Posts Tagged ‘Television’

Various Artist: Hula Land – The Golden Age of Hawaiian Music

Tuesday, December 15th, 2015

Various_HulalandTheGoldenAgeOfHawaiianMusicHawaiian roots and their many colorful blossoms

Those looking for a history of native-made Hawaiian music may be disappointed by this set. But they’re about the only ones. Most will enjoy the four discs’ and 102-page hardbound book’s exposition of Hawaiian music and its multiple eruptions in mainstream entertainment. While the set does include a helping of native-made Hawaiian sounds, particularly on disc three, its reach is wider and its statement broader. In both sights and sounds, this set essays both the roots of Hawaiian music, and its many manifestations in pop culture. As the book’s photographs and sheet music art demonstrate, Hawaii has long been both a destination and a mythology, and there are few places the two elements have fused more fully than in music.

Tempted by brilliant poster imagery and stoked by the speed of plane travel, South Seas tourism flourished in the ‘40s and ‘50s. Upon arriving in the Hawaiian islands, visitors found both authentic and ersatz culture awaiting them. And upon their return to the states, tourists brought back memories and souvenirs that served to deepen Hawaii’s allure as both a vacation getaway and a dramatic visual setting. Hawaii has provided a picturesque backdrop for films, television shows, commercials and even cartoons, and its songs and instruments (particularly the ukulele and steel guitar) provided material for a surprisingly wide range of non-Hawaiian artists. Hulaland pays homage to the stateside displays of Hawaiiana that grew from island roots, blossoming in Hollywood, Chicago, New York and elsewhere.

The set opens with Louis Armstrong singing “On a Little Bamboo Bridge,” backed by the Waimea-born Andy Iona and his group, the Islanders. Iona’s mix of traditional melodies and American swing provided a welcome spot for the New Orleans-born Armstrong, and together they lay out a template of the set’s riches. Disc one includes Hawaiiana from several unlikely artists, including Jo Stafford, Ethel Merman, Burns & Allen, Dorothy Lamour and the yodeling country star, Slim Whitman. The disc explores everything from kitschy ‘30s cartoon themes to ‘50s steel-guitar swing, and shows how Hawaiian music was popularized by native-born artists, collaborators and appropriators.

Hawaiiana threaded into popular music throughout the ‘50s and ‘60s, with Martin Denny and Arthur Lyman developing their inventive strain of exotica in the mid-50s. Disc two explores these exotic sounds as their waves echoed in a stateside culture gripped by rock ‘n’ roll and surf music. Here you will find the full flower of American media’s fascination with Hawaii in the television themes from “Hawaii Five-O,” “Hawaiian Eye,” and a lap steel variation on “Peter Gunn.” Also included are selections from several of exotica’s pioneers, and others, like organist Earl Grant and guitarist Billy Mure, who were swept up by the wave. By the early ‘60s, Hawaiian music was often more of an ancestral headwater than a direct tributary to the mainstream, as classic island themes were rendered with twanging electric guitars, sung in doo-wop vocals and accompanied by jazz arrangements.

Disc three returns the listener to the 1930s for a disc of Hawaiian classics, waxed primarily in Los Angeles and New York, with a few Honolulu recordings thrown in for good measure. The song selections mirror some of the selections on the previous discs (e.g., “Hawaiian War Chant” and “Ukulele Lady”), providing listeners an opportunity to compare. Disc four splits the difference by sampling contemporary acts that play a wide range of material (including the Ventures’ “Walk Don’t Run”) in vintage style. The time hopping between and within the discs adds to the image of Hawaii as a timeless, Xanadu-like paradise. The set’s old-timey acoustic music blends surprisingly well with the Hawaiian-themed jazz and rock, and the last disc’s contemporary performances are powered by the same breezes as the set’s earliest tracks.

