Ray Conniff and the Singers – It Must Be Him

Sleeve Notes:

The contemporary music of today is undergoing the most radical and exciting change I have witnessed in the entire twenty-five years I have been associated with the recording industry. The harmonic structures, melodic lines and rhythmic backgrounds used in these new songs are most refreshing, and chord structures and melodies like those found in Yesterday, A Man and a Woman, Don’t Sleep in the Subway, Music to Watch Girls By and It Must Be Him, to give a few examples, show each thought and portray fine musicianship on the part of the young writers of today. Personally, I find the radical departure from the old, stereotyped chord progressions very uplifting and stimulating, and I do hope you will enjoy the performances of the singers in this album of today’s contemporary music as much as we enjoyed recording it for you.

Sincerely yours,
Ray Conniff

Ray Conniff and the Singers - It Must Be Him

Label: CBS 63247

1968 1960s Covers

Jackie Gleeson – Love Embers and Flame

Sleeve Notes:

This album, needs very few words of explanation. To millions it’s another superb package of mood music to add to a record collection that probably includes several, if not all, of Jackie’s previous albums.

For over the past few years Gleason has established himself rather firmly as the undisputed master of a special kind of “listenin’ music” — lush instrumental music that not only helps to create an atmosphere of relaxation, but also frequently proves to be the ideal complement to a quiet, romantic setting.

Once more it’s the unmistakable sound of the famed Gleason strings — here, two string orchestras — imparting their rich, full-voiced beauty to a dozen lovely ballads. Solo phrases are exchanged from opposite sides of the Stereo stage by piano and celeste on some tracks, mellow trombones and trumpets on others, and each orchestration is varied in mood and color, even as the moods of love so often vary from smoldering embers to bright-burning flame.

It’s music in the very best Jackie Gleason tradition, smooth arrangements designed to suit an evening of dancing, romancing, or easy listening.

Jackie Gleeson - Love Embers and Flame

Label: Capitol SW 1689
Cover Photo/Capitol Photo Studio/Ken Veeder

1962 1960s Covers

Magic of the Minstrels – Tony Mercer, Dai Francis and John Boulter

These days we look upon the “Black and White Minstrels” as a ludicrous and overtly racist form of entertainment. It’s hard to believe it commanded huge viewer ratings during the sixties when it was prime time programming in the UK. For more background history see this Wikipedia entry on The Black and White Minstrel Show.

Sleeve Notes:

Here they are again–one of the most remarkable phenomena to appear on the British show business scene for many, many years—the Black and White Minstrels! What makes them so remarkable —indeed, unique?

Well, in the first instance, it is incredible that a minstrel show should have taken this country by storm in an age when this form of entertainment was generally considered a relic of the past—the only comparable team in recent decades was the famous Kentucky Minstrels, who were at their peak as recording artists and broad-casters during the 1930’s and 1940’s. It has been suggested by a few cynics that black-faced minstrels are out of place in these days of more enlightened attitudes towards the coloured races—but this theory presupposes that the minstrel show is detrimental or derogatory to coloured folk, and certainly the Black and White Minstrels cannot be accused of any such approach; and their overwhelming acceptance throughout Britain and the Commonwealth would indicate that the vast majority of people accept them for what they are—honest-to-goodness entertainers. Anyone who is looking for political overtones in a situation such as this must, I feel, be deliberately striving to provoke trouble—and, happily, such complaints are restricted to a meagre few.

