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February 2nd, 2010

Peter, Paul & Pianos

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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'.



This is someone called Jo Ann Castle playing Hejre Katy. It doesn't get going until 1:47, but then.... blimey!

Tracks

Side 1

1. Hejre Kati (At 45 r.p.m. and switched to 33 1/3 r.p.m.)
2. Edelweiss
3. Tonight
4. Czardas
5. Yesterday
6. Malaguena

Side 2

1. Love Story
2. As Long As He Needs Me
3. Love Is Blue
4. Ritual Fire Dance
5. Clair De Lune
6. Bolero


Final score:

7 out of 10

January 25th, 2010

Claude Denjean - Moog!

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Label / Cat. No: Decca PFS 4212
First Released: 1970

What The Album Blurb Says...

The Moog Synthesizer, this incredible and new electronic musical wonder, has had an uneven ride on records, especially in the popular field. Effectively used on two great-selling albums (Switched-on Bach and The Well-Tempered Synthesizer), the Moog served the classics as a kind of musical duplicator, that is, reproducing and imitating the sound of real instruments. In the "pop" field it has been a fairly different story. Most often used as a gimmick for the odd effect, the Moog has not fully come into its own in the popular field. This may be due to the Moog's personality: it speaks with strength, it doesn't care to be in the background and if used improperly it completely overshadows everything else that is going on.

On this LP Claude Denjean comes to terms with the problem by giving the Moog its rightful place in a fair exchange between synthesizer and orchestra. To exciting settings of twelve great hit sons, this LP really gives the Moog, it all its electronic glory. That plus the stereo excellence of Phase 4 adds up to irresistible listening.


What I Say

Imagine it - 1970. It was a good year, vintage some might say. An especially good year for boys born in Croydon. Around September time I'd say. Yes, very good indeed.

Of course, space was still sexy, the Moon looming large in people's minds as well as in the sky. Music and technology coming together in one big cosmic fusion, with the magnificent Moog! leading the charge. Wibbly wobbly farty noises added a bit of universal mystery to any song, and boy is that a lesson that Claude Denjean has learnt.

Claude Denjean. Ah, the mysterious Dutchman who rode to the rescue of the Moog!'s reputation. Noble Claude, the man who was going to put the Moog! centre stage to show it's critics what it could do. What I can't understand is why anybody wouldn't like the Moog! it's got an exclamation mark and everything. It's also one of only three instruments named after a real person - The Moog!, The Sousaphone, and of course Rolf Harris' Stylophone. Actually, that would be an album I would pay to hear, one combining those three iconic instruments. Someone should pitch this to E.M.I.

Anyway, it seems a bit unfair to call this a 'Forgotten Album', because there's plenty of pictures and copies of it all over the internet. I fear that it may have become a bit of a cult classic because, like the moon, this album is made of pure cheese. Extremely cheesey cheese at that.

I shouldn't be harsh. It's just a reflection of the times, and I'm happy to accept an album that hangs on the idea of a synthesizer as a novelty. I would of course be happier if it was a better album though.

Stylistic tics aside, this could have been an opportunity not only to showcase the versatility of the Moog!, but also to use it to enhance the songs chosen for the album. Instead, it really is mostly an opportunity to make wibbly wobbly farty noises over pretty bland arrangements of popular songs.

The Moog! also seems to take on the melody lines of the songs, which is fair enough. It is after all the Moog!'s album - it says so on the cover and everything. It's trying to have its cake and eat it (do Moog!'s eat cake? I'm not sure....) It could work if it were being purely tuneful, it could work if it were trying to be atmospheric, but trying to be both ends up as overkill.

The Moog! may well be a victim of its own success. It shows too much variety in what it can do to give this album any kind of thematic structure (oh, look at him, old Mr. Forgottenalbums, getting above himself and talking about thematic structure....) There's no common thread through the (wildly differently arranged) songs here.

And the arrangements themselves are, frankly, weird. Not just odd, but outright looney tunes. All you need to do is play the two (yes, two!) 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' clips to see what I mean. Without the sleeve notes, it took me over half a minute to work out what the song was.

'Come Together' is unusually sombre, 'Everybody's Talkin' has completely removed that beautiful rolling guitar that makes the song, and 'Lay Lady Lay' literally, honestly made me laugh out loud.