In many ways, the four discs provide a soundtrack for the 102-page, 9×11 hardcover book in which they’re housed. The rattan-textured cover and heavyweight, glossy pages are stuffed with eye-popping reproductions of vintage photographs, full-page sheet music covers, postcards, and travel posters. James Austin’s liner notes (which, along with other text in the book, are riddled with typos unbecoming of a set this lavish) provide context for the project, and a bit of history on Hawaiiana, but not the sort of detail on artists, songwriters, publishers and licensing one might expect. But this set isn’t intended to be a scholarly tome on Hawaiian music or even Hawaiiana; it’s an alluring brochure that beckons with romantic images meant to be imbibed rather than studied. As the notes say, “this is for tourists, not purists,” so dim the lights, mix yourself a Mai Tai, and enjoy. [©2015 Hyperbolium]

Vince Guaraldi Trio: Peanuts Greatest Hits

Saturday, August 15th, 2015

VinceGuaraldiTrio_PeanutsGreatestHitsA taste of the music that made Peanuts swing

San Franciscan Vince Guaraldi had already established himself as a pianist and composer, first with Cal Tjader and then as a leader of his own group, when producer Lee Mendelson came knocking. Mendelson had been enchanted by Guaraldi’s 1963 surprise hit single, “Cast Your Fate to the Wind,” and asked him to write some original music for a documentary to be entitled A Boy Named Charlie Brown. Though the program didn’t air at the time, Guaraldi’s music so perfectly captured the mood and character of Peanuts, that he was invited to write the soundtrack for the first Peanuts special that did air, 1965’s landmark A Charlie Brown Christmas.

There were so many unlikely elements to the Christmas special (including the overt religious theme and the use of child actors to voice the characters), that Guaraldi’s literate, mirthful and sophisticated jazz score didn’t feel at all unorthodox. Bringing along key pieces from the unaired documentary, most notably “Linus & Lucy” and “Charlie Brown Theme,” Guaraldi’s music was as important in lifting the characters off the comics page as was the animation. Guaraldi continued to provide music until his passing in 1976, scoring a total of seventeen Peanuts specials and the feature film A Boy Named Charlie Brown.

Fantasy’s twelve-track collection pulls together selections from four television specials, leaning heavily on the original A Boy Named Charlie Brown (tracks 1-5) and A Charlie Brown Christmas (tracks 1 and 9-12). Also included is the gentle, piano-and-woodwinds “Great Pumpkin Waltz” from 1966’s It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, and a pair from 1973’s A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, “Thanksgiving Theme” and “Little Birdie,” the latter including a rare vocal from Guaraldi himself. At twelve tracks, this only scratches the surface of Guaraldi’s Peanuts’ canon, and though the heavy tilt towards earlier material supports the “Greatest Hits” theme, the lack of completeness might make reissued soundtracks [1 2] a better place to start. What’s here is great, but it’s not enough! [©2015 Hyperbolium]

Keith Allison: In Action – The Complete Columbia Sides Plus!

Friday, May 16th, 2014

KeithAllison_InActionLos Angeles studio musician’s mid-60s solo shot

Keith Allison’s discovery at a taping of Dick Clark’s Where the Action Is is an only-in-Hollywood tale to rival that of Lana Turner’s first sighting at the Top Hat Malt Shop. Allison had been living a relatively anonymous life as a session musician (that’s his harmonica on the Monkees “Tomorrow’s Gonna Be Another Day“) and latter-day band member for his cousin Jerry Allison’s Crickets. Allison’s appearance as an audience member on Where the Action Is quickly led to a featured slot and a recording contract with Columbia. The latter gave Allison an opportunity to work with producer Terry Melcher for a single and Gary Usher for a pop-rock album.

His first Columbia release turned Joey Brooks and the Baroque Folk’s “I Ain’t Blamin’ You” into folk-rock, and featured an excellent, original B-side, “Look at Me” that turned up two years later as a Cher album track. His next single brought him Boyce & Hart’s “Action, Action, Action” and Mann & Weil’s bounch sunshine pop, “Glitter and Gold.” The former, produced by future Scooby Doo theme song vocalist Larry Marks, is offered here in both its stereo album and mono single mixes.