How can we analyse the Minstrels’ success? In a nutshell, it boils down to good, clean family entertainment which virtually no-one—irrespective of age, sex, or personal taste—can resist. To see the show on stage or television, one is first struck by the colour of the production—if I may use a paradox, in applying colour to black-and-white television and, indeed, Black and White Minstrels! It is vital, exuberant, sparkling, dynamic and alive—plus practically every other similar adjective you may care to apply. They move with an immaculate precision, which in itself is an education in the art of presentation and choreography. And this absorbing spectacle is one of the major reasons why the Minstrels have, seemingly, taken up residence at London’s Victoria Palace—where they have been one of Theatreland’s biggest box-office attractions for countless years. And it accounts for the similar success enjoyed by other Minstrel companies in theatres as far apart as Morecambe (where they have played several record-breaking summer seasons) and Australia. But in the final reckoning, the over-riding success factor of the Minstrels is their music—their choice of tunes, and the straight-forward uncomplicated manner in which they are performed. For these are the tried-and-trusted evergreens, the cream of the popular repertoire of the past century—from the Stephen Foster ballads of one hundred years ago, to the pick of today’s Tin Pan Alley output. They are songs we can all join in—and invariably do —whether participating in a sing-song at a party, or quietly enjoying the Minstrel’s brand of nostalgia in the relative quiet of our own homes. Nothing persuades the Briton to unwind more than an opportunity to “join in the chorus” and, in their skilful selection of long-lasting favourites, this is precisely what the Minstrels achieve.

It is this aspect of their widespread appeal which has made them such consistent favourites on disc—they rank among Britain’s top-selling album artists, with every one of their releases having reached the Top Ten LP Chart. Of these, three have—for varying periods—occupied the No. 1 position. No-one will be surprised by these facts—for the Minstrels’ albums are so infectious, so charged with compulsive entertainment, so durable in the lasting pleasure they create, that the issue of every new LP by this scintillating team is regarded as a significant event in every collector’s calendar. And those who don’t collect records—well, they continually request the Minstrels on “Housewives’ Choice” and “Family Favourites”, hadn’t you noticed? This latest programme is typical of the team’s own particular brand of bonhomie, and again features those three distinctive soloists who have become such an integral part of the Minstrels’ success formula—Tony Mercer, Dai Francis and John Boulter.

DEREK JOHNSON New Musical Express

Magic of the Minstrels - Tony Mercer, Dai Francis and John Boulter and the Black and White Minstrels

Label: HMV CLP 1917

1965 1960s Covers

The ‘Stan Foster Impression’ – Sounds Like Kaempfert Volume II

Sleeve Notes:

Owing to the huge success of “Sounds Like Kaempfert Volume I” Stan Foster now presents “Sounds Like Kaempfert Volume II”. The majority of titles on this Album are familiar standards, to which Stan’s arrangements in the Kaempfert idiom have lent a new perspective.

Stan Foster’s idea of creating a relaxing and intimate atmosphere has made this an ideal album for before dinner dancing and after dinner listening!

The varied career of Stan Foster has included playing with the Ted Heath, Geraldo and Nat Temple Bands as pianist and arranger. He accompanied the late Alma Cogan for many years—in fact from the beginning to the very end of her exciting International career.

No wonder then that after being in the company of the famous and best Stan’s own orchestra includes the finest musicians in Great Britain. His lead trumpet player—Alan Lewis—has earned well-deserved respect for his faultless musicianship and it is with musicians such as these that Stan retains his orchestra’s reputation of one of the foremost in the world.

Currently, Stan Foster is a regular performer on the B.B.C. and has his own featured programme “The Stan Foster Impression” which stand high on the popularity ratings.

This brilliant album will be popular with all age groups and has been specifically devised and recorded to present the widest cosmopolitan appeal.

The 'Stan Foster Impression' - Sounds Like Kaempfert Volume II

Label: Deacon DEA 1049

1971 1970s Covers

Rimsky Korsakov, The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra – Scheherazade

Sleeve Notes

In the year spanning 1887 and 1888, Nicolai Andreyvitch Rimsky-Korsakov managed to produce three symphonic tributes to three separate lands — his own Russia, Spain, and the Land of Make-Believe. The Russian Easter Overture (Opus 36) and Capriccio Español (Opus 34 ) both offered glittering festival music.

But the elements of pageantry, excitement and sensuality found even more triumphant expression in Opus 35 —which is Scheherazade. Rimsky always regarded this work with special interest and affection, suspecting perhaps that here he had created his immortal monument.

