British "light orchestra" leader Frank Chacksfield's heyday was the 1950s, a golden age for lushly picturesque background music, categorized nowadays as easy listening. Living Era's tribute to Chacksfield zeroes in on his most successful years, 1951-1956. Much of the music compiled here was associated with motion pictures, including "Love Is a Many-Splendoured Thing," "A Kid for Two Farthings," "Cockleshell Heroes" and three lovely airs by Charlie Chaplin. Chacksfield's flare for the romantic is well demonstrated on "Black Velvet." Some selections feature carefully conducted wordless chorales. One of Chacksfield's livelier episodes, "Pulling Strings" sounds like a sequel to "Holiday for Strings"; here he was using a 40-piece orchestra with a large number of strings attached. Guitarist Roy Plummer is featured on the "Flirtation Waltz." "Meet Mr. Callaghan," featuring Jack Jordan at an electronic keyboard called a clavioline, seems to have inspired part of "I Was Kaiser Bill's Batman," an instrumental novelty made famous during the mid-'60s by Whistling Jack Smith. Capable of emulating the weird tonalities of the Theremin, Jordan's clavioline is much more prominently featured on "Little Red Monkey," the weirdest and funniest tune on the entire compilation. There are three melodies composed by Noël Coward, the best of which is "Twentieth Century Blues"; this is the closest that Chacksfield seems to have come to jazz-inflected music. This picturesque panorama of '50s mood music ends with "Ebb Tide," composed by harpist Robert Maxwell. Complete with sound effects of seagulls and surf, this 1953 million-seller was one of Chacksfield's all-time biggest hits; number nine in the U.K. and number one in the U.S. The only person known to have made a more moving rendition of "Ebb Tide" was comedic vocalist Jerry Colonna.
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