Allison’s full-length album played to his television audience, who knew him for his covers of hits-of-the-day. The album’s lone original is the very fine country rock “Freeborn Man,” co-written with Mark Lindsay; the rest of the track list is filled with tunes from Boyce & Hart, Neil Diamond, Donovan, Ray Charles and Lindsay. As the liner notes highlight, the variety of material provided a showcase for Allison’s versatility, even when the covers don’t add anything radical to the better-known hits. “Louise” and “Good Thing” give an early indication of how easily Allison would later fit into Paul Revere & The Raiders, and the country-rock arrangement of “Colours” adds something vital to Donovan’s original.

More interesting is the discovery of Neil Diamond’s early single “Do It,” the rave-up “Action, Action, Action,” and a take on “Leave My Woman Alone” that adds a psychedelic edge to the Everly Brothers earlier interpretation. Real Gone’s twenty-three track collection pulls together the Columbia album and singles and adds a self-produced one-off single for Amy that backs Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love” with the Byrdsian original “I Don’t Want Nobody But You.” The post-LP singles include an emotional cover of “To Know Her is to Love Her,” a rave-up medley of Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis and a lite-psych version of Tommy Roe’s “Everybody.”

Despite a promising start and continuing success as a musician and songwriter, Allison’s solo career never really took off. His work with the Raiders can be heard on several albums, starting with 1968’s Hard ‘n’ Heavy, and he turned up on tracks by Al Kooper, Johnny Rivers, The Dillards and others. He dabbled in acting (including a bit part on The Love Boat!), and has recently gigged with the Waddy Wachtel Band, but the quality of these mid-60s sides suggest there was something more to be had. Stardom is a fickle mistress, and though Allison had the talent and a shot, the stars simply didn’t align. Lucky listeners can now cast themselves back and ask “what if?”  [©2014 Hyperbolium]

Keith Allison Info Page

Various Artists: Swamp People

Saturday, May 25th, 2013


Whether or not you’re a viewer of the History Channel’s Swamp People, this collection of bayou-inspired tunes is sure to please Louisiana music fans. Though subtitled “music inspired by the television series,” the album’s best known titles (“Amos Moses,” “Polk Salad Annie,” “Fire on the Bayou,” and “Jambalaya (on the Bayou)”) predate the program by decades. Only the collection’s title track is newly written, and the set is filled out with finely selected Zydeco, country, bayou funk and soul from the Rounder vault. The set closes with Bobby Charles’ original recording of “See You Later, Alligator,” showing off the song’s New Orleans roots with some fine second-line drumming. All in all, a good disc to accompany a gator hunt, or just a bowl of gumbo. [©2013 Hyperbolium]

Swamp People Home Page

Nakia: Drown in the Crimson Tide

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

Nakia_DrownInTheCrimsonTideStrong neo-soul from season one Voice contestant

For those who haven’t explored the nuances that differentiate The Voice from American Idol, this Voice graduate’s new EP provides good evidence. The Alabama-born, Austin-based vocalist sings soul music that’s subtle, earthy and unlikely to attract votes on American Idol (and, in fact, also left him shy of the top four spots on The Voice). But that which doesn’t catch the attention of a prime-time television audiences may have a good chance of pleasing the ears of music aficionados. Like several other Voice contestants, Nakia had already begun developing a professional music career before appearing on television. His pre-TV resume includes work with Fastball’s Miles Zuniba, backing vocals for Alejandro Escovedo’s Street Songs of Love and two solo albums. His six new originals fit easily into the neo-soul scene, adding modern touches to classic Stax and Muscle Shoals soul, gospel, blues and rhythm ‘n’ blues, and featuring superb support from the Texicali horns. Nakia may still be chasing the artistic hopes of “Dream Big” and seeking the confirmation of “Tight,” but he’s proven himself a rousing soul singer and talented songwriter. [©2013 Hyperbolium]