The career of Rimsky-Korsakov got off to a singularly unpromising start.

In the Navy circles in which, as a midshipman, young Rimsky moved, he was conceded to be indifferent officer material but a first-rate musician.

Among musicians, he was rated a rather bad pianist.

On reaching his twenty-first birthday in 1865, Rimsky had yet to decide just where he belonged. He loved the sea; but the dull, vulgar, and inhuman life with the Tsar’s Imperial Navy depressed him. And although he possessed an unmistakeable musical gift, Rimsky’s disposition was better suited to being an aristocratic young dilettante than to study, practice, and serious composition.

Yet, from such lean beginnings finally emerged one of the most astonishing talents in music!

Of the group of rebellious Russian composers later to be immortalized as the Mighty Five, Rimsky is considered by many as the mightiest. Balakirev, Cui, Moussorgsky, and Borodin made up the rest of the coterie. These five young men were the musical manifestation of the drive toward nationalism which all Russia was feeling at the time. Together they waged war on traditional “conservatory” music, as symbolized to them by Rubinstein and Tchaikovsky. Each of the five had his special genius to contribute. But none of the group (and, indeed, very few composers before or since) addressed himself with such success to the imagination of his listeners, as did the composer of Scheherazade.

It is to the lasting credit of Mili Balakirev, leader of the young dissidents, that he saw beyond Rimsky’s ignorance of harmony, notation, and the use of the musical instruments themselves. With a teacher’s intuition, Balakirev guessed at Rimsky’s latent greatness and goaded his protege to abandon mere musical dabbling. Not only was such waste of talent an abomination, but the Mighty Five needed a major musical work with which to gain recognition and stature. Thus Rimsky-Korsakov’s First Symphony, performed in 1865, was also the group’s first public testament.

The audience applauded, then gasped, as the composer was brought out onto the stage wearing his Naval uniform! But by September of the same year, Rimsky’s sailing days had ended, and he settled down to work in St. Petersburg. As he learned, he composed. And as he composed, he learned. Two fresh works: Sadko (1867), a symphonic poem; and the opera, The Maid of Pskov (1868 ) further established his success.

Yet he was scarcely prepared, in 1871, for an incredible stroke of luck: his appointment to a professorship at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. Urged on by his friends (particularly by Balakirev who jumped at the chance to plant one of his rebels in the hostile Conservatory), Rimsky accepted the post. Had he known a little more about music at the time, he would have been appalled at the magnitude of his own inadequacy. When the realization did smite him, it was too late to back out.

By diligent application and brilliant bluffing, Rimsky managed to hide his ignorance from his students and, eventually; to keep one jump ahead of them. As the composer explains: “… having been undeservedly accepted at the Conservatory as a professor, I became one of its best and possibly its very best pupil!”

He was engrossed in some revisions of Borodin’s Prince Igor when he received the inspiration for an orchestral piece derived from and suggesting the exotic tales of the Arabian Nights. And, in the summer of 1888, the symphonic suite in four movements — entitled Scheherazade, was completed.

In all of music it is hard to single out another composition equalling Scheherazade’s power to liberate the imagination of the listener and send it flying by magic carpet to the strange and wonderful world which Rimsky-Korsakov conjured up—a land of Oriental splendor—of djinns and magical fantasies-of heavy-lidded princesses — glistening Nubians — cruel Caliphs — beautiful slave-girls dancing and stamping their little belled feet in the crowded bazaar.

Each listener, according to his special mood and fancy, may improvise symbols of his own — just as did the composer of the music and the choreographer of the famous ballet based upon it.

For Rimsky-Korsakov intended his tone poem to be evocative rather than narrative. The “kaleidoscope of fairy-tale images”— as he himself characterized it — shifts from one to another with no continuing plot.