If this is the sound of the future, then we are all doomed. Doomed I tell you.

Tracks

Side 1

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'

Side 2

1. Venus
2. Come Together
3. Bridge Over Troubled Water Clip 1 Clip 2
4. Lay Lady Lay
5. United We Stand
6. Proud Mary


Final score:

3! out of 10

January 15th, 2010

Shhhh.... whisper it quietly. It seems that one of the Artistes featured here took exception to my review of her album. Enough exception in fact to write me the most passive aggressive e-mail I have ever received. Which was fun.

I replied courteously and honestly defending my position, but I received no reply. Therefore 6 months on I feel no guilt in relaying that e-mail to you, gentle reader. No editing or grammatical clean-up have been applied.

Enjoy!

"I laughed till the tears rolled down! What a HOOT!! OK - I’ll answer some of your observations/accusations/criticisms/assumptions. 1) The “up-to-date” lyrics WERE as such then in the ’70’s - we even sang for universities. 2) We have covered a very wide range of audiences in 40 countries. 3) I have my A.R.C.T. degree from the Royal Conservatory of Music in Torornto in piano and voice, and an Artist Diploma from the University of Toronto Faculty of music in voice and violin/viola. merv has his Bachelor of Music at the same university, and has taught band in several high schools as well as in Jerusalem. Having developed from a child prodegy, I’ve been a professional musician since I was 15 years old. The reason why I’m holding a guitar in the album photo AND playing it is because at that time folk music was vogue and I could scarcely accompany myself when I was singing on a violin!! If you send me your e-mail address i will send you our bios - just for fun, and maybe as a sideline to keep you on track. 5) We decided purposely to put my name last, simply because it SOUNDS better - you were right the second time! it was MY idea! 6) That WAS a harpsichord in the one or two selections - not a guitar. As to the music flavour, I was never trying to be like anyone else - just myself - and all the types of music I had been introduced to. Now my hand: - I am still playing, even after my horrendous accident - at 72 years old - and often professionally in symphony orchestras and string quartets- and still singing with my husband - and both our voices have shown no typical wobbles. The song “Time of the Singing of the Birds” - this was for kids primarily. Sorry you thought it was for you! Guess you’ve past that age though. huh? We’ve been called a lot of things - but “freakish” evoked a mad chuckle! We now have about 15 albums, and they sell all over the world - so one of us is wrong, nu??

Visit our web site and do view our photos button where you will see us as we are - only 2 years ago. Not bad for two old cronkers!!

Merla"

Watch this space for some new albums, coming "soon".

December 24th, 2008



Label / Cat. No: Music For Pleasure MFP 1266
First Released: 1968

What The Album Blurb Says...

Christmas is the most joyful festival of the Christian year, when we celebrate at the same time the turning point of the winter and the new hope that was brought to men with the birth of Jesus. Christmas is a time when we make up for the bleakness of the weather outside with the warmth of our spirits, and it is no coincidence that the songs which have come to be particularly associated with Christmas should be carols, which have always been the most cheerful and often the most secular of Christian songs.

On this record you find your favourite carols in an unfamiliar guise--we've called the album 'Tijuana Christmas', but you will find the mariachi sound taking on a richer and more varied flavour as the Toreo Band bring out the charms of our most beautiful carol tunes in imaginative brand new arrangements. 'The Holly and the Ivy' sets the pace with a bright, sparkling beat that even adds to the gaiety of one of our oldest and liveliest carols; 'Silent Night' a much more recent and a more devout carol, is given a quite contrasting treatment, slow and tender. 'Hark, the Herald Angels Sing' sets off again at a brisk, bouncy pace--and if you feel like dancing, why not? It may come as a surprise to you that our oldest carols used to be dances, and that the word itself described a form of circular dance.

In the preface to the Oxford book of carols you will find carols described as songs with a religious impulse that are simple, joyful, popular and modern. You'll never have heard them sounding more joyful, popular or modern than they do on this exciting and original L.P.

