As I’ve alluded to over the past few weeks, Jim’s Toy box is far more than just toys. Like you I have a wide variety of tastes and interests. The little pieces of plastic that are the majority of this sites population are very key and crucial to who I am as a person in a quest to stay in touch with my inner child. But they aren’t the only things that take my mind on a journey through time. That’s the focus of today’s article and exploration into the “world that was” nearly a century ago. This time the time capsule we will be using will be fueled by music. Since these were captured on a forefather of plastic (wax and vinyl) I hope you lovers of all things plastic will take the time to broaden your knowledge of the magic that this extended family created.
Music is an ever changing landscape of sound and fury. Its inspiration is fueled by its time and space. It’s capturing dictated by its available technology. While Mozart and Beethoven only had pen and ink, today we have 0’s and 1’s. In between those two were etchings on wax and vinyl and manipulated iron oxide particles. For me the later is the preferred. In this article I will explain as to why I feel this way and why you, your children and grandchildren should take the time to go on a trip through musical history that leaves you tapping your toe all the while learning a little bit.
The organic nature of these recordings is what I love the most. There was no auto tune or electric instruments for that matter. Outside of the microphones used to capture the sounds all were produced by human ingenuity, breath and of course talent. Each track on this CD has a story to tell. Not just about the song itself but its performers. For me this is fascinating material all around.
The message in the songs are one thing but the story’s and legacy of the performers is so intriguing to me: the seamless harmonies of the Andrew Sisters: the original “Voice” himself before he became the Chairman of the Board, Mr. Frank Sinatra and of course the amazing orchestras of Glenn Miller, Harry James and Jimmy Dorsey. These folks were the kings of music that society has all but forgotten and most certainly have no clue as to how important their legacy is. Thankfully we have these recordings. Now imagine what a Beethoven masterpiece sounded like coming from his own harpsichord. Oh technology why did you take so long?!?
In an effort to share my passions as stated above I will link where I can to more information on all of these artists and performers that can thankfully be found on the ‘Net. Take the time to read up on these colorful and fantastic stars of the Golden Age of the 20th Century. You will find tales and times that eclipse the most interesting, entertaining and even scandalous fare of today. All of it happening before the web, social media or even the interstate highway system let alone the information super highway. Chew on that thought for a minute. Now let the journey begin:
What is it?
Compilation released 1991 by CEMA Special Markets
I picked this jewel up for the hefty sum of $1.50. I almost feel guilty getting such gold for such an insanely low price.
- Apple Blossom Time – The Andrew Sisters
- The Hut-Sut Song – Freddy Martin & His Orchestra
- Green Eyes – Helen O’Connell
- You Made Me Love You – Harry James & His Music Makers
- This Love of Mine– Tommy Dorsey & His Orchestra featuring Frank Sinatra
- A String of Pearls – Glenn Miller & His Orchestra
- Tonight We Love – Freddy Martin & His Orchestra
- Jersey Bounce – Benny Goodman & His Orchestra
- Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy – The Andrews Sisters
- Who Wouldn’t Love You – Kay Kyser
- Moonlight Cocktail – Glenn Miller & His Orchestra featuring Ray Eberle & the Modernaires
- Tangerine – Jimmy Dorsey & His Orchestra
- A Sleepy Lagoon – Harry James & His Music Makers
- I Left My Heart at the Stage Door Canteen – Swing & Sway with Sammy Kaye: Don Cornell on vocals
- Kalamazoo – Glenn Miller & His Orchestra featuring Tex Beneke, Marion Hutton & The Modernaires
- Cow-Cow Boogie – Freddie Stack, featuring Ella Mae Morse
- Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition – Kay Kyser
- There Are Such Things – Tommy Dorsey & His Orchestra featuring Frank Sinatra
- When the Lights Go On Again – Vaughn Monroe & His Orchestra
- I Had the Craziest Dream – Helen Forrest
Listening to the lyrics of these tunes from a forgotten time reminds me that indeed there is nothing new under the sun. And that line of thought can really be found on a cut that really jumped out at me. It is also my favorite track on the CD. “Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition” Kay Kyser is as appropriate today as when it was originally penned. Listening to the simple words it’s pretty clear that war sentiment and the war makers themselves elicited the same type of response from the artistic crowd then as it does now. While some could view it as a raucous rally to arms with a sprinkle of blind patriotism I personally hear the satire I believe the writer was going for. However, let’s not forget this was the greatest generation and despite personal feelings many still had a strong conviction to uphold God and Country. They also had a sense of humor.
While listening to this CD my mind drifted into the thoughts of why music was made the way it was. You figure commercial radio was just tip toeing into it’s 20’s at this point. Television was unheard of to the common person. The only visuals that were available to the masses from the battle front came by way of still photos in newspapers, periodicals and newsreels produced by the War Department. All of it was Propaganda for sure but it was necessary for national unity when facing the global threat that came from Hitler’s Nazi party.
While I listened to the crisp and clear recordings of these nearly decades old songs the theater of my mind kicked in and tried to simulate what they sounded like to those listening to them at home on their RCA’s. Hi Fidelity was unheard of and stereo was at best an afterthought. Not to mention the hiss and volume modulation that was the natural byproduct of AM radio broadcasts. Despite those limitations (that the listening audience had no clue about) the imagined sound scape in my head was still very warm and hopeful. Perhaps it’s my romanticized thoughts of the old tubes illuminating the box or the belief that all in the country held on to a belief in the greater good. I don’t know but it sure feels good.
Apples to Oranges:
If I were to draw an analogy up between these recordings and modern music creation I would liken these to the relation between man and machine. Perhaps even a “Terminator” type of relationship. In the beginning all was organic, natural, flowing. Now we have machines and software that can make anyone sound like a “star” and make even the most tone deaf person on the planet have perfect pitch and a strong and powerful voice. Thank you auto-tune and reverb.
Is one better than the other? That will always be a matter of opinion and debate. It’s a matter of personal taste. For me I love THIS sound. The sounds captured during that fantastic time between the 1910’s to 1950’s (pre-multi track recordings). There is an essence there that goes deeper than just the subject matter and instrumentation. There is a heart. I hear its beating and feel the warmth that is passed through the veins that it fills.
But who am I to say that Justin Beiber or Miley Cyrus doesn’t elicit the same feelings for their fans? I can’t and I won’t. To each his own BUT I do hope that the generation raised on those two will take a moment and give a listen to these gems but listen not with the ears of youth but with the understanding of true human artistry and creation that can only come from human breath, timing and touch. In fact this request and suggestion is also directed at you too, dear reader.
Considering the demographic that you and I fall into we are just as blind to this form of entertainment. We grew up in the era of Arena Rock, Top 40, and music videos. Think of it like this as you adventure into this history lesson; we’re really not THAT old.
Now, Go Play!