Nakia’s Home Page

Buck Owens: Honky Tonk Man – Buck Sings Country Classics

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

BuckOwens_HonkyTonkManPreviously unreleased cache of cover songs

After dozens of original album reissues, an omnibus box set series [1 2 3], pre-Bakersfield and post-Capitol material, tributes [1 2 3], and a two collections of duets with Susan Raye, one might wonder what was left in the vault. Omnivore answers that question this month with two new releases, including a previously unreleased album by Owens’ right-hand man, Don Rich, and this volume of cover songs originally recorded for the syndicated run of television’s Hee Haw. Those who enjoyed Owens’ weekly performances at his Bakersfield club might remember how enthusiastically he played requests for country classics, and how easily they mixed with his original hits. The same was true for his television performances, where the covers gave older audiences a comforting connection to country music’s past.

The eighteen tracks collected here were originally produced by Owens between 1972 and 1975 in his Bakersfield studio for exclusive use on the television show. In the recording studio, Owens would lay down a guide vocal that was dropped for the television soundtrack; Owens sang live on the Hee Haw set as the band mimed the backing track. But ever the perfectionist, Owens invested in the guide vocals, giving performances that demonstrate his deep affection for these songs. The Buckaroos, led by Don Rich on all but one recording from 1975, were as sharp as ever, and though the backing tracks were reduced to mono for Hee Haw, this CD is mixed in full-fidelity stereo from the original multi-track studio masters.

The songs reach back as early as 1928 for Jimmie Rodgers “In the Jailhouse Now,” but focus heavily on the 40s, 50s and 60s. A pair from the mid-40s include Bob Wills’ “Stay a Little Longer” and Jack Guthrie’s “Oklahoma Hills,” and Johnny Horton’s mid-50s hit “Honky Tonk Man” would become a hit for Owens’ protégé, Dwight Yoakam, in the mid-80s. Owens gives a nod to fellow Bakersfield resident Merle Haggard with “Swinging Doors” and fellow country music iconoclast Waylon Jennings with “Only Daddy That’ll Walk the Line.” There are three songs from Hank Williams’ catalog, a superbly forlorn take of Ray Price’s “My Shoes Keep Walking Back to You” and tunes written or made famous by Hank Snow, Faron Young and Webb Pierce.

Owens, together with then-recently added Buckaroo Jim Shaw, picked these titles from the catalogs of artists who’d been early Owens influences as well as his contemporaries. The album closes with a cover of Johnny Russell’s “Rednecks, White Socks and Blue Ribbon Beer,” connecting back to Owens’ first chart-topper, the Russell-written “Act Naturally.” These covers don’t sport the genre-busting invention Owens had pioneered in the 1960s, but neither are they mere recitations – Owens was too devoted an artist to merely fill space, even on a scratch track he never expected the public to hear. If you love Buck Owens and classic country songs, this unexpected and rare treat is for you. [©2013 Hyperbolium]

Buck Owens’ Home Page

Don Rich: Sings George Jones

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

DonRich_SingsGeorgeJonesPreviously unreleased solo album from Buck Owens’ right-hand man

Though Don Rich achieved greatness as Buck Owens’ band leader, guitarist, fiddler, harmony vocalist and musical foil, his solo stardom stayed on the backburner. An anthology of his instrumental and vocal turns with the Buckaroos was issued in 2000, but his only true solo album was shelved after its recording in 1970. As with the anthology, this first-ever release of Rich’s turn in the spotlight shows him to be a warm vocalist, perhaps not quite as polished a lead or as star-ready as Owens, but distinct, compelling and certainly worthy of some early ‘70s chart action. Produced by Owens in his Bakersfield studio, and backed by the 1970 edition of the Buckaroos (including Rich, Buddy Alan Owens, Jim Shaw, Doyle Curtsinger and Jerry Wiggins), the sound is much the same as Owens’ own recordings of the era.