BLASE MACHIN


What I Say

Christmas is a time for miracles, so they say, and the discovery of this album is another little miracle which may just find it's place in the canon of Christmas Tales. You see, I was all ready to review a completely different album. Last January I picked up a copy of Mitch Miller's 'Holiday - Sing Along With Mitch' which had a cover that both intrigued and terrified me. Look, surely that man must be Satan. There can be no other explanation. The picture on that album cover (here, go go look at it again) can only be a coded message. Mitch is wearing a 'Santa' hat. Santa is a well-known anagram of Satan. I think I've made my point.

Anyway, the point is that while researching a bit about Mitch, I realised that although he's pretty much unknown in the UK, his profile in other parts of the world is significantly higher, and people might actually catch me out in the rubbish that I write here.

So it was a strange quirk of fate when last week I happened to be in a charity store, looking for something to put my TV on, when I noticed this album, Tijuana Christmas, staring at me from the record shelf. I can only assume that some enterprising shop-hand had tried to do a touch of seasonal promotion and put this on prominent display. Well, there was no choice, I had to buy it. Wouldn't you?

But that's not the miraculous part. Oh no!

When I got it home, and proudly showed it off to my wife, The Very Lovely Mrs. McDingo, she was delighted to inform me that this very album had been a significant part of her childhood. It seems that, when growing up, it was her family's tradition on Christmas Eve to go out to the local woodland, find a tree, hack it down, take it home, and decorate it to the delightful strains of this album. Christmas Eve's soundtrack in her childhood was this set of tunes.

It would therefore be churlish of me to be anything but lavish in my praise of this masterpiece of Mexican Musicala, surely? Hmmm.... well, as it's the season of goodwill, I'm prepared to overlook the fact that the chances are that The Torero Band (whose name doesn't even appear on the front of the album - it's in smallish print on the back) have probably never been further south than Croydon. MFP, the label, boasts of it's offices in Amsterdam, Brussels, Johannesburg, Cologne, London, Paris and Sydney. It has no offices, it would seem, anywhere on the American continent. Of course, that doesn't necessarily mean that 'The Torero Band' is really a front for a bunch of session musicians from Welwyn Garden City, but I think you'd have a hard time proving me wrong.

And then, just this morning I was reading Bill Bryson's The Lost Continent when I found this pertinent comment:-

It had never once occurred to me in thirty-six years of living that anyone listened to Mexican music for pleasure... there would be another song. Or rather, it would be the same song again, as far as I could tell. That is the unfortunate thing about Mexican musicians. They only seem to know one tune.

Which just about sums up the album. There is a clear formula to the songs - introduction, featuring the key melody line (or occasionally a variation thereupon), which lasts for four bars. Then the main tune comes in hitting with full Mariachi orchestration, playing the song with a strong swing beat with that distinctive raspy brass, sweep you along for 2 minutes, then start with the next song.

I've complained time and time again about the homogenisation of music on albums like this, but in this case it's the overarching style that is the reason for the samey feel - of course the tunes all sound the same. That's the whole point. It took me a while to understand that, but I think I'm there now!

But the real acid test came when I put this album on this morning to listen to it again. It was early - certainly before 7:30. I and two bleary eyed boys aged 6 and 4 were looking to start the day. The moment I put this album on, both the boys started dancing. Really grooving to the tunes, and of course, I couldn't help but join them. So for once I followed the instructions on the front. And it was ace.

Merry Christmas to you all.

Tracks

Side 1

1. The Holly And The Ivy
2. Silent Night
3. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
4. While Shepherds Watched
5. O Little Town Of Bethlehem
6. Good King Wenceslas

Side 2

1. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
2. Away In A Manger
3. The First Nowell
4. Christians Awake
5. Once In Royal David's City
6. O, Come All Ye Faithful

No Soundclips this time. Oh no. You lucky people, you can download the whole album. Why not play this forgotten gem during your Christmas lunch, eh? Click HERE to download (38 Mb)


Final score:

9 out of 10

August 6th, 2008



Label / Cat. No: Topic 12T150
First Released: 1966

What The Album Blurb Says...

Fred Jordan was born on January 5, 1922, at Ludlow, Shropshire. He is a farm labourer, living in the village of Aston Munslow, about seven miles from Ludlow. His house has a view of Corve Dale and the distant Clee Hills.