The titles of the four movements: The Sea and Sinbad’s Ship; The Kalander Prince’s Tale; The Prince and the Princess; The Bagdad Festival and the Ship Dashing Upon the Rock Surmounted by the Bronze Statue of a Warrior — serve mainly as thematic cues. The combined effect of these four movements is a melodic reflection of some of the tales by which the Sultana Scheherazade —over a period of A Thousand and One Nights — charmed her surly husband, the Sultan Schahriar, out of the notion of executing her.

The first violins establish the theme of Scheherazade as narrator. This same theme, repeated and embellished, leads to other musical figures and to other images. Wood-winds, horns, harp, cymbal, and tambourine take their turns assembling the mosaic of sound and enchantment.

Here is magnificent proof of Rimsky-Korsakov’s pain-fully acquired virtuosity. Every symphonic ornament is exhibited in this satisfying work, as though the composer had challenged not only himself but the orchestras and. conductors who would perform it. A concert showpiece from the day of its debut, Scheherazade makes exacting demands, ranging from pianissimo solos to its fortissimo climax and exploiting all of the colorations and shadings of musical sound.

No amount of repetition can diminish the vitality of such a composition. It brings something new and wonderful to all who hear it for the first — or for the hundredth — time.

WILLIAM STEINBERG is justly celebrated as one of the foremost conductors of our time. Coming to the United States in 1938 with a European reputation of the highest order, he has since distinguished himself with equal success and acclaim on this continent. His memorable appearances with most of the nation’s major symphony orchestras are climaxed now in his permanent conductorship of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, with which he displays the full scope and sensitivity of his magnificent talent. Among their recordings are these works:
BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 6 (“Pastoral”) P-8159
SCHUBERT: Symphony No. 2 Symphony No. 8 (“Unfinished”) P-8162
STRAUSS: Till Eulenspiegel Death and Transfiguration P-8291
BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 5 Symphony No. 8 P-8292
RACHMANINOFF: Symphony No. 2 P-8293
TCHAIKOVSKY: Serenade in C Major PROKOFIEV: Classical Symphony P-8290
TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No. 5 in E Minor P-8325

Rimsky Korsakov, The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra - Scheherazade

Label: Capitol P8305

1955 1950s Covers

The Ray Conniff Singers – It’s The Talk of the Town

Sleeve Notes:

Almost any time Ray Conniff lifts his baton, the town is likely to have some-thing to talk about, and this particular moment is no exception. Beginning with his first album, “‘S Wonderful,” Ray has endowed dance music with a tantalizing beat, a new sound and some very stylish arrangements, featuring a wordless chorus.

Now, in his latest collection, he brings the chorus forward and supplies them with words as well, giving these excellent singers the spotlight they deserve and bringing, moreover, a new dimension to his music.

The bright, singing sound of the Conniff music is still very much to be heard here, despite the emphasis on the chorus. Ray’s analysis of popular music in recent years has enabled him to come up with .w ideas in the application of familiar sounds, and again and again he has uncovered combinations that have caught and retained the public’s fancy. As an accompanist for vocalists on single records, and particularly as the leader of the sparkling organization heard in his albums, he has provided dance music with a delightful new impetus that seems to gather momentum as it goes along.

The bright, singing sound of the Conniff music is still very much to be heard here, despite the emphasis on the chorus. Ray’s analysis of popular music in recent years has enabled him to come up with .w ideas in the application of familiar sounds, and again and again he has uncovered combinations that have caught and retained the public’s fancy. As an accompanist for vocalists on single records, and particularly as the leader of the sparkling organization heard in his albums, he has provided dance music with a delightful new impetus that seems to gather momentum as it goes along.

Apart from the fact that the lyrics are sung in this newest Conniff programme, the main departure is that of mood; here Ray and the singers are in a somewhat more reflective vein, and many of the selections arc slower in tempo and smoother in over-all design.