The song list sticks mostly to Jones’ familiar hits of the early-to-mid-1960s, though it reaches back to 1957 for “Too Much Water.” Rich sings his own harmonies, but the doubled vocals sound remarkably like the Owens-Rich (or Owens-Owens) combination heard on the Buckaroos recordings. Supplementing the album’s original ten tracks are four more Jones covers originally recorded for Hee Haw and featuring Buck Owens singing lead. Neither Rich nor Owens sing anything like Jones, nor do the Buckaroos sound like a Nashville band, all of which help liberate these songs from Jones’ long artistic shadow. As with Omnivore’s companion volume of Buck Owens’ recordings for Hee Haw, this vault find is a welcome discovery and a real treat for fans of Don Rich, Buck Owens and the Buckaroos. [©2013 Hyperbolium]

Various Artists: Dallas – The Music Story

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

1985 spin-off album from the classic nighttime TV soap

The nighttime soap opera Dallas dates to an era before music coordinators ruled television soundtracks and used the network exposure to turn obscure indie bands into well-known music stars. Instead, a program’s soundtrack was the province of a composer (in the case of Dallas, it was Jerrold Immel) and spin-off albums were novelty byproducts of the show’s fame, often populated by the show’s cast (Donny Most, anyone?). The latter is the ticket on this 1985 release, featuring music purpose-written to the show’s themes, and starring cast members (Steve Kanaly, Howard Keel and Jenilee Harrison) alongside then-contemporary country stars Karen Brooks, Crystal Gayle, Gary Morris and Johnny Lee. With the show starting its slide down the ratings ladder, this could have been a quickie knock-off, but the productions are solid, and the songwriting is good.

The opening track offers a disco march arrangement of the show’s famous theme, and the cast tunes include Lorne Greene-like spoken efforts from Kanaly and Keel, and an unsteadily warbled double-tracked melody fromHarrison. Much better are the country stars, recorded inNashvilleby Scott Hendricks, produced by Jim Ed Norman and Barry Beckett, and featuring A-list studio players Eddie Bayers, John Hobbs, Paul Worley, Billy Joe Walker and others. Though the songs are linked to the show with subtitles like “Jock and Miss Ellie’s Song,” the lyrics aren’t specific, and play as smooth country. It’s a tribute to these vocalists that their vocals warm the chilly, synth-and-glycerin-guitar mid-80s production sound.

The album spun off the Gayle-Morris duet “Makin’ Up for Lost Time (The Dallas Lovers Song),” which topped the country chart in early 1986, and Johnny Lee’s “The Loneliness in Lucy’s Eyes” rumbled around at the bottom of the Top 100. Several other tracks seem chart-worthy, including Karen Brooks’ Linda Ronstadt-styled “I Wanna Reach Out and Touch You,” the twang, piano and vocal harmony of The Forrester Sisters’ “A Few Good Men,” and even Morris’ solo closer “If I Knew Then What I Know Now.” This is a great deal better than one might expect from a nighttime soap spin-off, serving as both a nice artifact of the show’s popularity, and a decent collection of mid-80s mainstream country. [©2012 Hyperbolium]

MP3 | A Few Good Men
The Ultimate Dallas Website

Vince Guaraldi Trio: A Charlie Brown Christmas

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

2012 remaster of a Christmas classic with two Thanksgiving bonuses

Vince Guaraldi’s soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas did as much to define the Peanuts gang as it did to capture what Charles Schulz wrote in his strip. In the same way that the television special literally animated the characters, Guaraldi’s music provided an emotional soundtrack to which they moved and danced, fleshing out a whole new dimension of the characters’ personalities. Every song on the soundtrack, even the traditional tunes adapted by Guaraldi, quickly become sense memories of the special, and a few, such as “Linus and Lucy,” “Skating” and “Christmas is Coming” were indelibly wed to their animated sequences. Like the television special, the soundtrack is a perennial. It’s been reissued on CD twice before, initially in 1988, and as recently as 2006, the latter being the subject of mastering mistakes, changes from the original album and much heated discussion.