In 1952 Peter Kennedy, then working for the British Broadcasting Corporation, visited the area, and being told by the local blacksmith that Fred Jordan was a good singer, he recorded him for the BBC's folk song archive. In the autumn of 1959, Fred attracted the attention of participants in the folk song revival when he appeared at the English Folk Dance and Song society's festival wearing his everyday clothes - heavy boots, leggings and weather-defying hat. His singing drew immediate acclaim. Since then he has appeared with increasing regularity at concerts and clubs, with other country singers and also with revival performances. He enjoys concert and club work, where he sings with the straightforward 'professionalism' and unselfconsciousness common to most country singers.

As a folk singer he may be classed with the best - and that best includes Harry Cox, George Maynard and Phil Tanner. Though he is still a young man he has the essential style of this older generation. His musical sense is very highly developed; his ability to make small rhythmical changes to suit the words of songs is marked and his use of melodic ornament is subtle and skilful. the quality of his voice may seem strange at first hearing, but it is not unique, and there is nothing here of an old man's quaver, for Fred Jordan is in his prime.

In performance, he inclines to let his personality retire behind the song, in the true manner of traditional singers. He sings without change of facial expression, without physical mannerism. He performs Barbara Allen and The Old Armchair in precisely the same manner, in the straight-faced almost deadpan way that amateur singers still adopt in town pubs where they stand up to give out with I'll Take You home Again, Kathleen.

Fred Jordan acknowledges three main sources for his songs: first his parents (his mother came from Warwickshire, his father comes from Leeds); second the travellers and gypsies who frequent the district; last, his acquaintances in the countryside. In his own mind he distinguishes between what he now calls 'proper folk songs', music-hall songs, and the arranged versions of folk songs that he learned at school.

All the songs on this record are found up and down the country in one version or another. Many are to be found in the classic folk song collections. Others, of known authorship, the pops of yesteryear, have taken their place alongside traditional songs in the folk singers' repertoire on their merits of narrative and melody. Some of these are American in origin. The music-hall and touring show all played their part in widening the popular repertoire, and radio and gramophone records have also had their effect. This record shows the mixture of song types in the repertoire of a country singer in the 1960's.


What I Say

Some of you will have seen 'The Green Green Grass', the spin-off series from 'Only Fools & Horses'. If you have caught this show, then you have my deepest sympathy. Really. The premise, for those of you who haven't seen it, is that Boycie, a second-hand car salesman from Peckham in South London, moves to the Shropshire countryside to avoid some shady underworld types, and what follows is a fish-out-of-water "comedy". For anyone who lives within 100 miles of Shropshire, the biggest mystery is why do all the Shropshire characters dress like they live in the 1930s and speak with yokel Somerset accents. I mean, just look...



...and listen



Sorry to have to put you through that, but it just isn't Shropshire. But Fred Jordan, now he's the real deal...

What an unexpected gem we have here. I chose this album from my pending pile because I have spent the last week working on a farm not 10 miles from the Shropshire border - barn building, labouring and general jobbing. I believe this makes me supremely qualified to look at an album by a fellow man of the soil. Well, to be fair, I didn't get that close to any actual soil, but still, Fred Jordan must be singing the songs that speak to my heart, mustn't he?

Well, yes and no.... the title is a touch misleading - these aren't songs about Shropshire farm workers, or even songs that Shropshire farm workers in general would sing. Instead, it's a collection of songs sung by one Shropshire farm worker, namely Mr Jordan. I won't go into details of Fred's life here, because there are some excellent biographies around - try here for starters if you want to know more about the Fredster.

The songs aren't even all about farming or the bucolic life. At least two of them are nautical in flavour, and Shropshire's pretty far from the sea at the best of times.

But that's of not matter. I can honestly say that this is unique in all the albums I've listened to - what we have is Fred Jordan. Nothing more, nothing less. No musicians, no backing singers, no accompaniment whatsoever. This album stands or falls on Fred Jordan's voice, and it stands.

It stands as a period piece, it stands as a collection of English folk tunes sung by someone steeped in the folk tradition, and it stands as a collection of tunes by an accomplished singer. True, there are some vocal mannerisms which sound curious to our pop-soaked ears, and the starkness of hearing a single voice cut the silence takes some getting used to. But that also summarises the character of this album. It is raw, stripped back, nothing but the singer and the song, and to my jaded ears it made a very refreshing change. I can't say that this is going to be a recurrent favourite on my playlists, but unlike a lot of what I plough through (see what I did there?), I'm more than happy to give this a second listen. Maybe even a third.

