Friday, May 08, 2009

Old Vinyl, New Life

I often tend to approach my hobbies with a collector's mentality. Unfortunately, this means I always have shelves overflowing with media, not to mention the never ending search for storage solutions. Still, the hook always comes in the form of those random, unexpected finds.

Once a week or so, I'll stop into a Goodwill which is situated between my house and where I work to check out their CDs and vinyl. Any vinyl collector knows the usual thrift store fare rarely consists of more than collections of religious hymns from the 1970s, Herb Alpert and records by the 101 Strings. However, I recently stumbled upon stacks of old Capitol and RCA Victor discs. This means a lot of Perry Como, recorded using RCA Victor's much-derided Dynagroove technology, Jackie Gleason Presents Music for Lovers Only, Harry Belafonte, and several records by Vera Lynn (one of which I almost bought just to hear the song referenced by Pink Floyd in their song, "Vera Lynn"). I might not have been interested in any of the records at all, but the $0.99 price tag encourages me be a little more adventurous. Besides, at that price, it isn't like I can't just roll the dice and donate them back if I don't like it.

I brought home two discs; Harry Belafonte Sings of the Caribbean (1957), a simple collection of gentrified calypso songs in mono, and Henry Mancini - Our Man in Hollywood (1963).

Our Man in Hollywood was part of RCA Victor's popular "Our Man in..." series, in which they "place" their recording artists in various locations and genres (e.g. Chet Atkins - Our Man in Nashville and Sonny Rollins - Our Man in Jazz ).

Our Man in Hollywood is a collection of movie and television themes arranged by the brilliant Henry Mancini, and was offered in mono and "LIVING STEREO." I was lucky enough to find the stereo version since it gives the already quirky arrangements an also quirky sense of stereo separation, which was very common in the 1960s, but doesn't detract from the arrangements at all. Instead, thanks to plenty of natural reverb and the skill of the recording engineer (see below), it gives the recordings an extraordinarily wide soundstage and tons of space and clarity. Not all of the tracks are exactly stellar, but the majority of them sound quite amazing. Especially "The Theme from The Wonderful World of The Brothers Grimm," "Too Little Time ('Love Theme from the Glenn Miller Story')," and an absolutely 'swingin' 60s' version of "Seventy Six Trombones" from 'The Music Man.'

Side 1:
Days of Wine and Roses
Walk On The Wild Side
The Theme From The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm
Love Song From Mutiny on the Bounty
Mr. Hobbs Theme
Seventy Six Trombones

Side 2:
Love Theme From Phaedra
Bachelor in Paradise
Too LIttle Time
Drink More Milk
The Wishing Star

It should be noted that the album was recorded by Al Schmitt, one of the all-time great recording engineers who has also recently worked with Diana Krall and Shelby Lynne on her wonderful sounding 2008 tribute to Dusty Springfield, Just a Little Lovin' (which was produced by Bacharach's old collaborator and the 1967 Casino Royale soundtrack engineer Phil Ramone).

All in all, I consider it 99 cents well-spent.

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