Now here is a timely treat for lovers of Real Music.
Just when mainstream broadcasters have decided that anything made before 1965 is out, and music companies assume we all want low quality MP3s of even lower quality pop music, along comes a superb new double CD to show quite how it should be done.
Pennies From Heaven
, entitled "44 original songs from the golden era of music
", is just that - golden nuggets from a time when music was melodic, tuneful and crafted with love.
We know that there is a huge demand among supporters of the Campaign For Real Music® for more from this wonderful era of music, so it is encouraging to see such a release. So often, collections such as this feature a predictable selection of the usual suspects. We expect to see on the track listing the inevitable Mack The Knife
by Louis Armstrong and Ella's A-Tiscket A-Tasket
. A lot more thought has been put in to the content of this collection. Fans of Ella and Louis will be pleased to learn that they do make more than one appearance, a highlight being the Sachmo and Ella duet, Dream A Little Dream of Me
The CD set is from Universal’s excellent Living Era
label, which has brought us so many quality re-issues over the years, primarily focusing on early jazz. While many of the tracks on this set feature early recordings from top jazz musicians, a good mix of vocalists from the late 30s and early 40s are featured.
Other well known artists from the era, such as Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra, more than deserve their place on this CD and again the selection is creative. We wonder how many fans of the popular Sinatra have dipped in to his early recordings? CDs such as this will hopefully introduce many to a different side of Francis Albert. While Sinatra's Capitol and Reprise recordings are the ones that brought the memorable classics that would have you believe that his career commenced in 1965, the young Sinatra's voice is warm, open and technically flawless. It surely deserves greater recognition and airplay these days. It is fair to say that towards the end of his Columbia years, the choice of material for Sinatra was sometimes ill-matched to his talent, but tracks such as the one featured here, A Lovely Way To Spend An Evening
, do hold their own against his more popular, later recordings. The vocal backing to this track, courtesy of The Bobby Tucker Singers, is spine-tingling. A musician's strike at the time meant that the orchestra was replaced by a vocal arrangement, and the result is sonic perfection. Next time you reach for New York New York
, give this a play instead.
The career of Dick Haymes mirrored that of Frank Sinatra. Dick is another artist who deserves greater recognition these days. Haymes followed Sinatra to both the Harry James and Tommy Dorsey orchestras, and also went on to become one of Hollywood's heartthrobs. He, too, married (and divorced) a voluptuous film star, the lovely Rita Hayworth. When we list the great singers of our time, Sinatra, Crosby and Nat King Cole may be the first we recall but Dick Haymes deserves his place among the greats. Dick's track here, Cheek to Cheek
, is a double-treat as it also features the fine piano playing talents of Carmen Cavallaro.
The real magic of this CD for us is the smattering of dance bands and their vocalists from the 1930s. Members of the Campaign For Real Music® will be aware of the plight of dance band music these days, which is now completely out of favour with radio schedulers. So it is encouraging to see some of the finest singers from this era feature alongside those from the later big band era. The original US crooner, Rudy Vallee, appears with As Time Goes By
, dating way back to 1931; British dance band fans will be pleased to see a clutch of Al Bowlly songs, Al being one of the leading British vocalists of the day. He is presented with the superlative Ray Noble band. Britain's answer to Bing Crosby, Denny Dennis, also appears. The girls get a good look in too, with interesting, early song choices from Vera Lynn and Frances Langford among some of the female artists on these CDs.
Why you would want to download this material from the internet puzzles us, since it seems silly to be able to access these tracks at a quality level not heard before, only to receive them in a compressed format. Those who obtain these via iTunes will also be missing out on some of the best packaging on a CD we have come across. It is reminiscent of the glory days of vinyl, and the CDs themselves even have grooves. Film fans will appreciate the superb cover of this CD, presenting a cinema theatre which is showing Frank Capra's Lost Horizon
, an incredible film which in 1937 actually saved an ailing Columbia from going bust.
The quality of the packaging is surpassed only by the excellent digitally enhanced transfers of these early mono recordings. We have to give top marks to the sleeve notes which accompany this set. Ray Crick provides a veritable education of the leading names of this amazing era of music, with plenty of detail for the dance music era aficionados.
These days, music such as this is so poorly treated by mainstream broadcasters – the BBC now also among the culprits. This mystifies us. The age of music has no bearing on its quality - no one ever criticised Mozart for being "out of date". And the irony is that if you frequent places such as Cafe Rouge and Starbucks, this is the sort of music you will hear playing merrily away. This is the sort of music that goes so well with bistro fayre, so why do the producers and radio schedulers consider that we would not appreciate this in our own homes? Who wants to listen to loud pop music when they are having a romantic dinner? And if you do have to be cool, as it seems is so many people's primary concern, then we can't think of cooler music than this. Universal has done a great job in making this CD stand our from mass market dross. Who needs to be cool when you can be quite so classy?
If this era of music remains an unchartered territory for you, this is as good a starting place as any to dip into a fountain which contains many heavenly pennies.
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Excellent music to dine to