In looking for details of this album on this wonderful internet of ours, I was amazed to find that the Topic record label not only still exists, but is a beacon of independent labels, having been releasing albums now for 69 years. Go and have a look at their site to find out more, but any label that boasted John Peel as a fan must have something going for it.

Lovely jubbly.

Sorry.

Tracks

Side 1

1. We Shepherds Are The Best Of Men
2. The ship That Never Returned
3. Down the Road
4. We're All Jolly Fellows that Follow The Plough
5. The Watery Grave
6. The Dark-Eyed Sailor
7. Three Old Crows

Side 2

1. John Barleycorn
2. The Banks Of Sweet Primroses
3. The Bonny Boy
4. Polly's Father Lived In Lincolnshire
5. The Royal Albert
6. Down The Green Groves
7. The Farmer's Boy

Final score:

8 out of 10

July 28th, 2008



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!

Tracks

Side 1

1. Moonlight Serenade
2. Something
3. I Want To Hold Your Hand
4. Michelle
5. Bird Cage Walk
6. Londonderry Air

Side 2

1. Hey Jude
2. Let It Be
3. Yesterday
4. Diamond Rock
5. A Hard Day's Night




Final score:

1 out of 10 - for using the term 'vocal stylings' unselfconsciously.

July 17th, 2008



Label / Cat. No: Sacred SAC 5061
First Released: 1972

What The Album Blurb Says...

For a number of years now Jim Roberts and Norma Zimmer have provided moments of unusual enjoyment for millions of Americans. In the world of pure entertainment, longevity is synonymous with popular response. Norma and Jim have been premier performers for many years now courtesy of us, the American people, and Lawrence Welk. Mr. Welk ultimately decides who the performers will be; we feel his choice is just right!

This is the third album by Norma and Jim. Their style of singing seems perfectly matched - it's as comfortable as a pair of gloves. they blend beautifully singing some of the most popular gospel songs of the day - and some songs that are ageless. HIS NAME IS WONDERFUL is a favourite and is performed by mass choirs around the world. thank you Audrey Mieir, for the inspiration with which you've graced the world! I wonder how often BEYOND THE SUNSET has been sung, played, whistled, and used as a source of comfort since Virgil Brock first penned the lovely lyric some years ago. You will enjoy having this recording in your home.

The performances of hymns on TV by Jim and Norma have opened a door that has given many additional thousands an opportunity to hear them in person; in hymn festivals, in concerts, as solo performers in Billy Graham Crusades, and in churches everywhere.

the creative arrangements on this album are by Buryl Red. Mr. Red is gifted in many areas of music, one of which is the art of arranging. you will also hear his lovely song entitled HIS GENTLE LOOK.

KURT KAISER


What I Say

I know, I know. When I bought this album I had a tiny sliver of hope that this was going to actually be about somebody called 'Wonderful'. You know, in the same vein as 'A boy named Sue'. I mean, there are some unusual names about. I once knew someone called Zachariah Puddlechuck, and that would make a great name for an album - 'His Name Is Zachariah Puddlechuck'. But no, with crushing inevitability, this turned out to be an album of Christian songs, extolling the virtue of some chap name of Jesus. Or Wonderful. I'm still not sure which.

The sleeve notes warrant a bit of a further look. Firstly, longevity is apparently synonymous with popular response, apparently. Well look at Cliff Richard for a start. He's been around since the Pilgrim Fathers, and who wants to listen to his records? Oh yes, my Mother-in-Law. Alright then, maybe Jonathan King would be a better example. There's a man who is pretty much universally unpopular but who won't stop making his bloody songs.

Also, who is the Lawrence Welk character who stands head and shoulders above the American People then? Well, you can see for yourself, but seeing as this was released by London label, and I've managed to go 37 years without ever hearing his name even casually mentioned before, I'm prepared to stick my neck out and say that that's going to be pretty meaningless to a lot of Brits. Apologies of course to all those people better informed and educated than I...