The 2012 edition features a new re-master by Joe Tarantino that returns to original stereo album master, including its mix and edits. The piano arpeggio that opened “O Tannenbaum” on the 2006 reissue is once again removed, the end of the instrumental “Christmas Time is Here” is once again faded, and the end of “Skating” once again fades before the bass solo. The bonus “Greensleeves,” which had been added to the original CD reissue is retained and augmented by two more bonuses: “Great Pumpkin Waltz” and “Thanksgiving Theme.” These latter two seem to have been drawn from the mono television soundtrack, rather than master tapes, sounding the same as they do on Charlie Brown’s Holiday Hits. Unfortunately, the 2012 release drops the alternate takes that appeared on the 2006 edition, despite there being room left at the end of this forty-five minute CD. Audiophiles can argue the merits of each remaster (the piano here feels as if it’s pushed forward to the point of harshness in spots), but what can’t be disputed is the beauty and lasting emotional resonance of Guaraldi’s music. [©2012 Hyperbolium]

Vince Guaraldi: The Very Best Of

Friday, October 12th, 2012

Much more than just “Linus & Lucy”

San Francisco jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi would have been remembered in the popular music conscience for his 1962 hit “Cast Your Fate to the Wind,” had he not redefined his legacy three years later with the soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas. The animated special’s annual broadcast turned Guaraldi’s score, particularly the instrumental “Linus and Lucy,” into an indelible musical signature. The two bouts of popular acclaim obscured the rest of Guaraldi’s career, which began in the 1950s backing Cal Tjader, blossomed into his own trio and first struck pay dirt with his tribute, Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus. It was from this latter album that the Guaraldi original “Cast Your Fate to the Wind” sprung onto the airwaves as the B-side of his cover of Luiz Bonfa’s “Samba de Orfeu.” Though the latter isn’t included here, another of the film’s themes, “Manha de Carnaval,” shows off Guaraldi’s interest in Latin rhythms, as well as the contemplative side of his playing.

Brazillian music played an on-going role in Guaraldi’s repertoire, as he covered the bossa nova “Outra Vez,” and collaborated with guitarist Bola Sete on the gentle “Star Song,” the rush-hour “Ginza” and a live recording of “El Matador.” The latter shows how easily Guaraldi transitioned back and forth from straight to swing time, much as he does in “Linus and Lucy,” his left hand beating out boogie-woogie as his right hand picks out melodies. 1964’s “Treat Street” attempted to follow-up on the commercial success of 1962, but the swinging, Latin-tinged single failed to click with fickle radio programmers and record buyers. It wouldn’t be until the 1965 Peanuts breakthrough that Guaraldi’s music would again seep into the broad public’s consciousness. Even then, it didn’t make a mark on the singles chart, though the soundtrack albums have been perennial sellers.

In addition to writing originals, Guaraldi, like his contemporaries, also reinterpreted standards, including Frank Loesser’s “The Lady’s in Love With You” and Oscar Hammerstein’s “Softly as in a Morning Sunrise.” The collection closes out with three pieces from Guaraldi’s Peanuts repertoire, including “Christmas is Coming” (the theme to which the gang dances) and a six-minute instrumental version of “Christmas Time is Here.” The two-disc Definitive Vince Guaraldi, issued three years ago, provides a deeper helping of Guaraldi’s sound, and the A Charlie Brown Christmas Original Soundtrack is a must-have. But for those wishing to taste Guaraldi’s music beyond what you’ve heard on TV, this is a good place to start. [©2012 Hyperbolium]