover really needs to go back to marketing school. I grew up believing that album art was something to treasure. That in some cases, the cover was as important as the contents, that together they produced the whole experience intended by the artist. That may be because I listened to a lot of Prog Rock (I know, I know...) and they tended to go for the overblown, pompous, album cover.
But it was all part of the experience, listening to the album, poring over the cover art, looking for clues, for details, for messages. An hour spent looking at a picture of a couple of dead fish might push some people over the edge, however great the music is.
And the music isn't great. It's competent. It's nicely arranged, but it does nothing new. It falls between two stools like so many of its contemporaries - It won't radically change the arrangements of the music because the target market need nice, recognisable tunes that they can tap their toes to. So the arrangements aren't particularly bold or exciting. But equally, they don't have the full Orchestral sweep that would put them firmly into that realm. In fact, I wonder who on earth came up with the name 'Sounds Orchestral'. It sounds like a jazz trio plus a violin or two when the budget allowed. That it took John Schroeder three years from having the idea to making 'Sounds Orchestral' a reality makes you think that he spent that time building the foundations of something special. I suspect he didn't leave himself enough time to come up with that winning idea. That, or he just got distracted for a couple of years building a scale model of York Minster out of matchsticks and Jaffa Cake packets.
I'm afraid that this is all fairly generic stuff. Nothing in particular stands out (except for the drummer - he must've been sleeping with the Engineer to have got placed so high in the mix. That is of course a joke, and I'm not implying anything of the sort.....) Anyway, where was I... Oh yes. I don't expect innovation on every album I listen to, but if I could just find a spark of something interesting, something new or different then I would look far more kindly on this kind of album. But I really can't here, no matter how I try.
The saving grace however is that it does have a copy of 'Good Morning Starshine' on it. I don't think you can ever top the Original Cast sound recording of that particular song, but it's always good to hear any version of a song that has the following lyrics:-
Gliddy glub gloopy
Nibby nabby noopy
La la la lo lo
Sabba sibby sabba
Nooby abba nabba
Le le lo lo
Tooby ooby walla
Nooby abba naba
Early morning singing song
Can't go wrong there now, can you?!
Sound Clips (& Bonus full version of 'San Jose' thanks to Uncle Leo!)
1. Cast Your Fate To The Wind
2. What A Wonderful World
3. Moon River
4. Stranger On The Shore
6. Nocturne (Chopin)
7. Petite Fleur
10. Many Moons Ago
1. Good Morning Starshine
2. Do You Know The Way To San Jose
3. The Poor People Of Paris
4. Canadian Sunset
5. Romance On The North Sea
7. Red Roses For A Blue Lady
8. Pretty Flamingo
9. Waltz Of The Flowers (Valse Des Fleurs)
Lots more information about 'Sounds Orchestral' can be found here
4 out of 10