However, I am most concerned by the line 'You will enjoy having this recording in your home'. Is it me, or does that sound more like a command than a recommendation. Maybe it's the Teutonic tone of Kurt Kaiser's comment that scare the living bewonderful out me, but I'm scared. I'm scared because I have that album in my home, and I didn't (and don't) enjoy it. Will Mr. Kaiser come round in the dead of night, drag me off, and leave me bound and gagged and listening to his sacred music compositions. I sincerely hope not.

The music sounds like a grown-up Elaine & Derek - a collection of sweet Christian tunes which all merge into one. I've always found that Christian music tends to err on the side of dull. Actually, there's a challenge for you - are there any Christian music albums that won't bore me to tears? A prize for anyone who can find one. Anyway, as I was saying, this album features 9 samey songs.

Ah, but I hear you cry, "but there are 10 songs on this album, surely". Well, yes there are. Just as you think you can't take any more sweetness, side two starts with 'Sweet, Sweet Spirit'. This song has A COUNTRY TWANG. Not enough to be exciting or offensive, of course, but just enough to lift the tedium. It was at this point that I thought that this might yet have some saving grace - a sub-Carpenters kitsch that might just make this album worth something to me.

But it wasn't to be.

All too quickly it sank back into the banal. I mean, yes, their voices are fine, the arrangements are a bit saccharine for my tastes and seem to my untrained ears to be somewhere between Andrew Lloyd Webber and Disney soundtracks. But it's all soooooo bland.

There is however one very positive point about this album. It clocks in at just under 28 minutes. I tell you, I'll never have that half hour back again, but I was far more in the mood after it to thank Wonderful, if only for not having made the album a double.

Tracks

Side 1

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

Side 2

1. Sweet, Sweet Spirit
2. His Gentle Look
3. Take Up Thy Cross
4. He Touched Me
5. Beyond The Sunset


Final score:

2 out of 10

July 9th, 2008



Label / Cat. No: BBC Records & Tapes REC 284
First Released: 1977

What The Album Blurb Says...

I say "enjoy your slimming" because it is much more successful if you do. It is a bore to be forever worrying about strict diets and complicated calorie counting. It can be just a simple "way of life". Regular exercise and sensible eating will keep your weight where you want it. It works for both men and women, as my husband could tell you. Cut down on fats, starches and sugars, exercise regularly and you are on the way. To help you to select the non-fattening foods there are two lists. Plan your meals around the first and try to avoid the second. Don't deny yourself all the foods you really like even if they are on the fattening list because this way leads to tension and you won't enjoy your slimming. Just reduce the quantities and include small amounts in a balanced eating programme.

For a really spectacular loss of weight, say six to seven stone, then I would suggest group therapy - Silhouette Slimming Club have wonderful results, which I have seen for myself, that is why I sought their advice with this album for those of us who wish to lose a lesser amount and to stay slim throughout our lives.

Don't forget the bathroom scales, these play a major part in our slimming plan. Decide on a reasonably weight for you height and work for that. I find at 5ft 2 1/2ins, eight and a half stone is about right and easy to hold, but bone structure can make a difference of several pounds. Weigh yourself once a week minus clothes and look for a gradual but steady weight loss - 2lbs a week adds up to nearly four stone in six months. Don't be disappointed if after losing weight at first - nothing happens for a time. This is quite normal while the body adjust to its new exercise and sensible eating pattern. But watch that fattening list! My own personal best hints are these: BUY THE RIGHT FOODS. If you have got them in the house you will eat them. If you haven't you will eat what is there, and they may be on the wrong list!

Finally, get out and walk. Carry nothing but yourself but carry yourself well - and don't worry. If you slip up today, there is always tomorrow.

Best Wishes,

Eileen Fowler

SLIMMING FROM THE MAN'S POINT OF VIEW

In a man's world a light-hearted approach to slimming is more likely to be successful than serious denial, as sensible eating and exercise are not usually his favourite subjects. he will joke about being overweight while fully realising the importance of keeping it down. Long hours spent sitting in an office chair or other sedentary occupations tend to tire the brain and exhaust the body, leaving him disinclined to take kindly to anything but the food and drink he likes in order to relax.