The familiar shuffle beat is on hand, of course, punctuated here and there by the warm sound of a harp, and the chorus is in its mellowest form. They start off with the title number, an agreeably mournful ballad written in 1933 by Marty Symes, Al Neiburg and Jerry Levinson, and then move On to You’re an Old Smoothie, introduced by Ethel Merman in “Take a Chance” (1932). The composers were B. G. DeSylva, Richard Whiting, and Nacio Herb Brown. This affectionate foolishness gives way to the lively Buttons and Bows, an Academy Award-winning song by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans, first heard in the 1948 movie “Paleface.” Let’s Put Out the Lights turns the time backward again to 1932, in terms of a charmingly intimate song with words and music by Herman Hupfield, and then another old smoothie turns up in 1945’s It’s Been a Long, Long Time, devised by Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne. The first part of the programme concludes with another Academy Award-winner, Allie Wrubel and Ray Gilbert’s Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, from “Song of the South” in 1947.

Continuing this mellow divertissement, Ray Conniff and his singers come up with that hand-clapping hit of 1941, Deep in the Heart of Texas. This tribute to what is now the second largest state in the union was written by June Hershey, to Don Swander’s music. 1932 was a good year for songs (and for this album) as Ray Conniff turns to Love Is the Sweetest Thing, devised by Ray Noble on the opening notes of God Save the King. Another Ethel Merman success turns up next, in Irving Berlin’s lasting They Say It’s Wonderful from “Annie Get Your Gun” (1946), and then the Conniff singers present a melting rendition of Hands Across the Table, composed by Jean Delettre in 1934 to words by Mitchell Parish, and introduced by Lucienne Boyer. My Heart Cries for You, by Carl Sigman and Percy Faith, helped make Guy Mitchell one of the brightest new stars of 1950, and the programme is rounded off by a fragrant melody from Cole Porter’s extensive list, Rosalie from the 1937 movie of the same name.

The Ray Conniff Singers - It's The Talk of the Town

Label: Hallmark SHM 741

1971 1970s Covers

Eric Johnson and his Orchestra – The Music of Ivor Novello Glamorous Nights

Sleeve Notes:


Ivor Novello, son of a distinguished actress, decided at a very young age to make the theatre his life, and was fortunate in having his name brought to the notice of the public right at the start of his career. This was in 1915 when he wrote the patriotic song “Keep the home fires burning”. He followed this, six years later, by music for the sophisticated revue, “A to Z”, which opened inauspiciously at the Prince of Wales Theatre during a heat wave, but which held on until its success was assured and which contained the number, “And her mother came too”, which soon became the rage of London. In 1924 he wrote a satirical number, “The Rat Step”, a sidelight on the somewhat ridiculous dances then in fashion, as well as music for the revue, “The Punch Bowl”.

However, it was undoubtedly in the sphere of the spectacular musical that Ivor Novello became known and loved by millions of theatre-goers. For some years it had become increasingly difficult to find the right type of show to fill the vast Drury Lane Theatre for a reasonable run. On May 2nd, 1935, his first large scale musical, “Glamorous Nights” opened there and was an immediate success. One of the chief contributions to this success was clearly the musical score, which rapidly built up a great popularity among light orchestras and the larger dance bands. Thereafterwards, until the outbreak of the 1939-45 war, Ivor Novello was ready with a new spectacular show
whenever business showed signs of slacking off, and in yearly succession produced, “Careless Rapture”, “Crest of the Wave” and “The Dancing Years”, the Drury Lane run of the last only being interrupted by the outbreak of hostilities, but was soon to re-open at the Adelphi Theatre where it played continuously until after the end of the war. All of them had much in common—a lush score played by an orchestra with an opulent string section, a heavily romantic plot and a setting which was usually in some Ruritanian kingdom, with the composer himself playing the monarch or prince as required. During this period he also somehow managed to find time to take the chief part in the staging, at His Majesty’s Theatre, of the musical version of Max Beerbohm’s “The Happy Hypocrite”—one of the most exquisite and tasteful productions seen in pre-war London, and in which he presented Vivien Leigh for the first time to a delighted public, while he himself played the role of Lord George Hell.

