10 Apr

Differing Versions of the Same Set Light Music Selections - An Update

By  William Zucker
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An article by William Zucker.

Just a little over two years ago, I wrote an article for the RFS site with the title "Differing Versions of the Same Set Light Music Selections."

Over this time period, I have obtained information that would necessitate my adding additional material, as well as correcting some erroneous assumptions that I had made in the absence of such information.

Much of this that I now have to share has come and is continuing to come from the uploads of Mr. Graham Miles, a fellow RFS member whose channel on YouTube I now subscribe to.

There have been made available a considerable number of recordings that originated in the various mood libraries, not previously available.  I in turn have shared many videos from YouTube with Graham, and the exchange of information has become mutually profitable, even though at present, I do not have the ability to upload files whereas with Graham it is a passion - he will even take recordings that I request that he upload if I observe that they have not been uploaded by others, if he happens to have them available.  As may be gathered, his collection of light music selections from various sources is considerable, and he does explore other channels offering such music, as I have been myself.

What I would like to embark on here would be to go over my article of January, 2015, and take it point by point to make additions, corrections, and general observations as a result of this additional information I have obtained over this period, throwing in some comments that I feel are pertinent:

With Leroy Anderson, I had mentioned that the earliest versions he had recorded of his selections were in my considered opinion, the best ones, and gave my reasons for this preference, and have even urged any interested listener to consider these when a choice was to be made,

The same, by the way, would apply to the Boston Pops/Arthur Fiedler recordings I had specified; namely, "Serenata, "Sleigh Ride," "Fiddle Faddle," and the Irish Suite.  Here too, I would give the palm to the earliest versions.  With the Irish Suite, I have noted that all performances by the Boston Pops that have been posted on YouTube are apparently from a live performance, not from the original recording, as there is applause between each movement.  Many listeners conceivably might not wish to have this intrusion within the work but would greatly prefer to listen to it uninterruptedly, fine as the rendition itself may be.

David Rose comes under discussion here as well, as Graham has uploaded a later version of "On a Little Country Road in Switzerland," one of Mr. Rose's most endearing selections - actually the two versions were uploaded side by side so that a direct comparison could be made.

In this later version, which I have hitherto remained totally unaware of, unlike the case of the drastic overhaul with "Gay Spirits" and the major touchups with "Holiday for Strings," in this case the composition remained essentially unchanged, save for the elimination of the charming yodeling effect that appears at the beginning and end of the piece. One might well ask why Mr. Rose saw fit to eliminate this when it so beautifully sets off the piece in its original version.  The overall instrumentation is somewhat heavier as well, whereas a light touch is clearly needed in this piece.

Which brings me to Percy Faith, whose work along these lines is a subject in itself.

Quite recently, I became aware of the fact that when Mr. Faith was contracted to make recordings for Columbia, he expressed a lack of interest in working with soloists in his recordings, whether vocal or instrumental.  The deal was made sweeter for him when he was advised that he would only need to cut a few recordings with soloists, and with all the rest of these he could produce as he wished.  This disinclination and lack of interest I refer to unfortunately evidenced itself in his recordings, and it potentially represents a side of him that I could well imagine that his admirers would choose to overlook and forgive.

In one or two of the recordings he made with a soloist, his accompaniment in itself was so flamboyant (think of "Rags to Riches" he made with Tony Bennett as an example) as to threaten to steal the attention from the soloist who quite properly should be in the foreground.  In them, Mr. Faith sounds almost like a caged animal fighting to break the bonds of his imposed limitations.

This had other manifestations in that a number of recordings that he did make with a soloist or soloists, he felt that he actually had to go back and rerecord these totally on his own, and one can only speculate on the need for this.

Thus we have his classic hit with Felicia Sanders of Auric's "Song from Moulin Rouge," although here at least in his later instrumental version he gave us an expanded double length version which did not occur elsewhere in these instances.  We have the song "Non Dimenticar" which he originally recorded with Jerry Vale, which recording made the charts, but then he immediately went back to record a nearly identical version musically, entirely on his own, without the vocal line.

Two of the most enchantingly beautiful settings he recorded was with a wordless chorus dubbed "The Magic Voices" featured in "Zez Confrey's "Dizzy Fingers" and Rodgers' "If I Loved You" from "Carousel;" both really lovely settings I still listen to with pleasure today, and then for whatever reason he had to go back and redo both of these selections without the wordless chorus, and without the charm of the original, to dubious purpose.

And I already mentioned the selections from his album "Music Until Midnight" which featured Mitch Miller as oboe/cor anglais soloist, which was one of the most successful albums of mood music ever made, and then Mr. Faith right afterward had to rerecord many of the selections from this album without the wind solos, with a corresponding loss of shape and focus in the way the selections now presented themselves.