The pace of life today with its attendant stresses and strains can have a lasting effect on the way we look and feel and it's essential to counteract this in the best way we can. If overweight and the ensuing lack of vitality and energy is a problem , what better way than to Enjoy Your Slimming. Near starvation and tiring work-outs are out of date, and the more relaxed and healthy way to combat spreading and tension is in. It's a question of application. When eating out, study the menu carefully and choose as far as possible according to the suggestions given on List 1. If you really want Ma's apple pie, have it - not too much and not too often, and you won't feel deprived. of course you will want a drink, but the odd tomato juice can be useful. Drink, if and when you need it - or the occasion demands.

Figurewise - take a look at these diagrams and cut this exercise bogey down to size. concentrate on two areas - chest/shoulders and back for good posture, and you will never walk head first, but stay straight and tall. Work on the tummy muscles for control and you will look and feel better. try the following three exercises - Side 1. The Wall Game, Hairpin Bend and Arm Circling, Touch Toe. With a bit of help from the family regarding food, you will be slimmer and fitter and it's quite painless.


What I Say

I have this indistinct memory of seeing black and white footage from the early 50s of pert young girls in pointy bras and gym knickers doing healthy, wholesome exercises - presumably to keep them sound of morals and fit for whichever young buck they might marry, settle down with and make a home for. Assuming that this isn't just some figment of my fevered imagination, the work presented here by Eileen Fowler would be the perfect soundtrack to such a film.

Eileen is a no-nonsense woman. Oh, she seems friendly enough with her occasional chuckles and chummy manner, but the authority in her voice commands you to follow her instructions immediately and to the letter. There's a schoolma'am quality that marks her out for an ideal P.E. teacher in Malory Towers.

It turns out though that Eileen was a very sensible woman who spent her life crusading to get people fitter and eating more healthily. Perhaps it is this campaigning zest which fires the authority I mentioned. Yet that is forgiveable when you realise that what she's trying to do is improve people's lives. If there had been more people spreading Eileen's message a bit earlier, we might not be facing the supposed 'obesity crisis'. What's more important is that we might have been spared endless fitness DVDs of pneumatic 'lovelies' in lycra.

This album clearly focuses on the exercises - simple things that you can do at home. No equipment is needed, just a willingness to obey Eileen's commands at a moments notice. She whizzes through the exercises, and leaves it a bit late with the instructions. I have to admit, I haven't actually tried any of the exercises, not least because I know that a combination of my unco-ordinatedness and her late instructions would lead to an unsightly tangle. However, this isn't just about exercise. We are handily presented with two lists in the sleeve notes - food to eat lots of and food to avoid where possible. Unsurprisingly, the former is full of fruit, vegetables, fish and Ryvita whole-grain (OK, that last bit's a lie, but you get the picture), and the latter list seems to be a foretelling of my diet - chocolate, fried foods, biscuits, alcohol, and really anything that makes life worth living.

I would have assumed that this was common knowledge, even in 1977, but I really don't know. But that's the main feature of this record - it seems anachronistic, even for such unenlightened times as the late seventies. If this album had been produced in 1954 it would seem perfectly natural, but to think that it was produced in my lifetime makes it seem alien. To be fair, this record was a tie-in with Eileen's series of the same name on Radio 4's "Today" programme. I suspect that those listening to Radio 4 in 1977 thought it was still 1954.

As with that Peter Powell exercise album, it's hard to pick out any individual tracks, so instead I've compiled just a few of my favourite soundclips. I'm very pleased to know how to avoid a 'Dowager's Hump' thanks to Eileen's sound advice. Now, can anyone tell me what a Dowager's Hump actually is?

Tracks

Side 1

1. The "Wall Game" For A Slimming Stretch
2. "Hairpin Bend" For Tummy Muscles
3. "Circle Touch Toe" For Arms, Chest, Shoulders and Back.
4. Sequence - Repeat all three exercises linking them together

Side 2

1. See Saw Stretch For Waistline And Knees
2. "Roll And Reach" For Tummy, Seat And Hips
3. "Rolling Pin Roll" To Fine Down Your Figure (sic)
4. Sequence - Repeat all three exercises linking them together and improvising to the extra music

Sound Clips

Welcome
March
Is Your Right Knee Ready?
That's What I'm After
Dowager's Hump
Do What Now?


Final score:

1954 out of 10

March 27th, 2008

Not quite an update

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Forgotten Albums
Hello Forgottenalbumers.