After the war, he transferred his activities to the Hippodrome (“Perchance to Dream”) and tO The Palace Theatre, where the equally successful “King’s Rhapsody” was produced in Septerliber 1949, while his last production was a light-hearted musical comedy, “Gay’s the Word”, which he wrote for his friend of many years’ standing Cicely Courtneidge, and which opened at the Saville in February 1951.

No appraisal of Ivor Novello would be complete without reference to his many additional successes both as an actor and an author of straight plays—he was truly a man of the Theatre. Among the most successful were those light comedies which starred the most accomplished actresses of the day—such as the delightful “Fresh Fields” in which Lillian Braithwaite and Ellis Jeffries demonstrated the role of the comedienne to perfection.

Ivor Novello was much respected in the world of the theatre, and was very loyal to the stars he made famous and to his company. One has only to think of Vanessa Lee, Roma Beaumont and Olive Gilbert, among others, whom he brought before the public.

His sudden death, after no illness, on March 6th, 1951, came as a great shock not only to the world of the theatre, but to the general public to whom his name had become a household word. Every star of the London theatre, as well as many thousands of the public, flocked to his funeral, for it was understandably felt that his death had removed much of the sparkle from the London scene.


Eric Johnson and his Orchestra - The Music of Ivor Novello Glamorous Nights

Label: Society SOC 965

1965 1960s Covers

Radio Symphonie Orchester Berlin – Le Nozze Di Figaro

Sleeve Notes:

Mozart’s opera “The Marriage of Figaro” provided its composer with one of the greatest triumphs of his short lifetime; this event took place about six months after the world premiere in Vienna on the 1st May 1786, when the opera was performed for the first time in Prague.

“The enthusiasm (of the Prague audience) was on a scale hitherto unparalleled,” wrote a contemporary. “It was impossible to hear too much of it.” In consequence Mozart received a commission to write another opera for Prague. “Don Giovanni” is therefore a result of the success of “Figaro”, which, like its later sisterwork, had its origin in a literary work which was very skilfully adapted to form its libretto. “Figaro” is based on the comedy, full of social criticism, “Le mariage de Figaro ou la folle journee” by Beaumarchais, which had appeared in Paris two years earlier. In Vienna this satire on the age was banned, but Mozart’s librettist Lorenzo da Ponte was clever enough to overcome the difficulty by means of diplomacy and his acting ability.

In da Ponte’s version the barbs of the “storm-bird of the revolution”, as Beaumarchais’ “mad day” had been called, were clipped a little so as to appear harmless. The libretto nevertheless follows the play in its tensions between members of different classes of society. This is the second of three loosely linked comedies. In the first of them, “The Barber of Seville”, which has remained alive on the musical stage through Rossini’s masterly setting, Count Almaviva, with the assistance of the sly Figaro, abducts the beautiful Rosina from her guardian’s house. The “mad day”, as the first part of the original double title indicates, concerns the marriage of Figaro, who has been promo, ed to become the Count’s personal servant, to the Countess’s maid Susanna, who has to foil the Count’s designs on her. In this apparently superficial comedy of intrigue expressed in music there is embedded a fundamental conflict between social superiors and inferiors. While Figaro, as the Barber of Seville, was a colleague, a fellow-schemer with the Count, now that he is a personal servant he challenges his master, who has become a rival favoured by birth and position, to “dance to his tune”.

Lorenzo da Ponte described his libretto for Mozart as “un quasi nuovo genere di spettacolo”, a virtually new kind of stage work; he called this comic opera a “commedia per musica”. Indeed Mozart’s opera buffa goes far beyond the bounds of Neapolitan operatic farce such as Rossini was to create three decades later in its purest form. Comedy and tragedy, the marionette-like mechanics of the buffa tradition and genuine, deep human emotions, heightened by music, have never been more fully integrated in the sphere of comic opera than in “The Marriage of Figaro”, this early yet perfect comedy of character in music.

Radio Symphonie Orchester Berlin - Le Nozze Di Figaro - The Marriage of Figaro

Label: Deutsche Grammophon 136 272 SLPEM

1962 1960s Covers