Sidney Torch

All Strings and Fancy Free

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You may approach this compilation with a certain degree of skepticism -- even if you're familiar with Sidney Torch's re-recordings of certain film-related pieces, you may not be prepared for the flashy mix of elegance and cleverness, in the conducting and arrangements, applied to the simplest of melodic material that flows off of this CD. Oh, it's pure instrumental pop and light classical music by definition (though one track, "A London Playhouse," gives us a hint of how good a serious composer Torch might have been), and mostly distinctly middle-brow in its aim and intent (and intended audience), but so well executed that it's positively hypnotic -- forget seductive. The mix of spritely tempos, pizzicato violins (all closely mic'ed), lush string passages, and richly textured timbres, wrapped around the near-universal melodic and playful raw material is spellbinding, and it's easy to understand, hearing it, how and why Torch was able to hold sway over British radio audiences for three decades. Additionally, there are elements of these recordings -- especially with the clean masterings they're afforded here -- that anticipate elements of the "space-age pop" and "bachelor pad" audiophile records of the later 1950s, though the material here is all mono, recorded between 1946 and 1950 for EMI's Parlophone or Columbia labels, or for the BBC. But it's crisp, glittering mono -- a tribute to all of the engineers involved -- and a delight for old-time audiophiles.

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