Never did get round to trying to find a better name for you collectively.... Anyway, just to let you know I haven't abandoned you. A combination of poorly computer and poorlier daughter led to an unexpected hiatus, but all will be kicked back into action very soon.

Just to tide you over, here's a tune that makes you feel glad to be alive. It's our old friend Mrs Mills, with 'The Lambeth Walk'. Watch out for those spoons...

March 10th, 2008



Label / Cat. No: D&M Sound DML 1
First Released: 1976

What The Album Blurb Says...

As one Disc Jockey Said - "The Vast Majority is not just wall to wall sound; it is city block to city block sound - and babe, it's all disco heat and color!"

That's where T.V.M. is at! Sixty of the greatest players and down home singers that ever hit a speaker system. They start by working out driving funky rhythm charts and tracks - add strings, brass, reeds and then finally their great blues and salsa vocalists. You name it! From funky blues to symphonic jazz - sensuous salsas to hard rock. The vast majority has it covered.


What I Say

I believe that there is a transatlantic and generational gap in understanding of the word 'Disco'. Clearly for our American cousins in the 70s, Disco was an exciting, energetic movement. It was a scene, with its own rules, its own dress code, its own moves and its own drugs of choice. It was cutting edge, it was, frankly, funky.

For me, hitting my teens in the early 80s, the word 'Disco' means a school organised event once a term, where teenage boys fuelled on Mars Bars and Coca-Cola would act like pillocks on the dance floor until the slow set started, when they suddenly became stuck to the walls.

American 70s Disco had Studio 54, Tavares and Shep Pettibone. English 80's Disco had middle-class white guys called Tim who'd play a selection from that weeks Top 40, plus 'The Birdy Song' and 'The Can Can'.

I can still clearly remember my first Disco, in the main hall of Causton Junior School, Felixstowe in July 1982. It was still light outside, and all the P.E. equipment had been moved to the side of the hall to make room for a dance floor. I even recall that two of the songs that were played were 'Green Door' by Shakin' Stevens (who, I'm sure I needn't remind you, was dubbed 'The Welsh Elvis'.... hah!), and 'The Hucklebuck' by 'Coast to Coast'. A happening scene, it was not.

And all this background flavour is only to point out that I am the last person who should try to review a Disco album. I am thoroughly unqualified to make any assessment as to what's good and what's not. To be fair, I know that's never stopped me before in my reviews.

I've spent some time trying to find out if this is a proper, genuine Disco album, or some cheap cash-in. I started with the assumption that it was probably the latter, not least because it has the words 'Disco Dynamite!' plastered across the back of the sleeve. I thought that a genuine part of the Disco movement wouldn't need to state it so boldly. I then discovered that the scores were by Colin Fretcher and Roy Budd. Now, Roy Budd may be a respected film score arranger, but he's also from South Norwood, which is just round the corner from where I was born, and most definitely not Disco Central. The other chap, Colin Fretcher, is credited as producer on this album which is hardly going to do his credibility any good.

But the producers, Dave Miller and Marty Wilson seem to have a good enough reputation, and know what they're doing. The catalog number of DML 1 made me think this might be some fly-by-night outfit, but D & M records were set up in 1975, just in time to get in on the early days of Disco, and according to some sources, they invented the concept of the 12" single. Yikes!

So, I'm prepared to accept that this is the genuine article - an album from the early days of Disco. But is it any good? Well.... I enjoyed it well enough. It didn't make me want to get up and dance, though very little does these days. You know, what with my ageing bones and everything. But what really struck me was the unpolished nature of the songs. They seemed slightly plodding, pedestrian almost. None of the high polish and perfect production that marks the later Disco sound. I suppose for me that that's what gives this its authenticity. It's a snapshot during the development of Disco. It's not the finished article, but a work in progress. All the elements are there, but it would take a while for this professional shine to be applied.

And that's about it. It's OK. Actually, it's quite good. But of course, Disco gave rise to Disco Dancing, which was always a challenge. Until now....



And those tracks from my first school Disco...





Tracks

Side 1

1. Love For Sale
2. Move It!
3. Pain Dealin' Woman

Side 2

1. Muddy Sneakers
2. Salsa Woman
3. Take It!
4. Oceans Apart

Final score:

6.5 out of 10
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