One may well ask, why did he feel the need to rerecord so many selections that he did with featured soloists over again without them?  Was the matter of working with soloists so disagreeable to him for whatever reason that he felt the need to "cleanse" them in some way?  I do not have a clue as to the reason for what unmistakably took place, and knowing the circumstances under which he signed his contract with Columbia records, I can only say that it is perhaps kindest to overlook this facet of his work as not entirely complimentary to him, as he was a truly great artist in this genre, so perhaps we should allow him some slack as he has overall more than earned our admiration for his accomplishments.  But one could also point out the numerous remakes even of outstanding instrumental selections from his earlier years, which prompts me here too to advise people to stick with the earlier versions as much better showing off the genius in his settings, as against the cheapening and coarsening of his work in their later incarnations, probably in the interests of commercialization, although in that regard he was not alone in this field, as has been pointed out.

* * *

The situation with the recordings from the UK, notably those that originated in the various mood libraries, remains as confusing as ever.  Often a piece was recorded more than once by the same conductor, producing two different versions, although in most cases I indicate a preference for the composer's own original versions, with the exceptions as I have noted in the article, but with the additional information I have received from viewing Graham's uploads, questions still abound.  I find dealing with this to put things in their proper places as inordinately challenging, and for the moment I don't know where to begin.

Take "Portrait of a Flirt," for example.  Robert Farnon's first recording of the piece with his own orchestra (the best, in my opinion) has appeared in the market with the orchestra designated as "his orchestra," the "New Promenade Orchestra," and the "Kingsway Symphony Orchestra."  I couldn't at this point state which is correct, but the fact remains that they are the self-same identical recording, not to be confused with a later one he made of the same piece.  There are also two recordings by the Queen's Hall Light Orchestra, stated as being conducted by Robert Farnon and by Sidney Torch as given to us.  These are two noticeably different recordings, neither of which I give a recommendation to, for various reasons.  Of course, I am not taking into account the version by David Rose which in my opinion is a distortion, and I will not include it for purposes of this discussion.

I raised the question as to whether Sidney Torch conducted two different recordings of Haydn Wood's "Wellington Barracks," distinguishable to me by the final cadence at the end, and have finally established that such was indeed the case, but would then raise the question as to why the rerecording was even necessary.  (Incidentally, the longer version of Wood's "Soliloquy" I referred to in my article was performed by the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, probably under Adrian Leaper, but as I had stated, I greatly prefer the shorter version with the Queen's Hall Light Orchestra conducted by Robert Farnon.)

I stated in my article "pieces by Felton Rapley and by Peter Yorke, as performed by the Queen's Hall Light Orchestra and by these composers conducting their own orchestras," or words to that effect.  This was a natural assumption made in the absence of complete information.  As it turns out, Felton Rapley was not a conductor and did not conduct any of his pieces - he was an organist and pianist.  Peter Yorke did lead an orchestra  of his own, but actually recorded very few of his own pieces.  Most of these were done by Robert Farnon or Sidney Torch with the Queen's Hall Light Orchestra, although the former recorded some of these with the Danish Radio Orchestra under an assumed name due to a musicians' strike occurring at the time these recordings were made.  Other Yorke selections, rather interestingly, were recorded by Dolf van der Linden, who frequently crossed over into this repertoire by the composers who wrote for the various British mood music libraries, a rather interesting combination of talents in this case.

With "Spring Cruise" by Peter Yorke, a very confusing situation exists in regard to the genesis of the recording.  I have long known this piece as the final number in an album by the Queen's Hall Light Orchestra (no conductor's name given) entitled "Very Very Dry," released in the USA in the mid-1950's.  I next came across it on YouTube in an uploaded album of Peter Yorke selections entitled "Melody of the Stars."  In an album put together in that manner, I reasonably assumed that the aggregate of all Yorke selections was conducted by Peter Yorke himself.  Most recently, Graham has uploaded a recording from his collection of this piece as performed by the "Melodi Light Orchestra" as conducted by "Ole Jensen" which was the nom de disc for the Danish Radio Orchestra under Robert Farnon during the musician's strike concurrently taking place.  The point that I am making here is that all of these recordings that I am enumerating of Peter Yorke's "Spring Cruise" are the identical performance - there is no discernable difference between them.  Which designation, then, should we go by, and what actually took place in the preparation of these recordings - what is the actual truth of what had occurred here?

Similarly, a selection entitled "Pizzicato Boogie" by Jerek Centeno, appearing in an album conducted by Dolf van der Linden (recording under the name "Van Lynn") in an LP album entitled "Escape" on the American Decca label, also appeared in an EP set entitled "Dutch Treat" featuring what is dubbed the "Hilversum Orchestra" on the "X" label, which appears to have been an offshoot of RCA Victor, judging by the graphics on the label.  The two recordings are identical; they are the same rendition.  Both of these cases I bring up can be very confusing to individuals attempting to determine the actual genesis of a recording.

There is a video posted on YouTube of Acquaviva's performance of Bob Haymes' "Curtain Time," claiming to be an "original version" as distinct from the recording on MGM records that was commercially available for many years and which is also posted, but upon listening to this alleged "original version" I could find absolutely no difference from the version commercially available and will assume that it is the very same rendition.

Oftentimes, when a recording appearing on a 78/45 RPM single was taken over into an LP album, it was not a simple transfer of a recording but an entirely different take was used.  I have noted this in a few cases such as with Robert Farnon's own original recording of "A Star is Born" which originally appeared as a single and then in the 10" LP album "A Robert Farnon Concert."  Looking back, I have also noted that the Arthur Fiedler/Boston Pops recording of Leroy Anderson's "Jazz Pizzicato" on the original single and the one appearing afterward in the album "Classical Juke Box," both from the late 1940's, were noticeably not the same recording.

And we can often assume when a group of compositions by a given artist appear together in an album, especially when that artist is an established conductor, we might well assume that all of these selections were recorded by the artist himself in his own music, but such is not always the case.  I raised the question above about "Portrait of a Flirt" in two performances by the Queen's Hall Light Orchestra which are notably different, one by Robert Farnon himself and the other apparently by Sidney Torch.  This remains an open question but it is generally known that the original version of "Journey Into Melody" with its expanded introduction was conducted not by Robert Farnon but by Charles Williams.

Charles Williams himself was a notable conductor and composer who made many recordings conducting both the Queen's Hall group and his own orchestra, yet his "A Quiet Stroll" which exists in two renditions were both conducted  by Sidney Torch.

All these situations that I refer to are enough to drive the would be cataloguer of these light music recordings absolutely insane, and I'm beginning to doubt that even David, had he been approached on these questions, would have been able to answer all of them.  What I'm witnessing here is something absolutely unknown in the USA, at least to the extent I have just described.  Conductor/composer/arrangers stuck with their own material, and there was never a dispute as to whom each of the selections belonged to when there was any sort of duplication - even the multiplicity of version many were wont to come out with always remained clearly distinguishable from one another, so that the only issue in question was why these individuals saw fit to release these multiple versions, although they still did not record each other's selections for one another to the same extent (or when such occurred, the distinctions were always very clear) as we are seeing today from the days of the Chappell and other mood libraries whose material is thankfully being brought to light once again.  But my reasons for going into all of these situations is simply to correct any erroneous assumptions I had made in my article of just over two years ago. I also have to correct the final sentence in my article on Peter Yorke's "In the Country" for reasons I have already outlined above.

* * *

I had made a comment on Camarata's "Rumbalero" stating that though I claim to have heard a performance by Paul Whiteman leading a group at a live concert (via a radio broadcast) in 1953, I knew of no recorded performance other than the composer's own, which remains as my standard.

More recently, I discovered a posting on YouTube of a recording by a group billed as the "Broadway Orchestra," no conductor's name given, on an off-label given as "Halo."  There are apparently other recordings in this series that were posted.

In my article on this piece I wrote some time afterward, I commented on this recording but did not provide any information, as the quality evidenced regarding both performance and sound was not sufficiently viable in my opinion to furnish further details, although for completeness of information, I am providing that here, even though I would still not recommend the recording and urge interested readers to stick with the composer's own recording on London/Decca records, where he is conducting the Kingsway Symphony Orchestra, despite the slight disadvantage of a bad side break occasioned in this double length selection.

The recording of De Freitas' "Fiddlesticks" that I could not recall was by Roger Roger.

With Cyril Stapleton, I had meant to also include "Latin Lady" as a selection that he recorded appearing in another version.

I hope these updates that I am offering are helpful to my readers, and as I continue to obtain additional information, I will accordingly present further updates.

William Zucker

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Read 887 times Last modified on Monday, 10 April 2017 09:03

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About Geoff 123
Geoff Leonard was born in Bristol. He spent much of his working career in banking but became an independent record producer in the early nineties, specialising in the works of John Barry and British TV theme compilations.
He also wrote liner notes for many soundtrack albums, including those by John Barry, Roy Budd, Ron Grainer, Maurice Jarre and Johnny Harris. He co-wrote two biographies of John Barry in 1998 and 2008, and is currently working on a biography of singer, actor, producer Adam Faith.
He joined the Internet Movie Data-base (www.imdb.com) as a data-manager in 2001 and looked after biographies, composers and the music-department, amongst other tasks. He retired after nine years loyal service in order to continue writing.